Many people love owning a piece of history — such as a historic home that is not only beautiful and charming, it has architectural significance and often represents an important time in local history.
Brooke Lamson of Fenton lives in such a house on S. LeRoy Street. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982. She believes the city may have had a part in obtaining that designation with several other buildings as part of Urban Renewal.
“My mother, Gloria Rausch, went to an estate sale at this house in 1971. It had been vacant for a few years; the house and its contents were left to a church by the two old ladies who had last lived in it,” Lamson said. “She and my dad, Ray Rausch, bought the house and hired a contractor to do a year-long renovation on it, including moving doorways, creating bathrooms, new windows and matching and recreating the original woodwork where it had been destroyed by previous remodeling.
“My parents were avid antique collectors and history buffs. They learned (with a lot of help from Ken and Donna Seger, former curators of the Fenton Museum) that the home had been built in the mid-1860s, by Benjamin Bangs, a successful farmer whose farm encompassed the south end of Fenton. The area is listed as ‘Bangs Addition’ on city plat maps.”
Bangs also was the first village president of what was then Fentonville.
“My parents lived in the Bangs house until their deaths in the 1990s,” Lamson said. “It was a great family home and the site of countless memories, so my husband Ken and I bought it from the estate in 2000 so we could continue those memories for our kids and grandkids. We bought it because of its significance to our family, rather than its historical significance.
“Still, it is wonderful being surrounded by history,” she said. “When the house was being renovated, they found Benjamin Bangs’ iron personalized carriage plate buried in the back yard and an engraved silver baby spoon that belonged to his daughter, Eliza, in the walls.”
Buying a historic home
Historically significant homes aren’t necessarily more expensive, however, before buying you’ll want verification of its importance. How a home is deemed “historic” may depend upon various factors. The original owner of the home may have been historically important, the home may have been designed or built by a prominent architect, a historic event may have taken place in the home, or the home may be part of a historic neighborhood, according to porch.com.
There are many resources to help find the right match for you. You can use the NRHP website (nps.gov) to find properties or visit the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which also lists homes and properties for sale.
Many homeowners find that owning a piece of history can be an added benefit to home ownership. Contributing to the preservation of U.S. history is among the benefits. There can be tax benefits or incentives as well, especially if the home you purchase requires retrofitting to bring it up to code.
There are also some disadvantages to buying historic properties that should be considered. It is very common that a historical home or property will come with restrictions. Some may be as simple as paint colors while others may require that the home cannot be changed in any way, making it difficult to add bathrooms, add energy efficient windows or convert rooms.
Some historic homes need major upgrades such as the removal of lead paint, asbestos, heated oil tanks or mold. You may also need to retrofit or repair the historical details of the home such as architectural elements, wallpaper, tile or outbuildings. Other things to consider include costly restoration, structural issues, upkeep and maintenance costs.
Tips for buying a historical home
If you are ready to buy a historical home there are several things you should do to make sure you get the most out of your investment. Do your due diligence to ensure you are actually purchasing a registered historic home.
Before purchasing the home, you’ll want to have an independent home inspector assess the current state of the home. Because this is a historic home, you’ll want an inspector who has experience in this field. Remember that the home may need to be brought up to code. Although a home inspector can assess what isn’t up to code, the home inspector won’t give cost estimates for upgrades. For that, you’ll need a licensed contractor and ideally someone who specializes in historic home restoration.
Not yet on the historic registry
If you plan to purchase a historic home and believe it may qualify for a place on the National Register of Historic Places, contact michigan.gov/leo (Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity) for National Register information, research materials, and necessary forms to begin the nomination process. Phone: (517) 241-6712