Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Our Project: The 1893 Victorian

Thursday, September 06, 2012

I've never really talked about the how or the why behind how we came to own this poor forgotten beauty across the street from where we live. But, since we're devoting most of our time to it this month, I think it's time that I tell that sordid story and show you some "before" pics. As the month goes on, I thought it would be fun to share the "after" pictures so that you can watch this grand old lady come back to life along with us. 

Here she is in all her beauty on the day I bought her:

I particularly love the charming front stairs held on my one nail and the missing panes of glass in the attic.
This was late 2008, so the bare trees and grey day certainly add to the feeling that this house is haunted.  In fact, looking back at these old pictures of this house and our own house always elicits a "What the h*ll were we thinking?" from either J. or I.

But, if you can look past the outdated roof, the obvious need for a paint job and the failing porch, this house had GOOD BONES.  4000 square feet of a true brick house with 18-inch thick walls.  She was built to last.  And could you not imagine yourself on a porch swing?

It didn't look much better from the back either.  The deck is over 20 years old and, with 16 foot spans between the posts, it wasn't built correctly to begin with.  There are broken windows and an overgrown yard.   But none of that deterred us.  We also saw beauty in things like this stained glass window:

You see, this house was owned by the first neighbor to ever come over and welcome us to the neighborhood.  Harold was a noted Kansas City historian and the author of several books about Jesse James and the Younger brothers, who made their home not far from KC. Having lived and raised his children in this house for 39 years, life had thrown several bombs his way that resulted in him refinancing the house with a Countrywide mortgage.  You can probably guess the rest of the story.

We tried in vain to help by taking over his mortgage and just having him pay us rather than the bank.  We desperately wanted to keep a good neighbor and save a beautiful old house from falling into slumlord hands.  But the bank wouldn't even talk to us.  Instead, they continued down the foreclosure path and ultimately kicked Harold out of the house and threw alot of his things into a dumpster when he couldn't move them fast enough.  No wonder the banks have a bad name.

All brick and stone.  This house will be here long after after we've left this earth.
If there is a positive in all this, we were to benefit from it. The bank finally put the house on the market for 1/3 of what we originally offered them:  $19,000.  I remember being giddy with excitement that we might be able to afford that house and get Harold back in it.  It all worked out in the end and, after we fixed the old plumbing, put in a brand new kitchen and fixed both bathrooms, he moved back in.  We asked that he pay only $350 in rent and we would pick up all utilities.  This would help him out and we would have our neighbor back and someone to keep an eye on the house.

But hard times are hard times and things didn't get better for Harold, much to our dismay.  He was habitually late on his rent or just didn't pay us for over 2 years.  Carrying the house and utilities was difficult for us as well, as we had our own mortgage and utilities.  Before he moved out about 8 months ago, he had gotten an advance for another book on Jesse James and was able to catch us up, but it was decided that he needed a cheaper apartment and his moving out would allow us to finish the renovations and put the house back on the market.  I want to see someone buy this old gal and love her as much as we do.

And here we are today.


  1. I would love a house like that! It is gorgeous.

    1. I think you see what we saw also: the house had HUGE potential and just needed someone to give it some tender loving care. If you love it looking like that, stay tuned because I'm about to start showing the renovation pictures and the before and afters. (And, if you want to move to KC, it can be yours!) :-)

  2. You guys are amazing :) What a great thing to do for your neighbor and community! Good luck with the sale of this beautiful home!

  3. I have the sneaking suspicion I have met Harold. Will write you about it separately. The house is gorgeous, I hope you can find a good buyer who won't chop it up!

    1. Hey, Mary Ann! I saw your email yesterday while I was painting in the library, but responding on my little phone keyboard just wasn't going to cut it. Yep, you've met him! I've got a busy schedule today, but will get you a better reply as soon as I can.

  4. The ones you guys really want to see are the porch rebuild photos. I lost count of how many wrecks we almost caused with the project...

  5. Oh, please, please can I come by and see the inside?! Just found your site, can't believe I hadn't looked further after getting your posts and not known how close you were.


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