CAN THIS HOUSE BE SAVED? 402 E Jefferson St, Mount Pulaski, IL

The incomparable Kelly, of Old House Dreams, regularly features houses for less than the price of a new car.

Such houses are, obviously, not in mint condition. Or normally in an ideal neighborhood. But almost all such houses are, to me, well worth it as they could be beauties once again. Magnificent and remarkable and memorable beauties. In addition, even with damage and rot and leaking roofs, such houses could never be replicated for anywhere near the cost of purchase and restoration.

My Cross House was such a house. It was, and still is in significant ways, a wreck. It is much less a wreck than it was when I purchased it in 2014 but it still, oh baby, needs a lot of love. And money. And it sits across from a parking lot, a car wash, and a liquor store. None of these issues mattered to me when I purchased it for all I could think was: I. Must. Save. This. Magnificent. Creation.

Today, Kelly featured a house she had shown previously although only from the exterior. Today, she uploaded interior images. And I fell in love. Desperate love.

Most of the following images are from ME Reality.


The house is circa-1890. It has been smothered in later siding. But, all the significant components seem intact.


Just look at the tower finial! Swoon! And intact roof cresting! Double swoon! And are those slate shingles?


WHAT is lurking under all the later siding?


See the beyond-adorable oval window? Squee!


Most potential buyers would walk into the foyer…and scream. And then run back out. Me? I would also scream: OMG! LOOK AT THE FABULOUS STAIRCASE!




The house has, sadly, been assaulted by an aborted “renovation”. Somebody, no doubt influenced by HGTV and This Old House, thought it was a good idea to buy the house and kick the shit out of it. Sigh. But…but…see the intact doors? See the intact pocket doors?


Now, I am jumping around to the second floor because LOOK AT THE PILES OF TRIM! And see the mantel leaning over to the far right? Does this mean that ALL the trim and mantels are still in the house?


Back downstairs. The pointy door is MOST curious. Remember it…


The bottom of the tower. At least the base in intact. Is the trim upstairs?


The presumed dining room. Note intact china cabinet.


Back upstairs, I think. Note the lovely transom window with intact hardware. It seems that all the bedroom entry doors have this. Way cool.


The original carriage house!!!!!!!! The second floor was an apartment. Note the pointy window in the gable. Did the pointy door, seen previously, come from the carriage house?


This house, for all its issues, is but $20,000. It’s in a nice neighborhood and across from a school. Obviously, it’s not for most people. But for the right person, a person/couple interested in history and with some time, tools, and some skills, this house could offer a fulfilling opportunity.

The current listing is here, and with a few more images.

Kelly’s post is here, and with many comments.

I hope this incredible house can be saved. And not just saved, but gloriously reborn.



  1. Mary Garner-Mitchell on December 6, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Ross, You were wondering about “that flat thing” on the roof… In looking at the photos in the realtor’s listing, the one of the attic shows a ladder that goes up to what I suspect is that area and what might have been a “widow’s walk” at one time. Of course any exterior railing has since disappeared. I surely hope someone restores this charmer!

  2. Karen Spencer on December 6, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    Hi Ross,

    I was drawn to this house right away on Kelly’s blog and then I saw your post right above it in the blog app that I use. (Bloglovin)

    This is a gorgeous faded lady. First thing I said was that I would love to buy this with Ross! But we each already own old houses that need work.

    I so enjoy that you and Kelly share an audience. A wonderful group of knowledgeable and caring people who enjoy and appreciate detail and beauty.

    As I have mentioned I have restored/renovated a bit/maintained my 1923 house, but one of my dreams is to take on something like this. Maybe. Someday. I have a fantasy about wandering around a big old house like that and coming across rooms I have never seen before.

    Greetins from NY and thanks for all you do and give to your community of readers.

  3. JCF on December 7, 2018 at 6:10 am

    I don’t think the pointed door came from the pointed window: the dimensions seem (from quick glance) very different.

    I have precisely zero of the renovation skillz…but oh so tempting anyway! [I’d hate to be one of those who would “assault… by an aborted “renovation”. Somebody, no doubt influenced by HGTV and This Old House, thought it was a good idea to buy the house and kick the shit out of it” though.]

    • Ross on December 7, 2018 at 8:32 am

      Hi, JCF!

      I also don’t think the pointed door came from the pointed window, but I had wondered if it came from the carriage house.

  4. Guinan on December 7, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I now want your commentary/analysis on all Old House Dreams posts. Your insight has opened my eyes to so much that I previously would have overlooked.

  5. Mike on December 7, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    I shared the property tax card on OHD, and the current owners are selling it for less than half of what they paid for it in 2010. Mt Pulaski is a small town (pop. 1700), but it is only around 30 miles from Springfield (state capital) and Decatur, which are both good-size cities. The down side is that Illinois does not offer any grants to help in the restoration of old buildings, but this is still a great opportunity for someone.

  6. Dan Goodall-Williams on December 7, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    That staircase!! That house has to be saved! I sure hope the right person buys it. I’m in PA, plus, not the right person. I dont have the money or skills to perform all that work, but I sure wish I did!

  7. Mike on December 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    One option for someone who wants this (or any other) old house is a 203K loan through HUD/FHA. It is especially geared towards restoring historic homes; the application process is fairly simple, but you must go through a lender on the HUD list for 203K loans. I live in Illinois, and I did one last November through a bank in Belleville (Illinois side of St Louis), so there are lenders that can service the Mt Pulaski area. We were able to restore the exterior, the major first floor public rooms, and add a new 3-car garage (architecturally designed to blend with the existing 132-year old house). If anyone is interested and wants to learn more, here is a link to the HUD website:–df

    • Karen Spencer on December 8, 2018 at 8:50 am

      Hi Mike

      Thanks for the great information! It is very helpful to people.

      I am not in a position to restore an old home right now, other than the one I live in which I Would I’m pretty sure does not qualify as historic yet (1923) but it’s on my bucket list!

      I will look into opportunities in New York.


      • Mike on December 17, 2018 at 1:33 pm

        You should still check into the 203K Karen; I should have said “older” homes rather than historic, since I don’t think there is a minimum age requirement for the property.

  8. Bethany Otto on December 8, 2018 at 10:50 am

    I thought of the Cross house as soon as I saw this one on OHD. We need a Ross clone.

  9. Sandra Diane Lee on December 14, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Mike that is so incredibly helpful for folks to have that link for HUD/FHA historically significant houses! I would love to know more history about the house. Usually there are OHD folks who comment & have knowledge about such houses & their history.

    This house must be saved!! Too important to list to the wrecking ball or someone who would desecrate it!😱

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