GLENS FALLS — More than a year ago, the tiny historic house at 5 Culvert St. look destined to become a pile of rubble.
By this spring, it should look like a new house.
“It was a long haul,” said Darren Tracy, who is restoring the property, in an email about the project.
Tracy said he is coming back to the site in a couple of weeks after a vacation. Among the work left to be done is taping wallboard and installing new floors, painting the interior, putting in kitchen cabinets and installing final electrical and plumbing work.
The city in 2017 had advertised for bids to demolish the dilapidated structure that it had seized for back taxes in 2014. Then there was an outcry from the community to save the tiny home, which measures 627 square feet and was once used as the medical office of 19th century physician Dr. James Ferguson.
The house is on the state and federal historic registers as one of a handful of Second Empire-style houses remaining in Glens Falls.
Tracy stepped in to buy the property for $1 and began renovations immediately.
The house was in worse condition than Tracy had anticipated. A portion of the roof and upstairs floor had collapsed and the house was full of garbage. He had to gut the structure of all the rotted wood. However, the walls and foundation were in pretty good shape.
Tracy reported that he has been busy in the last few months. The major project has been to repair the mansard roof, portions of which have dropped as much as 7 inches out of level, according to a write-up on his blog.
“We had to cut the roof free from the tops of the walls and jack up,” he said in a follow-up email.
Tracy said he was not sure if that process would work. While he has had experience lifting buildings, including moving an entire historic house in Schuylerville, this is the first time he has lifted a roof independently from the structure.
Other work that has been accomplished includes installing insulation and sealing the perimeter of the board insulation to make it airtight. This has increased the rigidity of the structure.
Tracy has also restored and refinished the windows and doors. He had to buy two new windows because they had disintegrated.
In the blog, Tracy states that another challenge involved repairing the slate roof, which is done using a special tool called a “slate ripper.” The tool is slid under the old slate and hooks the old nails. After some pulling, they are removed. Then, new slate is slid back into place and attached with slate hooks or by directly nailing in a joint.
Tracy said he used slate with a reddish color that is not very common, called Truthville red, named after a small hamlet about 20 miles south of the Canadian border where Tracy grew up.
The brick had to be coated with mineral paint, which causes a chemical bond with the masonry surface and “breathes,” so it does not block water vapor from exiting the building.
Tracy has had assistance on this project from Brett Watkins. They also poured a new basement slab. Tracy said he waited until winter to do this project so the ground would be frozen and they could bring in the concrete truck without destroying the old concrete driveway.
“We try to save money everywhere we can without sacrificing quality in order to keep this project solvent,” he said in his blog.
Tracy said he hopes to rent out the completed house for a couple of years. The first floor will include a living room, kitchen and a bathroom. The second floor will have a bedroom and a small bathroom.
Tracy would not disclose the cost of the work. He said he is trying to obtain a historic preservation tax credit to cover 20 percent of the cost.
“We took advantage of this incentive in a past project, and it made that project feasible,” he said.