Marion residents Tobe Moore and his grandson, Corbin Wheeler recently plunged feet-first into the derelict paradise of a historic project, literally.
“Corbin fell through the floor a couple times the other day when we were clearing it out,” Moore said. “I fell through once. It’s mostly rotten in some places, maybe a little dangerous, but there’s some wood we can salvage.”
Last week, the adventurous duo waded into the preliminary stages of remodeling Riverside Home, their name for a 19th century stone house the wilderness had overrun just south of Marion on Sunflower Rd.
They started by cleaning away interior and exterior trash lumber, trees, and debris, as well as taking structural measurements and salvaging front porch columns, a lightning rod, and other things worth saving.
“I’ve done some work like this before, only it was in AC,” Corbin, 16, said. “It’s hot out here but it helps get me ready for two-a-days and football season.”
Corbin looks forward to seeing what the American gothic daydream will be like once finished.
Some of Corbin’s cousins, Mason, Gannon, and Lawson Killough, (17, 14, and 12) of Canon City, Colorado, also pitched in recently, Moore said.
“We pulled about 10 trees out on each side of the building,” Moore said. “Some of the roots were grown in over the window sills. We maybe broke about three chains getting them out.”
While reclaiming the antique structure from nature, Moore and company have encountered a few feral occupants. A groundhog lives under the first floor.
“He doesn’t bother anybody,” Moore said.
One day, he and Corbin encountered a more sinister-sounding creature.
“We heard this weird noise and we couldn’t figure out what was,” Moore said. “It sounded like a rattlesnake but it wasn’t.”
While the eerie noise had a hiss and rattle, it also resembled static. They followed the noise and discovered a puffy white, black, and gray occupant upstairs who may have been more scared than they were.
“It was baby vulture,” Moore said. “I told Corbin he could have 10 minutes a day to make it his pet.”
While they work, the baby vulture cowers behind refuse inside a pitch-black closet, under a staircase. Corbin has not named it yet and likely does not plan to keep it, but Moore jokingly suggested naming it “Monte.”
With six rooms upstairs and six rooms downstairs, the exact remodeling plan is still in flux, but Moore said he would like to do a third of the house at a time from ground to roof.
He plans to dig out the foundation and stabilize footings, put a flat metal roof on it, replace windows, mortar, doors, floors, and eventually insulate it.
With the exception of adding modern conveniences, Moore wants to restore the limestone building to its former glory and get it on a historic registry, but he only has one picture from which to work.
Moore doesn’t know how long the project will take, but he has ideas for when it is finished.
“We’d like to live here, but it could be a nice bed and breakfast for hunters to stay in when they come in on hunting trips,” he said. “Maybe we can get Cabela’s to buy in. Who knows? We may never get it done, but I sure would like to finish it.”