For today's special field trip episode, Stacy travels to historic St. Joseph, Missouri, to visit John Rodgers of Phoenix Preservation. Stacy and John chat about his path to the trades, what he wishes old house owners would stop doing, and the special...
For today's special field trip episode, Stacy travels to historic St. Joseph, Missouri, to visit John Rodgers of Phoenix Preservation. Stacy and John chat about his path to the trades, what he wishes old house owners would stop doing, and the special camaraderie within the old house community. (17:16)
Also, Ashley Goldman and Stacy revisit a past listener question about simple and inexpensive ways to increase property value. (4:11)
This episode is supported by The Window Course.
The Window Course is a step-by-step do-it-yourself program that will teach you everything you need to restore historic wood windows successfully. The information is comprehensive and taught with Scott’s signature approachable style. For 10% off, visit The Window Course and use the coupon code truetales.
Stacy & John (+ cute kittens!)
John & his Son Ethan Standing on their Front Porch
John's First House in St. Joseph
For more photos of John's houses and St. Joseph, Missouri, visit the True Tales From Old Houses Facebook page.
Thank you for listening to True Tales From Old Houses.
Until next time,
Stacy Grinsfelder 0:00
For today's special field trip episode, I traveled to historic St. Joseph, Missouri to chat with John Rodgers of Phoenix Preservation. Also, Ashley Goldman and I revisit a past listener question about simple and inexpensive ways to increase property value. But first,
Stacy Grinsfelder 0:19
I'm Stacy Grinsfelder from Blake Hill House, and I am the host of True Tales From OHouses.
Stacy Grinsfelder 0:32
Hello, everyone. Welcome to a special field trip episode. For the first time in nearly two years, I packed a suitcase and got on an airplane. And I'm not gonna lie, it was a great feeling. It felt so normal. I spent 10 days with my mom, and we talked a mile a minute did some sewing, and knocked out a few repair projects on her to do list. I also got sucked into a new-to-me TV show called Maine Cabin Masters. It's on the DIY Network. Clearly it takes place in Maine and it's the typical TV formula-- fixing up a property ending with a grand reveal all in 40 minutes. Of course, we all know that that's exactly how long it takes to restore and repair a house. But if you can suspend your disbelief in 40 minute increments, you might enjoy the show too. What appeals to me is that the crew works mostly on small turn-of-the-20th-century or even older cabins that Mainers call camps. The crew uses a lot of local materials and the end product is it's not a slick modern cabin. It's a structurally sound dwelling with most of the original charm left intact. So if watching people fix up very old waterfront cabins in the deep woods of rural Maine appeals to you, this might be a show for you too. But back to Missouri while I was there, I took a side trip to St. Joseph. Podcasting is so wonderfully portable and it was fun to take the show on the road. St. Joseph or St. Joe, as we called it when I was a kid is located about an hour north of Kansas City. In the mid 1800s. It became a booming hub for the westward expansion. The Patee House, which served in part is the headquarters of the Pony Express, is still standing as is the house where the famous outlaw Jesse James was shot and killed--so much history. Before this visit, I'd only ever breezed past St. Joe on my way to visit family farther north, I'd never stopped. And now I'm looking forward to going back to explore the sites that we missed. I did put a bunch of photos on the show notes if you'd like to take a look. There are also some extras on the True Tales From Old Houses Facebook group. Now I'm back home hard at work on the main bedroom project and you can still find all of those updates at BlakeHillHouse.com or linked in the show notes too.
Stacy Grinsfelder 2:47
Okay, I have one last thing to tell you. Today, June 7, is the final day to preorder merchandise for the spring fundraising merchandise event. So to preorder your merchandise just head over to TrueTalesFromOldHouses.com, you'll see the Merch Run graphic in the sidebar. There's also a link at the top of the page, and for good measure, I did put it in the show notes for this episode too. And those links will take you where you need to go to place a preorder. There are short sleeve and long sleeve tees, a tank top, a hoodie, and we used the same really soft fabric that we use last time. And there's also a very nice work apron available. So once this merch run closes at the end of the day, today, I'm going to have everything printed. That should only take a week or two, maybe three and then I will email an invoice to you, and once that invoice is paid, your gear will ship within two business days. If you have any questions or issues with the form, just let me know, and I'll get everything straightened out right away. And thank you, thank you to everyone who has pre ordered so far. As always, if you have information events workshops that you'd like the old house community to hear about, please send me an email via the contact page and I will announce them on an upcoming episode.
Stacy Grinsfelder 4:11
For today's Q & A, Ashley from The Gold Hive is here. Previously, I answered the same listener question with Alex from Old Town Home. However, this is one of those questions with multiple answers, and I thought that all of them might be helpful.
Stacy Grinsfelder 4:26
Stacy Grinsfelder 4:28
All right. I've got a question. Another question for you. I appreciate you doing this all season and I wondered if you would answer it with me.
I will do what I can.
Stacy Grinsfelder 4:37
Okay. Excellent. Excellent. The question we have for today is I like this question too. It's a really good one. What simple update increases a home's value without breaking the bank? Do you have thoughts on that you can answer first go for it.
without breaking--It's tricky. I feel like one thing that's different or is Interesting is in my neighborhood, it's very different than in a lot of other neighborhoods. So it's kind of hard to make a sweeping statement about it. I would say in my neighborhood, the thing that people will pay more for is additional space. So if people can get creative about adding a nice door off of their kitchen and going out into nice patio with a pergola or something, I mean, again, I'm in San Diego. So our backyards and front yards are kind of like our indoors, and anything people can do to blend the two and add space or added deck or--Something that's really popular in my neighborhood, too, is we have a lot of single car detached garages. And a lot of those are getting converted into ADUs, or they're simply just getting updated enough that they're clean enough to be able to turn into music room or home gym. So that's what I'm seeing in my neighborhood. Otherwise, every house just sells like hotcakes here for like $100,000 over ask, even if it's flea infested and doesn't show Well, it just sells.
Stacy Grinsfelder 6:01
Right right? Did you say ADU? Is that what you said?
Yeah, an accessory dwelling unit. Have you never heard that?
Stacy Grinsfelder 6:08
I had not heard that
Oh, it's like
Stacy Grinsfelder 6:11
Tell me more
a granny flat.
Stacy Grinsfelder 6:13
or like, like turning a home or turning a space into something that you could rent out like Airbnb or a long term rental or something like that,
Stacy Grinsfelder 6:22
on your property
Stacy Grinsfelder 6:24
The only thing I've heard it called here is an in-law suite or a mother-in-law suite or something like that. But it's the same thing, basically, yeah, we aren't--where I live, we can't really at least in my town--we have regulations against doing air, Airbnb, pretty, pretty strict ones, which is not, not terrible. You know, there's pros and cons with having an Airbnb possibility. But as far as increasing the value here, we're in a little different situation, we are in a very hot market. But that will go away. You know, we're definitely not one of those markets, that's kind of continuously always hot. It's we have little bubbles, not big bubbles like California, but little bubbles, and then they pop and it just goes over and over and over again. So homeownership is pretty solid investment here. But it's not, you know, things aren't flying off the shelves all the time, although they are right now. So probably one of the best things I would say to increase, and I'm assuming that maybe people want to increase their value, but they might not be moving, they just want to, I'm just going to tackle this question from the point of view that they just want their house to look better things they can do to to make their house better without breaking the bank. So I'm kind of-- I don't know if I'm veering off the topic a little, but I'm just assuming they're not selling right now. So one of the things that people can do certainly here and in a lot of different parts of the country is just clean up the outside of your house. So in that in our area, it's get the mildew and mold off your roof, get it off your siding, wash your windows, clean up your landscaping. All of that, of course takes time, you can't just run out there and do that real quick. But those are the things that I see that really make a house look sort of derelict from the outside is when they're just covered and stuff. We have a really interesting growing season here in that were cold, cold cold for months and months, but then our growing season, things go fast. So I've watched vines in the summer, they'll grow six to 12 inches a day. So if you have a vine that's on your you--if you don't take care of those things, then they quickly take over. So from season to season, landscaping does-- it feels like it does nothing until that next season. And then boom, there it goes. So keeping that all trimmed and making it look really nice. Along the lins--So that's exterior--along the lines of what you were talking about making space we have because we have so much old house inventory here. And we're talking to old house owners on this podcast. A lot of times there are these odd little rooms, maybe if you can convert them into bedrooms, and you have to check your regulations. Sometimes it requires a closet or that kind of thing. But that would be a way to increase your bedrooms and therefore increase the value of your home because the more bedrooms the more the more money your house is worth. Generally, a four bedroom house is going to go for more than a three bedroom house. You know, there's a lot of aesthetic stuff. I guess it doesn't technically, if I call in the person who does assessments, for instance, he's or she is not really going to care that my walls are freshly painted. You know, that kind of stuff doesn't really weigh into whether or not my house is worth more. But I think that's really strange. Even having a newly remodeled bathroom. Sometimes yes, sometimes No, but sometimes that's based on the market. I mean, we found that out when we sold two homes prior to this one. We'd remodeled everything and nobody cared. Nobody cared.
Stacy Grinsfelder 9:57
Yeah, they were just looking strictly at this. size of the house, if it was well maintained, and by that, you know, generally well maintained and where it was-- the comparables. That's it, that is all they were looking. So I do know that upgrades like kitchens and bathrooms and things can can increase your value, at least I read that on the internet, they tell me that on the internet, that hasn't really been my experience. So sometimes I think the best thing you can do is just do all your maintenance. Everything is clean and tidy as possible and go from there.
Yeah, that's interesting. When you when you mentioned return on investment, I immediately think about selling a house, which if you can kind of look at it from different perspectives, because in that case, the value is in the eye of the buyer. So you're really crafting the home to be valuable for someone to invest their money in it. If you're trying to refinance your house, or you're trying to take, you know, money out of it. And you have to call an appraiser something they're not really looking at what maybe the market is, as much as they're looking at how updated your bathrooms are, maybe or maybe that's different from your situation. But that's how it is here. And then value also can be looked at in terms of what it's like for someone to live in the home. And if the house is working for you, like you said, like adding bathrooms. So you can add value in different ways, depending on who you're trying to get value for. Sure. So it's an interesting way I immediately go to selling a house. But yes, that's interesting.
Stacy Grinsfelder 11:30
Well, I do think about selling because to use our house as an example, I guess, I mean, I it's not all about me, but to use my house as an example. It's a really big house--4600 square feet, but there were things that needed to be done to make it functional for a family. A single woman lived here before she was married, they never had any kids, her husband passed away probably 15 years prior to her also passing away. And so the house functioned for her, but whenever I'm making changes or looking at things in this house, now, I'm thinking about a future family that will buy it because it would be so rare for a single person to buy a 4600 square foot home again. You know, that was kind of a unique situation. Most likely it would be some large family who would just love it here because we have six bedrooms. And so I'm always looking at how can I make it better for a family even though I have no intention of moving right now?
Stacy Grinsfelder 12:28
I also want to make it nice for for us to live in right now. So yeah, there's like you said, I like the way you put it, there's all sorts of ways to increase value that makes a lot of sense. Yeah.
The other thing I was thinking about when you mentioned maintenance is I think that is doing like updating deferred maintenance. And taking care of the house is probably one of the best ways to get value for a future buyer or for an appraiser or for yourself or just for the next person to move in and be happy. When people are buying houses, they often have a certain budget. And if they have to blow all that budget on fixing something that could have just been repaired, like a leaky roof or something that might have only cost, maybe even a few $100, or like just the cost of a few shingles. Now it's a leak and things like that. I think that's something that's really important for any homeowner, whether they want to buy or sell is just making sure that any deferred maintenance is really taken care of.
Stacy Grinsfelder 13:21
Right. Absolutely. I agree with you, 100%. For sure. Do you have anything else to add? I think we pretty much gave our opinions
I think --I mean, it's such a case by case scenario for each person for each region for each type of house for each buyer homeowner, I hate making sweeping, like sweeping statements about it, where it's like --I've seen blog posts that are like 10 things you can do to increase the return on investment. And I'll read them and be like I disagree with all of those. Like, I don't think Smart Home stuff increases value for a buyer because that stuff is going to become obsolete in a year or two. They're like, you know, replace your garage door and like I don't have a garage door. So it's interesting to see how people approach it from different perspectives. And it definitely is not something that everyone can can do other than I think deferred maintenance and make it comfortable. Right? Absolutely. Yeah.
Stacy Grinsfelder 14:13
And you and I aren't selling anything in this segment either. So I think sometimes those articles are you know, you should do this thing because by the way, here's what you can buy.
Stacy Grinsfelder 14:22
to make that happen. And we're just chatting about it. So that you have is a good point. You know, your mileage may vary from all these so and that's kind of how we handle these these Q & A is to, not every answer will fit every person but maybe it'll just give you as a listener a leaping off point to do your own research and make your own choices for your house, your region.
Stacy Grinsfelder 14:41
And Ashley, thank you so much for coming on today to answer this question with me.
Yeah, happy to help hope it helped.
Stacy Grinsfelder 14:49
Alright, thanks. Bye.
All right, bye.
Stacy Grinsfelder 14:51
Now it is your turn. All season I have been asking you what is the weirdest or most surprising thing you ever found in your old house, and here are a couple of your answers. Someone with the username TinnTinn wrote in to tell me that they discovered that 75% of the electricity in their house was supported by one breaker. Despite the panel being upgraded to a 220 service. That is certainly a head scratcher. From the "Please be sure to pack up all of your belongings files," RoseMarie found some dentures and what she describes as granny panties left behind in her house. And no, I did not put any photos of those on the show notes. Do you have an answer to this season's question? Visit the True Tales From Old Houses website and submit your answer via voicemail or email. For a voicemail, click on that mic icon in the bottom right hand corner and you'll see it on your phone or computer. Please answer in a complete sentence. And if you'd like to send an email tap contact in the top menu bar. Your privacy is important, and I will not share your messages without your permission. Thank you, Tinntinn and RoseMarie for taking the time to answer the question about the weirdest or most surprising thing you ever found in your old house.
Stacy Grinsfelder 16:09
True Tales From Old Houses is supported by The Window Course. We are incredibly lucky people. Scott Sidler from The Craftsman Blog has created an entire DIY window restoration course for the old house community. This is the course we have been waiting for. All of those tutorials that you search for on YouTube, you don't have to do that anymore. The Window Course is a step by step program that teaches you everything you need to know to successfully restore historic wood windows, all in one place, right where you need it. It's self-paced, so you can go as fast or as slow as you need to. And there are also several price points to fit your needs and budget. You can buy it for yourself; You could buy it as a training tool for the person you hire to restore your windows. The window course is offered with a 100% money back guarantee, and lucky for us, Scott is offering True Tales From Old Houses listeners a special discount. For 10% off, visit TheWindowCourse.com and use the coupon code truetales.
Stacy Grinsfelder 17:16
My guest today is John Rodgers. Once a Florida beach kid, John never saw himself restoring and preserving old houses in the Corn Belt of the United States, but as I keep learning from my guests, the path to the present is a winding one.
John R. 17:31
My name is John Rodgers, and I am an old home owner and also restoration contractor with Phoenix Preservation here in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Stacy Grinsfelder 17:41
All right. Well, I am, of course extremely excited to be recording with you on location today in St. Joseph, Missouri, because we have been friends, I guess, acquaintances online for a couple years, and it's just it's really fun to get and sit and talk to you today on the show. So we've been talking about doing it for a while, and now it's happening.
John R. 18:01
Absolutely. Post pandemic and yeah, everything's kind of getting back to normal and seeing people and getting to meet people that you've been friends with for years online, and that it finally comes together.
Stacy Grinsfelder 18:12
For sure. Do you feel like things are kind of getting back to normal in your world?
John R. 18:17
Yes and no. I mean, really, I really would have thought the pandemic would have slowed down more with my line of work. But But honestly, I think people spending so much time at home, they started seeing more things that they wanted done. So if anything, it almost got busier. And then it just became more difficult because of all the added precautions that we were following. So but it definitely seems like it's people are getting out more people are are starting to explore, which is a good thing. Hopefully we can get back to it.
Stacy Grinsfelder 18:46
Good. Well, before we go any further, I do feel the need to say that I did had to shed about 40 pounds worth of recording equipment before I came to this interview. So we're using my bare bones setup today. And so if we sound like we're talking from a bottom of a well, that's just how it goes sometimes, but I'm still waiting for NPR to come and whisk me away from my self-produced podcast problems. But here we sit in your beautiful old house in St. Joseph and I have a quick question for you. Do people who live here call it St. Joe because I have a connection. I have a family connection and my entire family has always called it St. Joe and I, I've never called it St. Joseph.
John R. 19:24
I really think it might be split 50/50. I hear St. Joe more than I hear St. Joseph around here.
Stacy Grinsfelder 19:31
And you also are transplant here. So are you from, do you, say Missouri or Missour-uh?
John R. 19:36
I say Missouri, and I get corrected quite often, but I can't find it in me to to say Missour-uh. It ends with an I.
Stacy Grinsfelder 19:46
i agree. I always call it Missouri. I did live here for a certain--I think I lived here for six years of my life. My mother lives in the state and she's from-- as far as she's concerned. She's from Missour-uh, but I came from Missouri. So it's interesting. All right. Well, why don't we start with how you got started, I mean, I'd really like to hear your story about how you got started in historic preservation and how you started your own company.
John R. 20:07
Oh, wow, well,
Stacy Grinsfelder 20:09
And backwards before that, too,
John R. 20:10
Right--from the beginning. I actually started on the, I always, jokingly call it the desk side of preservation. I went to college in Florida, where I was born and raised most of my life, and then got into got into historic preservation and The Main Street Program, specifically my senior year of college. And then when I graduated, I ended up moving to Louisiana to take over a downtown redevelopment group and a Main Street Program. I bought a house that had been abandoned for 20 years there, just to kind of prove to the community that I was committed that I was going to going to be there for the long haul, and slowly started teaching myself how to how to do the things that needed to get done. With the job that I was working on, the hardest part was spending months in meetings, trying to get everybody on board, come up with a game plan, this is what we're going to do to restore the building. And then at the last minute, it would fall apart because they couldn't find somebody to do the plaster or to do the the windows, the things that needed to get done. And at that point, professionally, it was difficult because it was you know, you just spent months working on a project. And then you see vinyl windows going in because they just couldn't find anybody. And then I started-- I was working on my own house and word started to spread, and it became a favor for a friend and then a favor for a neighbor. And then "Hey, could you take a look at this on the weekend?" And it it kind of fell into my lap in terms of being a side job, something that was just a hobby for myself. And then it grew and grew and grew to where it was, it was a second full-time job. And then it was a more than full-time job. And it got to the point where where we had to make a decision on what I wanted to do. At that point, I had left the program that I was working with, and I was in the industrial sector, and just absolutely loved preservation. I love working with my tools and you know, restoring things that have been around for hundreds of years that are for the most part fairly simple to work on once you learn how to work on them. And I think a lot of it just scares people and I'm trying to try to change that stigma. So officially, I started Phoenix Preservation five years ago in Louisiana-- five or six years ago, and then we relocated to Missouri. Last year was our first full year here in St. Joseph after several years of commuting back and forth.
Stacy Grinsfelder 22:33
You mentioned something called The Main Stree Program. Was that just a local program for the main street or is that an organization or something?
John R. 22:40
No, it --Well, there's there's local levels. The Main Street Program was started in the mid 70s, I believe by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It was it was basically a economic development tool that was almost the exact opposite of urban renewal. It was basically trying to revive downtowns and stop urban sprawl. I believe it's no longer involved or directly tied into the National Trust, but it's it's become probably the most successful economic revitalization program in the country. Something like 43 states and the District of Columbia have Main Street programs. I moved to Louisiana to take over a program there after interning with the Florida program. And then full circle now we're starting a program here in St. Joseph,
Stacy Grinsfelder 23:29
I think I saw in your bio that you actually gave me that you were environmental education major. Is that correct?
John R. 23:34
Environmental science, environmental science and business management.
Stacy Grinsfelder 23:38
Well, I was thinking about how the parallels between natural preservation the natural world versus the early built world. And there there are a lot of parallels trying to prevent, you know, significant change and significant devastation to these areas. Like you said, Main Street, Old Main Street or national parks, I have a national park background. So that's where I always think of and there's, but they overlap so much.
John R. 24:02
Yeah, it definitely. And growing up in Florida. I mean, I was your typical beach kid. So you could see after spring break, and after summer break what, you know, just what a few days did to the environment there. So it was definitely you know, environmental protection and recycling. And all of that was always important to me. And now we're doing the same thing just on a building level instead of instead of the environment,
Stacy Grinsfelder 24:25
right. We just take those lessons forward into these old houses. It's pretty neat, Doesn't seem like such a leap. I think people are often surprised at the kind of work that I do. But to me, it just seems like a little quick hop over to the new thing rather than a big leap into something completely different than what's been going on before.
John R. 24:41
Stacy Grinsfelder 24:42
Yeah. So St. Joseph, we are in northern Missouri. And so you talked about commuting what what made you commute from-- I'm a little confused about how you were commuting from Louisiana. It seems like a little, a little far,
John R. 24:54
Right. It's just a 14 hour commute. We, my wife and I before before we had our son, Ethan, we would just randomly every year we'd pick a spot in the country that just had history. And we would go there as a family vacation just to, you know, places in the middle of nowhere. And every time when we were trying to figure out where to go next, we'd see all of these old houses and mansions in St. Joseph. So we started looking into it. And it was, you know, the birthplace of the Pony Express. It was the the final resting place of Jesse James, there's so much history that started here. So we came on a vacation, and it was always four or five days, our, our history vacations. So we came once and just absolutely fell in love with the amount of history. We didn't get to see everything. So the next year, we came again, and we had never, we had never gone to the same place twice. The second time we we met a couple of other people, and they introduced us to other people. And we found ourselves coming back more and more. And then once word got out on what I did, at that point, it was still just a hobby. So it became, "Hey, next time you're in town, can you take a look at this?" And the same thing that happened in Louisiana started happening here to where it became projects that were large enough that I couldn't do them in a three or four day vacation. So my wife and son ended up coming up here. And they would stay for a couple months at a time while I was working in Louisiana. And I would commute back and forth to visit, you know, once a month or every couple months. And then the school year was starting. So Ethan was starting the school year, and that's when we made that decision that you know, I need to tie up loose ends in Louisiana, but they were going to stay up here to to enroll him in school and and start fresh up here and have seasons and see snow for the first time in his life.
Stacy Grinsfelder 26:44
Do you still get a lot of snow up here?
John R. 26:45
We do. It's hit or miss. It's not as bad as I thought it was going to be. But you know, I say that. And next winter I'll be I'll be digging out every day. So the Missouri, the Missouri weather was definitely a change in terms of never knowing what to expect,
Stacy Grinsfelder 26:59
Right. And now you live in this huge house. I've just had an incredible tour. And I'm hoping to take a few pictures, which I'll put on the show notes. So I mean, you have an interesting pathway to this house. And I would like to hear how you, well, I already know but I'd like you to tell everybody how you got here.
John R. 27:17
Yeah, we we actually we, when we made the commitment, we were going to come up here, we we bought a house across the street from this one that was was intact. It was and we'll walk through there next, but it's, it's original to its 1867 construction. And that was our ongoing whenever we were here, we we'd tinker around we try to get one little project done at a time there. (we) got to be really good friends with the owners of this home, who was-- they were an elderly couple. And they approached us one day out of the blue and asked us if we would take it over. There were some health issues involved. And they knew that they weren't able to keep up with it, let alone finish the renovation. And they knew the work that I was doing. And their biggest concern was the house being chopped up into apartments, which happens often with with oversize, oversized houses. They get turned into a four plex or a six plex. And and they didn't want that. This house is intact to its 1920 remodel. So they approached us and asked about taking it over, and we we outright said no. We we didn't want to have a larger project than what we were already committed to, and at that point, we still had projects in Louisiana,
Stacy Grinsfelder 28:31
Right. And to make it clear, this is across the street from you. So here, you already have a reasonable house across the street.
John R. 28:37
Right. Yeah, it was it was perfectly, it wasn't livable at that time. Now, now it could definitely be livable. But But yeah, we were we were happy. And we had the carriage house and the barn and the house. So we said no. And then they approached us again, a few weeks later, or a month or two later. And at that point, the health had kind of deteriorated further. And and they made us an offer that that we couldn't refuse. So we we had to jump on it. And now we've-- we're kind of stuck because we we love the house that we started with where we were the original, the first owners outside of the original family. So we're committed to keeping that house intact and protected from somebody that would maybe alter it in a way that can't be changed. But now we live across the street from it. And in a larger project that needs as much if not more work,
Stacy Grinsfelder 29:24
Right What style is this house?
John R. 29:26
I've been calling it neoclassical. Just with the columns and the wraparound porch, it It strikes me as neoclassical. The original house and the original house was built in 1866. And the 1920 remodel, actually, and they built a house around the house. So to my knowledge, there's no photos or any idea of what the original house looked like, from the exterior. I would imagine it would be closer to the Second Empire across the street. neo-classical I guess is the shortest answer I could have given.
Stacy Grinsfelder 29:55
Right. Oh, that's okay. We like long answers here. The longer the answer the better. It's good. This is a this is an audio format, so we're good.
John R. 30:03
I'm from the south. I'm a Rambler. We talk.
Stacy Grinsfelder 30:07
Well, I'm an extrovert. So I'm a Rambler as well. So you, I mean, how do you feel about this project? Do you feel? Do you do you have a big picture? Or are you just kind of dealing with things as they come along, because this is your line of work, which means it's probably very difficult to get to your own house projects.
John R. 30:28
It's very difficult to, to get to them and also to stay on them until completion. I'm good till that 90 95% and then oh, I'll do it tomorrow turns into months, unfortunately. But it's just I love this house. I've been drawn-- I love the house across the street. Second Empire has been my favorite type of house my entire life. And then we walked into this house and I, I fell in love all over again with with the style that I never would have pictured myself living in. But it, the house you could tell has been loved. It's it's hit a rough patch. There's been years of, you know, neglect and maintenance that needs to be done, but it's always been a family house. It's always been, and I shared it in my Instagram, It's always been a house that you could feel, you know, families lived in it. And I think that's what drew us. There's there's huge trees in the yard that that our son loves to climb. He's got a treehouse in one. It was off street parking, which was huge for me, because there is a lot of, a lot of that here in town. It has its intact carriage house behind it. We were just drawn to it. So I mean, long term. I don't ever want to leave this house, honestly. But you know, never say never. I said I'd never leave Florida
Stacy Grinsfelder 31:42
and here you are
John R. 31:44
two moves away.
Stacy Grinsfelder 31:45
Yeah. And in Missouri, no less, right?
John R. 31:47
Stacy Grinsfelder 31:47
Bet you never said Oh, I'm going to move to Missouri
John R. 31:49
From the beach to the snow.
Stacy Grinsfelder 31:50
Right. Exactly. Well, it is a very special house, and I get that feeling to. It is that it's a home, it's a family home.
John R. 31:57
And a lot of times with larger houses, they they don't feel like a home, you you walk in and you're you're in an auditorium and and here are the rooms might be oversized, and the ceilings aren't horribly tall. But it feels like a home. It's just slightly larger.
Stacy Grinsfelder 32:13
Yeah, no, I agree. Absolutely. Well, I have a question about living here in St. Joseph, I guess, or St. Joe, as I have been known to call it my whole life. So there is a rich history, of course of outlaws. You were saying Jesse James, The Pony Express started here. There's all kinds of museums. I wish I could stay here a week now that I've been looking at everything that's available in St. Joe. And as a recent transplant, although you did vacation here, what's your favorite thing about living here that maybe the longtime residents take for granted?
John R. 32:40
Honestly, it would be it would probably be the architecture. And I've made the comment before for other communities is when you grow up surrounded by it, you you almost take it for granted. You don't you don't-- you stop appreciating the beauty and the uniqueness of what you have. And you just recognize that as Oh, that house has been deteriorating for 20 years, or Oh, that used to be a grocery store, and now it's a vacant building. And for people that that come from outside of the community, they don't see the imperfections I think, that a lot of residents do. And there are imperfections, every community has their issues. And St. Joseph is an old town, it's it really is. So it has basically every era of architecture and so much, and not just one type of history, but so much varied history, you know, with the westward migration and everything that came with that, the outlaws, the the creation of the stockyards and it was just it's been a huge community. And it's been-- it's done very well financially. But the architecture is what drew me and then the the people-- the friendliness, you don't really get that, you know. It's not, not South Louisiana friendly, but it's a lot more more welcoming a lot of times, than I guess what I expected, and I'd never been to Missouri before, so I was my preconceived notion of what the Midwest would have been like. Just like, when I went to New York, I had my mindset of what New York was going to be like, and it was nowhere near that. So
Stacy Grinsfelder 34:05
Right, your work takes you to Long Island quite regularly.
John R. 34:09
Recently, it has Yeah. It was, it was definitely an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. And I've, there's so much worked and I'm trying to specialize. I'm trying to specialize more on windows, whereas before I was doing a lot of everything, a lot of plaster work a lot of you know, door and window work when it was available and just whole house restorations. And with the pandemic that kind of shifted, I guess my mindset, and there's there's so much opportunity in the window industry and there's so few of us that are doing it in the grand scheme of how many windows there are in the country, that I really want to put all my eggs into that basket, but there's pockets across the country that have no window people within hundreds of miles. So if you're willing to travel, you can, you know, you can see the country and that's kind of kind of something I've I've considered. There there's plenty of work in the Kansas City area that I absolutely love, but but I also want to take advantage while I can and I'm traveling see parts of the country I haven't been to.
Stacy Grinsfelder 35:10
Yeah, I was gonna say it's really common for, it seems like restoration professionals to do a lot of traveling, I, you know, I'll see some--I'll look in a directory or something that to look up a person and they'll serve, you know, three or four states. And that's that's quite a drive.
John R. 35:24
Right. And in the Midwest, I mean, I've jokingly said that anything under eight hours in the Midwest is like just a normal trip, because you have these long spaces of nothingness. So yeah, we definitely and we all will, you're part of the group. So we, we all keep in touch, and we all kind of pass jobs back and forth, because it's really, it doesn't feel like it's a competition amongst us. Whereas in other industries, they can be you know, cutthroat at times, but the the window people especially for the most part, we we get along and we share because the ultimate goal is saving the wooden windows and not having them get torn out and replaced with something that's, that's inferior. So it's nice having that community spread out across the country and being able to kind of know people everywhere.
Stacy Grinsfelder 36:10
Yeah, it is a really friendly little niche of historic well, of probably of all types of, you know, contracting or anything window restoration professionals, you seem like a really friendly bunch, and probably at least a few times a year, Andy will say, you know, why aren't you starting your own window restoration company? I'm like, I don't know.
John R. 36:28
Stacy Grinsfelder 36:29
just jump in
John R. 36:30
There's room for one more
Stacy Grinsfelder 36:31
Do you have anybody that works for you? I mean, I'm not actually asking for a job, but I'm just curious to know.
John R. 36:35
You are, you are welcome to come anytime you have free time. No, at the moment, I am still going at it solo. The goal is to have some more people in the future. It's just finding the time to slow down to train somebody to even just do one or two things. And that could be all they do, but but it's finding the time to slow down that I've been, I've been saying for a couple years now would happen soon.
Stacy Grinsfelder 36:58
How popular are the trades in this part of the country? Is it, would it be reasonable that you would find somebody who was interested in working in window restoration?
John R. 37:06
I think you could. You really--there's a there's a technical college nearby. And last year or a couple years ago, we tried starting a historic trades program and one thing led to another and ended up not happening. But I think if you if you started them off young, you know, get them, get people interested in straight out of high school or while they're in college and kind of teach them that it is a viable, a viable career. It's something you can do for the rest of your life. And then training them even younger than that. I've got, Ethan's been at the shop with me every day for the past year and has picked up a lot.
Stacy Grinsfelder 37:43
Right. And Ethan's your son. So we never said that. We know that. You and I know that. But, Ethan knows that. But yeah, we haven't introduced him yet. So we talked about that on the show before with Lindsey Jones from Blind Eye Restoration, and she is kind of involved in and really interested in getting those younger kids involved in, in finding historic preservation and historic buildings interesting enough to want to get to that next step of, of maybe working in the trades and and getting involved in the preservation. I think it's so interesting, because, you know, as she said, and it's true, I have kids too. They're just they're naturally inquisitive and interested. And contrary to popular belief, I find kids to be pretty hard workers too. They're usually pretty motivated to do something new or try something.
John R. 38:28
Absolutely. And I mean, at that age, their their brain is a sponge. I mean, you know, I've seen things that that people that have worked with me have had issues with and, and my son's eight, and he's he's cutting glass without a problem. And, you know, I almost have to pull the reins back because I've got some larger equipment that he has no problem starting up, and I need to make sure he doesn't do it when I'm not there, right next to him. But if you start them, start them early enough and teach them that, that it is possible to restore something before the rest of the world teaches them the that it's a throwaway culture, and that's, that's the most important part is, if you don't teach them the right way to do something, then somebody else will teach them the wrong way.
Stacy Grinsfelder 39:11
Right. So let me pause Just a minute. I don't know what that is.
John R. 39:14
Sounds like a jackhammer, which would be perfect.
Stacy Grinsfelder 39:17
This would be perfect. Yeah, what do I? All right, we're sitting here listening to a jackhammer, which, you know, this might actually go in because it's always nice to have a little levity during every
John R. 39:26
Well, and it's construction. It's me working hard.
Stacy Grinsfelder 39:28
John R. 39:29
on my home projects. While I can't even take a break to do an interview.
Stacy Grinsfelder 39:32
Perfect! This is a, yeah, this is an example of John. Yeah, you're standing there with a jackhammer in your hands. Where I live the street sweeper, just to go back and forth, takes five minutes. You know, I could hear it coming.
John R. 39:43
Stacy Grinsfelder 39:43
John R. 39:44
And that's wide open. They're going as fast as they can go.
Stacy Grinsfelder 39:48
They're in turbo at that point. Alright. Every time we start talking, it comes on again. That's pretty funny. So this is the jackhammer edition of True Tales From Old Houses and we're just going to go with it, but--but what kind of projects do you have to do here in this house? Or what do you have going? Or do you? I've just--I mean, I'm here I've seen it. But
John R. 40:10
A lot of deferred maintenance, that was the biggest thing that the house needed. We were lucky, lucky enough the electric was done was upgraded before we moved in. So we had some, some plumbing repairs to take care of, and really, for the most part, that the house is in great condition, considering the number of owners and the history and everything, there's been two or three fires in the house over the years. So ongoing projects. There's always something. We're in the middle of a halfway kitchen upgrade. What started as a simple painting the the pantry in the kitchen turned into discovering the original butler's pantry, which turned into let's put wood floors in there to match the house. And then that turned into, you know, let's put the wall back where it was. And then the way my mind works, you can't leave it simple. So every big house needs a hidden room. So now the now the pantry will be hidden. And you'll have to walk through a unenclosed doorway, and you know, these big ideas that I have, and somewhere in the back of my mind, there's that little voice saying, hey, you don't have the time to do this. But it's fun to start. And when it's finished. It'll be wonderful. It's just, it's getting to that point.
Stacy Grinsfelder 41:21
Yeah, definitely. All right. Would you mind if I tried to close that door real quick?
John R. 41:25
Oh, no, absolutely.
Stacy Grinsfelder 41:26
John R. 41:26
And I've got the window, and the screen doors back there. if you want to close those.
Stacy Grinsfelder 41:30
Let me pause for just a minute.
Stacy Grinsfelder 41:31
All right, so we closed a couple of windows. We'll see if we can tighten up the sound a little bit here. That's one of the things about being on location is, it's a little less controlled, but one of the best things about being on location is that it's a little less controlled. So I kind of like it I--you know, that's just the way things are when you're out and about and
John R. 41:50
It keeps things light.
Stacy Grinsfelder 41:51
It keeps things light. Yeah,
John R. 41:52
If we were on--if we were on a zoom call, you'd still hear the noise, but you wouldn't have the fun of being
Stacy Grinsfelder 41:57
John R. 41:57
out and about.
Stacy Grinsfelder 41:58
Yeah, that's exactly true. Absolutely. So you have big plans for this house. That's kind of where we stopped when we closed the windows, and you're making a secret door? And and so I was curious, actually about the work that you do? What is something that you wish people would start doing? And what do you wish they would stop doing?
John R. 42:15
That's a good one.
Stacy Grinsfelder 42:16
I've gotta have at least one stumper,
John R. 42:18
right, yeah, you didn't email me that one in show prep.
Stacy Grinsfelder 42:20
Yeah, I didn't give you that one in advance.
John R. 42:22
Stop doing is relatively easy. At least for me, it is and everybody has their own opinions. But for me, it's, it's the current trend of the day, the month, the week it, you know, and I work on a couple of old house websites, or groups as well. And whatever the current trend is, whether it's, you know, shiplap, or any shade of gray for everything and things like that, it becomes so trendy, that it just, it's just it's overkill. And a lot of times, you know, if that's your style, and that's what you like, then great, but you know--the the same with people that buy a Victorian house that has a lot of tiny rooms, but they want an open concept house, you know, it's your house, do what you want with it, you know, during your time of stewardship, but at least in my mind, you are a steward. It's your house while you own it, but it's going to live on much longer than we are, and if you pick a color that somebody else doesn't like, great, the next owner can paint it. If you decide you want open concept and you tear out every single wall in your Victorian, the next person can can't go back and just put it back. They could, but it's a whole lot harder than buying a couple gallons of paint.
Stacy Grinsfelder 43:31
Right. It would be a lot easier if if people stopped trying to make their houses into something that they're not or never were planned to be.
John R. 43:38
Right. And, you know, it's different circumstances and things like that. But you know, that this house and you'll have pictures.. I mean, it's a brick house with white columns. It's it's about as traditional as you can get. If I wanted to live in a log cabin, I would, I would not start with this house as the, as the blueprint for it.
Stacy Grinsfelder 43:57
John R. 43:58
So I guess it's a pet peeve for me. What I wish people would start doing is probably that one's almost harder than the stop.
Stacy Grinsfelder 44:08
Start doing the thing that you ask them to stop doing.
John R. 44:10
Stacy Grinsfelder 44:12
John R. 44:12
Whatever you just did undo it,
Stacy Grinsfelder 44:14
Undo it. Go backwards in time, please.
John R. 44:16
No, I guess the the thing is being open to, being open to ideas, being open to you know, preservation isn't set in stone--You know, process. Those, and we've joked about it, you know, with the different window guys, and or guys and ladies that I know, is there's there's a million ways to do it wrong, but there's a million ways to do it right also, and there might be one way that works great for you and one way that works great for somebody else, but you're not wrong. You just-- everybody has their own way of doing it. And it's hard sometimes especially when somebody new comes in, you know, and they ask for advice. They've never done it before, and you have 70 different opinions on the best way to do it. And I think it could be overwhelming, and that's for somebody that's working in the trades. As a homeowner, if they ask a question and you get the same thing, it it's almost beyond intimidating at that point.
Stacy Grinsfelder 45:10
Yeah, it can feel a little unwelcoming at that point, too, I think,
John R. 45:13
Right, and you almost, as a homeowner, you'd be scared to make a mistake, or you'd be scared to ask the next question. And, you know, it might be something simple, or it might be something that you're going to cause major damage to your house, and I think a lot of times people overreact. And, you know, you see it a lot in the in the online groups of, you know, "What color should I paint my house?" and rather than answering that question, which you had the podcast that-- rather than answering that question, you will get 800 people tell them what else they see wrong in their picture. And, you know, it's just, there's a lot of judgment, I guess.
Stacy Grinsfelder 45:46
Yeah, I know that when I first started, when I first bought my house, I was-- I didn't do-- I was pretty paralyzed for about 18 months, because of all the advice that I got. It was just really overwhelming. And I remember, I don't even remember who told me-- it was somebody I'm sure that I'm still friends with today, but they just they said, you know, whatever you do, however you try to make an improvement, if you go into it with that intent, chances are, you're going to make it better. It's already broken. It's already wrong, you know. It's already destroyed. And I guess that advice could have been taken more than one way, but I really, it gave me some comfort and some confidence to know that, you know, my intent was to make it better. And so my--it was my responsibility to find out, you know, best practices as far as materials go, and, you know, trying to make things as authentic as possible. But
John R. 45:57
Stacy Grinsfelder 46:19
I wasn't gonna make it worse, it was already worse.
John R. 46:41
Right, and that 18 months of paralysis probably helped you live in the house for a while and kind of decide what the house needed. And that's another thing that's, that's a huge thing, is don't don't dive into a project without having, you know, some idea or, or some, some end goal. And don't dive in before you're ready. You know, if the kitchen is kind of 80s and drab, and you don't like it, but you can't afford to do it the way you know, the way you envision it, don't do something halfway just because it's it's all you can afford at the moment or you want, you know, change the color on the walls. Do that. And that could be a change until you can, you can do your your end goal. Don't Don't compromise, I guess don't don't short. sell yourself short.
Stacy Grinsfelder 47:23
Right. Yeah, I like that. I think that's great advice. Now I discussed this question with Alex during the last episode, which you may have heard by now, but I'm wondering as a professional what is the very first thing-- we--Alex and I guess we talked about it as do-it-yourselfers, but I want to know as a professional, what is the very first thing that you do when you start a project?
John R. 47:41
Stacy Grinsfelder 47:44
Wait a minute,
John R. 47:45
on my on my own home, obviously not for clients. The first thing has to be some sort of a game plan. And I did hear the episode. I'm definitely not a list maker. I'm not a, I'm not a by the book, this is step one, step two, step three. I'm very, very go with the flow, but in my head, I have to have an idea of where where it's going to end up. It may be a roundabout way of getting there, but I have to have a kind of a visual of what it's going to look like when it's done.
Stacy Grinsfelder 48:15
Right. Alright. Yeah, I was curious if you had a different-- if you saw it differently as a professional, but it sounds like we all kind of come at it the same way. It's just a matter of how rigid we get in our steps and the format of
John R. 48:27
right well and
Stacy Grinsfelder 48:28
and taking that leap.
John R. 48:29
And when you have to remember, it's an old house. So it's kind of, you know, a budget a plan, you can work really hard on it. And then as soon as you have it done, you can crumple it up and throw it away, because there's going to be a curveball somewhere in the project, and it's better to just assume that it's going to be there and move accordingly.
Stacy Grinsfelder 48:45
Yeah, expect the best but prepare for the worst.
John R. 48:48
Stacy Grinsfelder 48:48
We're getting towards the the wrap up portion here, I guess. But I mean, you're professional, but you're also a dad. So I'm curious. We kind of touched on this earlier, but what lessons would you like your son to learn from growing up in this big old house? And also from watching you work? I didn't prep you on this question either.
John R. 49:03
No. no, that was another stumper. Yeah. Um, I think in terms of living in the old house is just never, never take for granted what opportunities you have. I mean, I-- I had a great childhood I had, you know, great parents, I have nothing that I could ever complain for, and that that's not the case with everybody. So it's easy to you know, it's human nature. If you see a big house, oh, that person's rich, oh, that person must be well off or this and that. And the reality is, we're you know, we're not. That's just somebody that has a big house for one reason or another, and you can't, you can't judge a book by its cover. So really, I definitely want him to realize that because we've lived in this house. We've also lived in in much smaller houses. And you know, never never take for granted what opportunities you have. And you know, I always say if, if you have more food than than what you can fit on your table, build a bigger table. I mean, share. If you, if you have a little leftover, then you know, get out there and help somebody that has a little less. And we've always done that Christmas, and I mean our our holiday dinners we go out and we serve the community. That's that's our our thing. Because we know we, we've been blessed. So it's just sharing that.
Stacy Grinsfelder 50:14
Well, let's talk about your involvement in the community too. Because you I mean, you've moved here and then now you're really involved. So what do you do? Aside from helping serve meals in your community?
John R. 50:27
Yeah, we've definitely, we've, we took a dive headfirst-- meals with the community. I've worked with the local homeless shelter. Two winters ago when we had a bad winner I worked at the homeless shelter overnights, just helping with with whatever they could use. We're very actively involved in in our church, which ironically, is called Restoration Church. It's a it's one of the oldest, well, it's one of the oldest buildings still standing in town. And it's, it's a big warehouse. There was a warehouse is its previous use. It was built as a natatorium, which was a basically-- they pump the water from the Missouri River, and it was an indoor swimming pool, and there's still the remnants of where it was and the markings, you know, "shower before entering" and things like that
Stacy Grinsfelder 51:12
at your church that's great.
John R. 51:12
at our church. So, so actively involved in our in our church. And then board wise, we're starting the Main Street Program, which we we touched on briefly. I'm on the local Landmarks Commission, which is kind of the historic preservation board. And then I'm also on the on the Missouri preservation board of directors. They're very local, local, and then state.
Stacy Grinsfelder 51:13
Yeah. What kind of work do they do here in this particular area? What do they what's their primary focus?
John R. 51:40
for Missouri preservation?
Stacy Grinsfelder 51:41
Well, for for just generally speaking, for all of them, what's their goal?
John R. 51:45
The whole the whole goal is just protecting our built environment. It's a lot of information at the local level, The Landmark Commission actually approves or or dis approves?
Stacy Grinsfelder 51:58
Yeah, that sounds good.
John R. 51:59
Making up words here.
Stacy Grinsfelder 52:01
They deny. They approved or they denied
John R. 52:04
I guess they have the governing rule over our, a couple of our of our historic districts in terms of exterior alterations and basically, just part of the permitting process is that any any exterior work goes through the Landmark Commission first for approval, but but the entire-- all of the boards are based on on information and education and just getting people to realize that some things that you that you change aren't easily change back. So
Stacy Grinsfelder 52:29
is there anything else that you would want people to know about you or about your job or anything on this episode?
John R. 52:36
I've rambled on enough. I'm not sure what else to say.
Stacy Grinsfelder 52:39
So many of my guests worry about rambling, and it's not an issue. It's great. I love every moment of it. So let's go ahead and tell everybody where they can find you. If they want to find out more about you. Now I'm going to put pictures of your house, if that's okay, on the show notes and you know, relevant links and things where to find you.
John R. 52:57
I'm famous for not sitting down long enough to update things, which is why I gave up on on a website years ago, I do share a lot of information on Facebook, just under my my own name, John Rodgers, R-O-D. We share a lot of information in one of the groups that we both share together the My Old House Fix
Stacy Grinsfelder 53:18
That's a good one, I should link that one maybe. It's a Facebook group.
John R. 53:21
It's a Facebook group, and it's it's different than other groups, because there's there's a lot more professionals. So you, a lot of the group's you have issues with some of the advice that could be downright dangerous, and that group, we really, we really work hard to try and keep it safe.
Stacy Grinsfelder 53:35
I'm trying not to really start laughing because yeah, there's some interesting advice,
John R. 53:39
Though, a lot of my a lot of my information gets gets shared on the My Old Fix group and then on Instagram, under Phoenix underscore Preservation. (@phoenix_preservation)
Stacy Grinsfelder 53:48
Well, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for letting me come crash your house for one and come meet you in person. And it's funny as you were talking about-- you said I'm famous for not really, and you aren't really online a lot. I'm thinking how do I know John Rodgers so well, because you're right, you don't post a ton on Instagram, or your website, but somehow, somehow I had the guts to ask you if I could come over to your house and do an episode with you.
John R. 54:12
And I think we've we've communicated so much back and forth between the groups and and Instagram and everything. And that's what's great about the community is you you develop these friendships and you feel like you've known these people forever. And really, I mean, we met for the first time an hour ago.
Stacy Grinsfelder 54:26
Exactly, exactly. Does it feel like we've known each other a long time?
John R. 54:29
It does. It does.
Stacy Grinsfelder 54:30
Okay, good. Good. I think so too. All right. Well, thank you again, so much. And I'm excited to share this episode with everybody. And now we can be even better friends, right?
John R. 54:40
Stacy Grinsfelder 54:41
All right. Great.
Stacy Grinsfelder 54:42
Thank you for listening to today's episode. Just a reminder that today is the last day to preorder merchandise, and many thanks to everyone who has placed an order so far. To continue the conversation follow True Tales From Old Houses and Blake Hill House on Facebook and Instagram. And for more information about this special Field Trip episode including show notes, transcripts and to sign up for the monthly newsletter visit TrueTalesFromOldHouses.com. Until next time,