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The Roxbury House

For its 30th anniversary, TOH works with a nonprofit to renovate a foreclosed Second Empire for two deserving families

To help celebrate its 30th anniversary season, This Old House TV is giving back to the community where the show got its start in 1979: Boston, Massachusetts. Working alongside affordable housing nonprofit Nuestra Comunidad, Norm Abram, Tom Silva, and the rest of the TOH TV crew will hammer out the complete renovation of a foreclosed 1870s Second Empire in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. Once the job is done, the house's two units will be sold to two deserving area families.

According to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, Roxbury is part of the city's "ground zero" when it comes to home foreclosures, a place where hundreds of families have lost their residences, which now stand empty and abandoned. But there's still a lot of hope and possibility in neighborhoods like Roxbury, so the city is selling some of the properties to Nuestra Comunidad and other nonprofits, which work to renovate them into affordable housing.

TOH's involvement in this particular project is a perfect fit. Nuestra Comunidad has fixed up hundreds of houses in the Boston area but has never dealt with one quite like this Second Empire, says Gavin McLear, a Nuestra Comunidad project manager. "Typically, the homes we work on don't have this much architectural character," he says. "That's why we're happy to have This Old House on board."

General contractor David Lopes, who has extensive experience with both historic preservation and affordable housing projects, is heading up the Roxbury project. Among the tougher tasks he'll face are replacing one side of the house's foundation, demolishing a poorly constructed three-story addition, and rebuilding the house's decimated interior. Many of the house's original details are beyond repair, but Lopes will do his best to replicate the most notable ones, including a marble fireplace mantel, two plaster ceiling medallions, and at least some of the millwork.

To help finish the project, the crew will rely on the talents of two students from YouthBuild Boston, a non-profit organization that improves the lives of young adults, using innovative programs in the building trades that teach career and life skills to prepare them for the workforce. "Young people from the inner city have a hard time making the connections needed to get organized contract work," says Lopes. "YouthBuild helps them do just that."

The show begins airing on PBS in January 2010, but you can check on the crew's progress in real time through the webcams, which will be focused on the house 24/7. You can also keep abreast of the action through blog posts on Old House My House.

And make sure to watch for stories about the Roxbury project in This Old House magazine in 2010. Because this renovation will surely prove that 30 years later This Old House is still up for a challenge.