September 29, 2017

6 Historic Home Renovators on Instagram That Show Us What It’s All About

  • By: Meghan White

Career preservationists are taught to refer to buildings that shelter people as “houses,” not “homes.” This is because the word "home" implies an emotional attachment to the building, whereas the word "house" is the actual, factual term used for documentation. However, we’re going to put aside formalities with our roundup of Instagrammers who are documenting the renovation of their homes. After all, the structures they’re giving so much time and energy to—the places they love—are more than walls and a roof, and as you will see, they’ve certainly turned these historic houses into homes.

IG handle: @living_in_a_landmark

The Home: 1830s Greek Revival in Alton, Illinois

Name: Erica Swagler

I began the Instagram account as an outlet to share the ups and downs and occasional frustrations of restoring an old house with a young family. Our home, the Lyman Trumbull House, is a National Historic Landmark—a designation more common for museums, statues and memorials—not typically a single-family home with two young daughters and two cats. The home’s name comes from its most notable resident, Senator Lyman Trumbull, who helped author the 13th Amendment.

The responsibilities of the house have sometimes felt overwhelming: making good choices when it comes to restoration to ensure we preserve this structure for future generations, while at the same time making it a comfortable family home where the routines of everyday life happen. As I began photo documenting our progress, I began seeing the beauty in the imperfections, feeling a bit less overwhelmed, and my Instagram page took on a different life. Seeking the beauty in my imperfect home and sharing that beauty through photographs became my new focus. (I should also mention the support I have received and camaraderie I share with many other old home owners who also share their stories on Instagram.)

Without a doubt, my favorite part of living in our home is knowing that we have been a part of its history. Hopefully, we’ve passed on to our two daughters an appreciation of old houses, our city and country's history, and also maybe a little can-do spirit.

Fun Fact: Trumbull was a colleague and friend (in their courting years) of Abraham Lincoln. It's rumored that Lincoln visited our home when in Alton for the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate.

IG handle: @glennhouserestoration

The Home: 1890 Queen Anne in Atlanta, Georgia

Name: Britton

Atlanta’s historic buildings, places, and landscapes serve not only as part of our collective identity but often as physical guideposts. A number of Atlanta's historic places have been lost to development in the last 60 to 70 years. For us, this project is an opportunity to create and foster a dialogue about historic preservation in Atlanta and why these places matter. This project shows how progress can co-exist and work with historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Instagram is also a way for me to bring forth my creative side and to connect with people who appreciate or have a passion for local Atlanta history, architecture, and old homes.

The best part about this project is the overwhelming excitement we have received from our neighbors, the preservation community, our followers, and everyday passers-by. Their support and encouragement is what makes this project so fun and fulfilling!

Fun Fact: In 1903, Charles Howard Candler (heir to the Coca-Cola Company), married Flora Glenn in one of our house’s parlors.

IG handle: @thevictorianfarmhouse

The Home: 1892 Queen Anne in Wisconsin

Name: Stephanie

I started an Instagram more as a personal diary to see all the progress we’ve made. We’re three years into this restoration and sometimes we forget how far we’ve come. Documenting it through pictures helps keep us motivated.

The best part of living in our historic home is its beauty. I truly find happiness being surrounded by such beautiful woodwork, stained glass, high ceilings, and the grand staircase. We also find so much joy in bringing this home back to life, as it was neglected for so long.

Fun Fact: The home was a wedding gift to the original owners. Can you imagine a wedding gift of this magnitude?

IG handle: @fwknoxvilla

The Home: 1880 Italianate in Coudersport, Pennsylvania

Name: Holly

I started the Instagram for the house because of how often it was showing up on social media as an abandoned property. We wanted people to realize that the house was being saved. Despite the work we've been doing to the house, I still see photos posted with the new paint and scaffolding saying it's an abandoned building. Instagram has really helped with this. Often my followers are commenting on these abandoned house posts before I even see them.

The best part of renovating this house has been seeing the changes we've been able to make in just our first year. I think people had definitely written our house off as a loss, so it's great to show that even though something may look hopeless it can make a comeback.

Fun Fact: Construction on the house was completed right before the Coudersport fire of 1880. It's one of the few buildings downtown that wasn't destroyed.

IG handle: @farmhousediary

The Home: 1870s farmhouse in the Catskills

Name: Amy Wax

We have family that lives as far away as California, and we wanted to share our journey with them, so I started posting a photo every day so they can be a part of our adventure.

It's incredibly rewarding taking a home that has fallen into disrepair and bringing it back to life again! There is so much joy in recognizing the craftsmanship of an older home and letting it shine once again!

Fun Fact: The last owner of our farmhouse purchased the farm and 100 acres in 1941 for $1,200. Two weeks later, the attack on Pearl Harbor happened, and the real estate values in the area doubled overnight.

IG handle: @ourvictorianitalianate

The Home: 1858 Italianate in Missouri

Name: Ashley

I started this account to share details of our restoration with friends and family. Little did I know there was a community of other people interested or doing the same thing.

The best part of living in a historic property is cherishing the immensely unique and beautiful craftsmanship that we no longer see in homes built today.

We have a deep love of saving history, and feel blessed to have had this opportunity with our home.

Fun Fact: Our house was almost torn down and subdivided. It was empty for seven years and was on the market for three years before we purchased it.

Don't forget to follow our Instagram account, @savingplaces, to see more stories of historic preservation all across the country.

Meghan White Headshot

Meghan White is a historic preservationist and a former assistant editor for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.

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