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100 years later, a fixer-upper

Couple invests in ‘Francis’ house on 13th

March 9, 2008
PARKERSBURG — Husband and wife Mark Dasher and Kim van Rijn have purchased a 100-year-old house in Parkersburg that has a leaky roof, no wiring, “nightmare plumbing,” no heat, an unusable kitchen and rotting porch floors.

And they are happy they did.

The proud owners of 608 13th St. held an open house last Sunday so friends and area residents could see their “money pit” in its original condition before renovations begin.

The temperature was 47 degrees in the house during the open house. Van Rijn advised visitors to wear warm clothing, even though it was a comfortable 55 degrees outside.

Van Rijn smiles when answering the obvious question, “Why would anyone want to buy a house in this condition?”

She then reels off several reasons: the property has room for a good-size garden in town, privacy, the view and the house has not been “touched — exactly what we wanted.”

The couple sees the potential in restoring the house, which looks nearly the same on the exterior as it did 100 years ago. General contractor Mick McFarland began renovations this week and expects to finish in four months at a cost of $130,000.

The new homeowners are living in another house in Parkersburg until the repairs are completed.

The four-story, red brick house, with a Dutch Colonial Revival style, was built in 1905-06 by C.W. Pruitt, who constructed the Carnegie Library building on Green Street that now houses Trans Allegheny Books. The oak woodwork has never been painted, some original dual electric/gas light fixtures remain and the house has eight fireplaces.

The house and property were purchased for $8,500 on April 6, 1906, by the Rev. J.W. Francis, minister at First Presbyterian Church in Parkersburg. The new owners paid $50,000.

Dasher and van Rijn, who both served in the military for several years, moved to Parkersburg in 2002. She (the former Kim Lamb) is a Parkersburg native, while he was raised in Germany and attended school in England, before joining the U.S. Air Force.

They are financing the purchase and renovations through a Federal Housing Administration 203(k) rehabilitation loan. This program is designed to assist in the rehabilitation and repair of single-family properties, with the hope of revitalizing neighborhoods.

Van Rijn said the potential homeowner must complete a substantial amount of work to get approved for the 203(k) loan. The person must identify the repairs to be made, find a contractor, determine the cost of repairs and have a FHA consultant work on the project. The house is appraised on its current condition and on the improvements that will be made.

The couple had 608 13th St. under contract on Dec. 10 but didn’t close on the hillside house until Feb. 28. Another interested party was looking at the house during this time, van Rijn said.

While the “Francis” house was vacant, thieves broke in and stole the wiring, she said.

When the work is finished, the couple will have a house with five bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and a third floor they believe was once a ballroom with fireplace. Someone wrote in pencil on the ballroom wall, “May 7, 1922, big party here.”

Having lived in 34 houses or apartments in 51 years, van Rijn told her husband the 13th Street house is her last.

“After five years of looking for the perfect dream house, we’ve found it,” van Rijn said.


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