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Tracking 40 Years of History in the This Old House Timeline

From that initial renovation of a derelict house in a struggling urban area, This Old House has stood apart as the original home-improvement TV show—and continues to be the genre’s most groundbreaking

1979

Photo by Michael Lutch/WGBH

BIRTH OF A NOTION

After surviving more than one reno himself, TV producer Russ Morash persuades Boston’s WGBH to underwrite a show demystifying the process. Meet carpenter Norm Abram, host Bob Vila, and plumber Ron Trethewey! “I thought I’d be in the background of a couple scenes carrying around ladders,” Norm recalls. The real star: a run-down 1860 house in Dorchester, MA, that cost $17,000 to buy and $30,000 to renovate.

1980

After the series sets a new ratings record for the local public TV station, TOH airs nationally. The plumber’s wrench is passed to Richard Trethewey by his dad, who decides he doesn’t enjoy sweating pipes in the limelight.

1981

Photo by Michael Lutch/WGBH

The crew demonstrates its chops with its largest-ever reno, converting a long-neglected mansion and its outbuildings into 10,000 square feet of coveted condos in Newton, MA.

1982

Photo by Michael Lutch/WGBH

HOME ALONE NO MORE

Ignoring common wisdom, the TV cast begins working directly with homeowners on the Arlington project. Miraculously, everyone survives to tell the story.

1983

Courtesy of WGBH

TOH builds a solar-powered house from the ground up—no biggie—billing the Brookline project as so efficient it could heat itself. Thrifty Yankees, watching TV in their down coats, are glued to their sets.

This Old House also won its first Emmy in 1983 for Outstanding Talk/Service Series.

1986

Photo by (Tampa) Mike Minardi/WGBH, (Tom) Courtesy of WGBH

The crew makes its first foray outside Massachusetts, traveling south to spiff up a concrete-block-and-stucco tract house in Tampa, FL, and giving it a much-deserved Florida room.

Tom Silva officially comes on board as This Old House general contractor.

This Old House won its 2nd and 3rd Emmy in 1986 for Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction/Electronic Camerawork/Video Control and Outstanding Directing in a Talk/Service Show.

1987

ROGER THAT!

In 1987 TOH won another Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction/Electronic Camerawork/Video Control.

1988

Landscape contractor Roger Cook joins the full-time cast, prompting a nationwide run on hydrangeas.

TOH won again for Outstanding Directing in a Talk/Service Show.

1989

Photo by Richard Howard/WGBH

The show welcomes a new host, Steve Thomas, and raises its first barn, in Concord, MA.

1990

The 6th Emmy was awarded to TOH in 1990 for Outstanding Directing in a Talk/Service Show.

1991

Photo by Michael Lutch/WGBH

WHAT ABOUT BOB?

ABC-TV airs Home Improvement, a sitcom that “coincidentally” features a character not unlike Bob Vila. Later he tells a reporter that he got a call from the show before it launched: “There was some concern in the legal department that I was being ripped off.”

1992

Courtesy of WGBH

Norm Abram and Steve Thomas expanded their reach, crossing the pond to tackle their first fixer-upper outside the U.S.: the top-floor flat of an 1857 building in London.

TOH won 2 more Emmys in 1992 for Outstanding Achievement in Technical Direction/Electronic Camerawork/Video Control and for Outstanding Directing in a Talk/Service Show.

1994

Courtesy of WGBH

TV viewers are gripped by TOH’s oldest house, circa 1710, in Acton, MA. On the agenda: Get the dishwasher out of the

dining room!

TOH also picked up 2 more Emmys in 1994 for Outstanding Service Show and Outstanding Directing in a Talk/Service Show.

1995

This Old House Magazine launches. DIYers eagerly await ideas for storing back issues.

And again TOH won, an Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Talk/Service Show.

1996

Courtesy of WGBH

For the first time, a TOH project—the 1887 Nantucket House—goes from being a home renovation—to something closer to a complete rebuild. A number of viewers say they can relate.

TOH won another Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Service Show.

1997

TOH picked up its 12th Emmy for Outstanding Directing in a Service Show.

1998

Photo by Sanford Shulwolf

GREAT ADAPTATION

Looking for fresh challenges, the crew tackles its first true adaptive reuse project, turning a 1906 Arts and Crafts church in San Francisco into a young couple’s home. It may be TOH ’s only house with a belfry.

Host Steve Thomas got an Emmy for Outstanding Service Show Host in 1998.

1999

TOH won again at the Emmys for Outstanding Directing in a Service Show.

2002

Photo by Keller + Keller

In an effort to bring the TOH crew’s expertise to a wider circle of homeowners, Ask This Old House is born, and declares its intention to cross the country in search of great questions.

TOH won Emmy number 16 for Outstanding Directing in a Service Show.

2003

Photo by (Concord Barn) Joshua McHugh, (Kevin O'Connor) Keller + Keller

HELLO, KEVIN!

New host Kevin O’Connor, a former banker, trades in wing tips for Red Wings. Up to his neck in renovating a rambling Queen Anne, he was “discovered” when AskTOH, which is just in development, makes a house call.

Catching the wave of interest in small-scale living, the TOH team turns a 1,000-square-foot barn built in 1894 into a two-story in-law cottage in Concord, MA.

2004

TURNING 25

TOH celebrates its 25th anniversary by—what else?—buying, renovating, and selling a run-down 1849 Greek Revival house and its barn in Carlisle, MA. The project’s signature is the dramatic “living hall,” with its rustic exposed posts and beams.

2005

Photo by Keller + Keller

With houses many of us grew up in--—the cast included—now considered “old,” TOH has its first “mod experience,” turning a leaky, undistinguished mid-century find in Cambridge, MA, into a showpiece nearly doubled in size.

2006

Photo by Eric Johnson

CAPITAL IDEA

TOH teams up with a nonprofit to renovate a run-down, fire-damaged 1879 rowhouse in a tough part of Washington, D.C. The result is an affordable family home 10 blocks from the White House in a neighborhood on the rise.

2007

Photo by Stephen Karlisch

The show goes to Austin, Texas, for its first green remodel, which focuses on recycling, solar power, and rainwater collection.

2008

Photo by (Weston) Anthony Tieuli, (New Orleans) Julian Wass

PRE-FABULOUS

TOH undertakes a timber-frame prefab in Weston, MA, most of it built in a New Hampshire factory. It’s like an updated barn raising—with more attention to details.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the crew goes to Louisiana for its first post-hurricane rebuild, a shotgun house in New Orleans.

2009

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Brooklyn cheers when TOH comes to town to fix up a century-old brownstone. Rumors begin that a men’s-haberdashery-with-espresso-bar will soon open down the street, specializing in plaid shirts.

TOH picked up another Emmy for Outstanding Lifestyle Program.

2013

Photo by Laura Moss

SHORE UP THE SHORE

In New Jersey for the first time, the show takes on three post–Superstorm Sandy rebuilds. The focus is as much on the financial and bureaucratic headaches facing homeowners as on preparing their houses to weather future flooding.

2015

Photo by Kevin O’Connor

TOH partners with Homes for Our Troops and a local builder to construct a house adapted to the needs of a wounded veteran.

TOH builds its first Idea House, in Chickamauga, Georgia. who wouldn’t want to live in a place called Cloudland Station?

2016

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

NEXT UP

To encourage young people to pursue a career in the trades, TOH launches its GenerationNEXT initiative and welcomes on-air apprentices.

TOH won an Emmy—again for Outstanding Lifestyle Program.

2017

Photo by (Detroit) Sarah Violette

TOH motors to Detroit and helps save a 1939 house bought at auction—while AskTOH makes a milestone trip to its 50th state, Hawaii.

2018

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

NET-ZERO

TOH takes on the renovation of a drafty, nearly century-old cottage in Jamestown, RI. High-efficiency systems and a solar array aim to meet all the household’s energy needs.

2019

Photo by (left to right) Carl Tremblay, Anthony Tieuli (6)

The TOH team officially expands with some familiar names: (from left) Nathan Gilbert, Mauro Henrique, Ross Trethewey, Jenn Nawada, Jeff Sweenor, Charlie Silva, and Mark McCullough.

AskTOH wins its first Emmy after 10 previous nominations and a gazillion miles on the road. You could say it’s on a roll of its own.

Total number of Emmys to date is 19!