Amy + Brandon: Geneva, NY
One of the most spectacular homes ever posted on @cheapoldhouses was purchased by Amy + Brandon, who count this as their third major restoration project. They’re bringing Grove Castle back to life and documenting the ride at @grovecastlerenovation
After spotting the listing for Grove Castle on Cheap Old houses, Amy and Brandon’s original plan to find a small house in the countryside quickly fell to the side. With the rich history of downtown Geneva, friends of Amy and Brandon discovered an older map of the neighborhood calling their property ‘Grove Castle.’ Halfway through the tour of this stately house, Amy shot a look at Brandon and Brandon shot one back–this understood glance replaced a formal discussion about purchasing the property. Within minutes of completing their walkthrough of the property, they let the realtor know they would put in an offer on the home.
Emotionally purchasing a property is nothing new to Amy and Brandon. From renovating a 65,000 st. ft. factory into a live/work space to a farmhouse with barns from the early 1800’s, they have both stayed busy with their soft spot for saving old buildings. The sound craftsmanship of this 1975 Italianate and grand stature is the first of its kind for the couple. These two furniture makers find satisfaction in restoring the original woodwork with compulsively perfecting the soffits and moldings around the roof. 400 grit sandpaper may not be discernible from 40 feet below, but these artisans are true to the level of detail in this craft.
They both understand the pain knowing they can’t save every historic house in disrepair they drive past, but they use this shared passion and desire for seeing fruition of physical labor to motivate the restoration of their properties. Living in the walls of Grove Castle and slowly bringing it back to life is what Amy and Brandon love and find rewarding. They may have modern sensibilities, but the couple finds enjoyment in the parameters that this historic house has to constrained them to.
Where did you first see / find the listing for your house? It would be the bee’s knees if it was Cheap Old Houses!
I feel like we both simultaneously found out about the house through Cheap Old Houses and a close friend of ours who drove by the house and knew Brandon had a soft spot for it. Once we knew it was for sale we scheduled a viewing as soon as it was possible. My husband and I had been toying with the idea of buying a house, but had not considered anything seriously. Our original plan was to purchase a simple project in the 500 sq ft range ideally in the countryside. So the house is a bit opposite being in the city and 4,500 sq ft.
Did you uproot your lives to live in this house?
We did not need to move. The apartment we were living in we also renovated and is part of a factory where our two companies are located. We needed some sort of life / work separation and this house is in walking distance, which is lovely (not too far but just far enough)!
When did you close on the house?
What’s your go-to midnight restoration snack?
Is this your first residential project?
No. But it is the first house of its kind that we have worked on, more stately than previous projects. You can see and feel how the house was intended to be, the woodwork, masonry and plastering was executed beautifully, not just as an appearance of quality but sound craftsmanship. It feels rewarding to restore these details. The other renovations that Brandon and I have tackled together were a farm house and set of barns from the early 1800s (original cabin on the farm existed at the time of the Phelps Gorham land purchase 1788) and a 65,000 sq ft factory (where we were living prior to this house).
Did you give your house a name?
Downtown Geneva is rich in history and stunningly beautiful architecture in all states of repair and disrepair. Our friends who own a home down the road have an older map of our neighborhood which calls our property Grove Castle.
What’s the biggest hurdle or challenge so far?
We are furniture makers at heart (milesandmay.com) and trying to restrain from repairing the woodwork that is 40ft in the air to the same level of detail as a piece of our furniture that people touch and interact with is difficult. We know we shouldn’t spend the time perfecting the soffits and moldings at roof level as best possible but we compulsively also can not help ourselves from doing so. It is so beautiful! I mean 400 grit will still be ascertainable in some way from ground level, right? It also is a large house, so we know we need to keep moving and not get stagnated by being too meticulous …but?
How many people have called you bananas for buying such an old house?
None for this project, they already know us to be certified bananas.
What are your favorite tunes to listen to when working on the old bones of the house?
I am a serial Spotify playlist maker, we both love music so tunes are plentiful and a wide variety. One day could be classic country, next day could be a Grime playlist or Robin. And if the neighbors are wondering who is playing loud music at all hours of the day and night I have to admit, it’s us.
And anything else you’re like to share about yourselves and your old house story!
Brandon and I have been married for 15 years, dating since 2002 and side by side working together for most of that journey. You get to know someone pretty well. His dad was a coal miner / brickmason and built the house he grew up in, in rural Alabama. I grew up on a farm in the town we now live in. Both of us derive a lot of self worth through seeing the fruition of physical labor. I am extremely lucky to have partnered with someone who shares that same passion. We also can get ourselves into some lemon / lemonade type situations. We know well enough by now that we emotionally purchase property (it kills me to drive by a historic house that is in disrepair and know we can’t save it), and this house was no exception. We did not talk about buying it at all, halfway through the tour he shot me a look, I shot one back and we let the realtor know we would be putting in a purchase offer within minutes of our walkthrough being completed. Our project before (35 Lehigh St) we stumbled upon separately, we hesitated to tell the other person about the property knowing that once we did there was no turning back. We love 19 Genesee Street, love living daily in its walls and slowly bringing her back. We have modern sensibilities, but enjoy the parameters that this historic house has constrained us to. I think lovingly restoring the craftsmanship of the original design is rewarding in itself.
Here is a link describing our last (& still on going) project!