When This Old House recently featured “Best Old House Neighborhoods” — spotlighting one great neighborhood from each state — I first looked to see if where I live made the list (it didn’t). But I couldn’t stop there.

The magazine organized the list in a number of ways, including the best places to buy an old house if you … want to live in a college town, are seeking a fixer-upper, you’re a retiree, you have a growing family, you’re outdoorsy and so on. But the list that really captured my attention and imagination centered on old house bargains.

It led me to this story: “Ultra-Cheap: Houses for Under $6,000.” Who buys these homes and how much does it cost to get them livable, I wondered?

And then this week, I learned about a truly inspiring old house enthusiast who took the ultra-cheap house challenge and won.

Bob Pearl of Clemmons, N.C., is like a lot of people. He doesn’t have a ton of money or a ton of time. But he loves old homes. And I think he probably loves them a lot more than the average historical architecture aficionado.

Ten years ago, he bought an 1830s-era home for $5,000. He disassembled it and then moved it piece by piece to his property, where he then cataloged every brick, board and fastener. It’s taken him the past decade to put it back to together as good as new, with an 800-square-foot addition.

And he did it, he told the Winston-Salem Journal, “with kids, schools, bills to pay and a business to run.”

It helped that Pearl works in the antiques business and is a self-taught expert in furniture from the Piedmont (to the extent that the director of research at Old Salem Museums and Gardens calls him a scholar on the topic).

It’s amazing to consider the care, thought and sheer endurance of Pearl — and of his family, who lived in a trailer on the property while the home was erected. Not only did he take apart the house and put it back together, he restored each piece of the home to how it would have looked in the period. He seeks to make everything he restores to look as authentic as possible, he told the newspaper.

The story never said just how much Pearl spent on the relocation-restoration project. But the result is clearly priceless … at least to one man.


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