Gator House

I had passed by this house and property that sat next to the interstate a billion times. It was a three story house, and from the highway you could see one of the two big ponds that sat next to it. The house looked huge and very rustic and I could only imagine what the inside was like. But in all of my imagination I would never have imagined what I saw when I finally got to see this house up close! The contractor for the new owners was also the volunteer fire chief for the area and a personal friend. We got the heads up that they had scheduled to burn the house down and told that if we wanted to salvage anything from the property we could but we had to leave the firemen a safe way to get to all three floors. Early Saturday morning, (the week before the burn) we met our friend out at the property. When we arrived this is what we saw.

After we parked our trucks, (we took both of them because we didn’t know what we would find) I grabbed my camera and of course took pictures. While we visited a minute with our friend, I was looking at the very nearby pond. And this is what I saw!!!!!!

This pond is barely fifty feet from the side of the house! An alligator!! How did it get here? And I’m pretty sure I saw another one too. What in the world!! Did they put them there on purpose? Oh the questions we bounced around. So now this house is forever dubbed “Gator House” for future reference.

We cautiously headed inside to see what we could possibly save from this big old place. We went to the back side (closest to the interstate) and looked into what appeared to be a separate apartment. What we saw was a total wreck! Everything including the drywall torn to pieces. It was like a small studio type apartment with one larger sized room, a small bathroom and a small kitchen area. I climbed around through all the debris, found some old barn-wood picture frames, louvered closet doors and several solid wood cabinet doors, all of which I would come back to claim. We went into the “main” part of the house and THIS is what we saw…

I turned to look around and saw the walls behind me…

I can not tell you how excited I was. A salvager’s dream come true!!! Heart Pine!!! TRUE HEART PINE!!!!!!! It was everywhere! And in this house where there wasn’t Heart Pine, there was CEDAR PLANKS, tons of them. The upstairs had a couple of bedrooms with the ceilings covered in cedar planks. The outside on the upper deck area had entire walls covered in cedar planks! But downstairs where I worked all day, everything was Heart Pine!! The trim around the doors and windows, heart pine. The exposed beams, Heart Pine. The walls lined with HEART PINE!!! Then there was beveled glass cabinet doors, a hood cover for the stove that was no longer there, 7 foot tall pantry doors, and the ceiling in the hallway going out to the covered patio… guess what … ALL HEART PINE!!! I still can’t believe my great fortune that day. Needless to say the camera got forgotten and the tearing out got to happening. But with no doors on the house, and a particularly nasty set of vertical blinds flapping in the wind and making noises, I kept watch for an alligator that might want to get in out of the sun. There were a lot of wasps, but we came prepared with plenty of spray and they didn’t (couldn’t) detour my mission. I wanted so, so badly to get some of the floor joists which were also heart pine, but that would have made an unsafe situation for the firemen. After a long hot day and with both trucks completely full we ended our salvage expedition, but for a full week, every night, I would think about how to get some of those joists. After all don’t firemen have ladders? I didn’t get any of them but in my dreams I couldn’t quite let go.

The day of the burn I didn’t go. I just couldn’t watch them burn perfectly good TRUE HEART PINE! What a huge waste of something that you just can’t get anymore. But you will be able to see some of the video footage now at a great website devoted to anything and everything involving home planning, building, remodeling and the education of the processes.

I have many plans for projects for everything we salvaged from “Gator House”, and you will be able to see them from time to time for sale in my soon-to-open online store

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