So this one time we bought an old house…
Like, 1920 old.
Which is really old by Phoenix standards. Now, to everyone else reading this further towards the right coast please feel free to begin chuckling now. Rightfully so… because you have trash collection cans older than that. But regardless, it’s a 1920 bungalow, it’s super old to me, and it’s one fine looking joint. Not necessarily fine at the moment – but certainly trending in the right direction. Let’s interrupt this regularly scheduled post with a gallery of photos from when I first walked the house…
The bungalow was a little rough when we first found it… But I wasn’t fooled. I’ve seen ‘She’s All That‘… and I know how that move ends. I’m two steps ahead of Freddie Prinze Jr. and this house will be beautiful in no time. Side note: From now on all blog posts should reference lessons from the fabulous movie’s of the 1990’s, yes?
If you follow any of our social media channels you’ve probably seen us post about it (see: #rafterhousebungalow). And if you live in the Arcadia area you’ve probably driven past it. The home was originally part of a 9.5 acre parcel used for growing citrus. The original plat dates back to the late 1800’s and 44th St was actually called Chicago Avenue (mind blown…right). Somewhere back in the post-war 1940’s early development of the area began and it was chopped up in to a smaller 3/4 acre parcel as the rest of the surrounding area became a tract subdivision. There is an amazing period of grey area between the early development days of the 1940’s-1950’s and today where somehow this little pink home survived. It was never substantially altered, never torn down, never lost. Slow clap little bungalow… well done. That amazes me especially given that it’s located along Phoenix’s rather busy 44th St corridor. It very easily could’ve become a Burger King…
My story dates back to January 25, 2016. My Birthday. Side note: always dream big on your Birthday. I had caught wind that the bungalow had been purchased by Venue Projects so I reached out to inquire about their plans. Communication was in and out for the first half of 2016 as Venue sorted out their plans for the bungalow. By July 2016 negotiations had warmed back up and we had the bungalow under contract to purchase.
On January 13, 2017 we closed escrow on the purchase. It had been subject to approval of Venue’s rezone and replat of the 3/4 acre parcel which took some time to finalize with the City of Phoenix. But more importantly, escrow was closed, step one completed – now we could move on to permitting.
Enter the long dark period known as the City of Phoenix commercial permitting process…
Our building permit was issued December 11, 2017. Yes, it took about a year. During which time I was asked 7,236 times what was taking so long. We’ll just try and put that period behind us.
Our restoration and renovation of the bungalow began in early 2018. Flash forward to today, and we estimate completion to occur in about 30-45 days as the crow flies. I’m not sure how the crow will fly, could be longer. During the course of renovation we’ve had to stabilize and lift the sinking front and rear patios, abate more asbestos and lead based paint than you could ever imagine, walk the roof in a rain storm patching water leaks (think: original hardwood flooring…), re-frame more of the house than expected, water proof the basement, keep the structural engineer on speed dial, amend the approved site plan once, and fumigate the left over smells of the feral cats who had taken up residency prior to our purchase. I try and not think about how over budget we are on construction costs because it makes my stomach hurt. And I gave up trying to stick to a construction schedule months ago. As my father always said, ‘we’ll get there when we get there’.
I can honestly say we’ve taken our time to do it right. We haven’t cut any corners. We’ve studied the bungalow and how it was constructed, marveled at its beauty, and reinforced its vulnerabilities. We’re breathing life back in to this magnificent property so that it can be enjoyed by all for another 100-years. It’s truly an honor and a privilege to get to do so. I hope this remains a legacy property for our family for many years to come. But I’m also a realist so I don’t take things for granted. You never know where the future leads as not even tomorrow is guaranteed. We’ll just put our heads down and work hard.
Right before we began drywall, my family and I quietly met at the bungalow to bury some treasures in the wall. I was bummed we didn’t find much buried in the walls or attic during demo so we wanted to leave something behind for those who follow us. We’ve enjoyed seeing how the home was built, so we left a full building plan set for the next person. We left a family photo, some Rafterhouse material, and my wife wrote the sweetest ‘To Whomever Finds This’ type of letter. We let the kids pull back the insulation and stuff the treasures in to a void in the framing. They patted the insulation back down and just like that our treasures were buried for the next person to find. It was a special moment for my family to share. And then my 8-year old daughter said they would find the treasures again one day when they knocked the bungalow down… At that moment I briefly considered offering her up to a traveling band of gypsies or enrolling her in boarding school, but then realized a better course of action will be to pursue historical designation. That’ll keep her bulldozers at bay.