I just finished reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt and found this great quote about restoring old houses, which also applies to restoring a historic bed & breakfast. It pretty much describes the way we’re restoring the Bottger Mansion of Old Town–one project, one piece at a time.
“Step by step. Inch by inch. I learned an invaluable lesson from my old mentor, Dr. L. C. Lindsley. Did I ever tell you about him? Dr. Lindsley was a college professor who restored and lived in one of Georgia’s great houses, Westover. It was built in Milledgeville in 1822 in the grand style. It had spiral stairs and a pair of white double-height columns on each side of the front entrance.
“Dr. Lindsley told me that an old house will defeat you if you try to restore it all at once–from roof to windows, weatherboarding, jacking it up, central heating, wiring. You must think of doing one thing at a time. First you say to yourself: Today I am going to think about leveling off the sills. And you get all the sills leveled. Then you turn your mind to the weatherboarding, and gradually you do all the weatherboarding. Then you consider the windows. Just one window at a time. That window right there. You ask yourself, ‘What’s wrong with that part of that window?’ You must do it in sections, because that’s the way it was built. And then suddenly you find the whole thing completed. Otherwise, it will defeat you.”
Amazingly, The New York Times Book Review called this book “elegant and wicked… Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil might be the first true-crime book that makes the reader want to book a bed and breakfast for an extended weekend at the scene of the crime.”