Contractor remodels historic house

Staff writer

General contractor for BG Builders Bryan Grosse has needed to use a number of creative ideas while remodeling a once derelict property at the corner of Washington and Walnut Sts. in Marion, which many people know as “Queenie’s house.”

“Sometimes I think this is a nightmare I got myself into but I’m helping beautify the block,” Grosse said. “I just saw potential where others didn’t.”

Grosse has been working on “Queenie’s house” in the evenings on his own time since February, when he is not working on various other construction projects around town or cultivating vegetables at a greenhouse he started on Cedar St. to help teach his two children about hard work.

“It’s amazing what he has done to that old place, on Walnut St.,” city administrator Roger Holter said. “Most people might think that house should have been demolished but it’s incredible, Bryan is completely restoring it.”

Grosse bought “Queenie’s house” from Barb and Perry Steiner who owned it for about six years.

“We bought it thinking our brother or sister would move to town but they never did,” Barb said. “We hated to see the place torn down because there were a lot of good things about it. It had all that limestone in the front someone covered with stucco and inside it has those nice hardwood floors.”

Steiner said the property used to extend west all the way to the train tracks and former owner Gladys Queen used to rent out the upstairs.

“People are glad to see a house with history renovated,” he said. “If I work on it during the day people seem to drop by and ask me about it.”

From the outside, it is easy to see how much progress Grosse has made. The east and south facing sides of the house were shrouded in bushes, vines, and volunteer tree growth that Grosse cutback to make the landscape more usable.

On the west side, he removed more bushes and added a solid deck that wraps back around the house to the south and provides another entryway.

Grosse also repurposed an old cistern by filling it in and using cement to create a square fire pit that sticks up about two feet above the deck floor. He plans to manufacture a grill cover for it too as an added safety feature.

“If the insurance people don’t like it then we can just turn it into a planter or a wishing well,” he joked.

Grosse also added all new siding to the exterior and he plans to install a tin roof.

The inside of the house is still a work in progress.

However, he approaches problems with a great deal of enthusiasm and a get-it-done attitude.

“I didn’t want to gut the entire house but I figured it would work out better if it was, so we did,” he said.

He and his team completely rebuilt the exterior walls.

“There was no header in the house; actually the window and door frames were where the header should have been.”

A header is a type of a beam used above doors and windows to help support a structure.

“The house was rebuilt with salvaged true dimensional lumber thanks to Marion Ogden and Dennis Maggard,” Grosse said. “There was an old shack out back that had a bunch of the stuff in it. It’s super old, super hard, and extremely heavy. I could barely pick up a header by myself.”

Grosse said the lumber was so dense that even after using a nail gun to connect two pieces he still had to hand-drive nails into the wood and even then, the nails would bend over at times.

Grosse is saving the hardwood floors. He also substantially leveled the upstairs and downstairs floors by jacking the house up two inches and letting it settle for about a month. He repeated the process several times since February when he began working on it.

In the front room, Grosse said a chandelier would hang from an octagon recess he improvised due to a low ceiling.

He also used paving bricks he had left over from working on Marion’s Main St. as an accent in a kitchen wall, and is repurposing old lumber into other walls.

Grosse and a team of workers that included plumber Chris Helmer and carpenter Kendall Hein also gave the basement a cement floor all by hand.

Helmer said there was a hole they had to take the cement in through and that he had to bend over the whole time because the basement ceiling was so low.

“We hand-dug the basement and poured it using 5-gallon buckets.” Grosse said. “There was a 12-foot tunnel into the basement, we hustled each bucket through; it kind of felt like we were in war movie escaping an enemy camp.”

Grosse said he plans to finish the house up to certain point, but let potential buyers pick the color of carpet, tile, and other features he will install after it is sells.

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