Answer Man: What can you tell me about the work being done on the stone house on National Avenue just south of Grand Street? (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Hey Steve! On the west side of National Avenue a house is being built using the rock walls of an old house. I think an Amish crew is doing the work. Is this a story? — Dean Curtis, of Springfield

It certainly is, Dean. Thanks for the tip. Or maybe the “prod.”

I’ve routinely noticed the house on my drives to and from work. Our office is nearby on the Missouri State University campus.

Will Grant II (submitted photo)

The house was built in 1914 and was purchased a few months ago by builder Will Grant II, of CRM Built LLC.

New state law threw him a curve

His original objective was to build an Airbnb house on the vacant lot to the north of the stone house, he tells me. He bought both lots from the same owner.

The history of the two adjoining lots is a little fuzzy, Grant says. But as best as he knows, the parcel was originally two lots; was rezoned into one; and then was rezoned back into two. It is two lots today.

He had his Airbnb plan, but the Missouri Legislature threw him a curve when it passed a law that could weaken the city’s ability to regulate home-based businesses. The law went into effect in August.

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That made him put the Airbnb plans on hold and, instead, take a closer look at the stone house, which for years had been a rental.

He initially thought it could be renovated relatively quickly.

That was not to be.

“Oh buddy!” he tells me.

Walls are 15 inches of stone and brick

“We got into it and it actually had been burned inside,” he says.

The entire exterior of the house has a 5-to-6 inch stone wall. On the other side of the exterior is another 10 inches of brick and stone.

Work on restoration and a second-floor addition is underway on the stone house on National Avenue just south of Grand Street. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

He has hired various workers, including two Amish craftsmen, he says.

The entire stone and brick has been repaired through tuckpointing.

He is adding a second story, meaning the house will have two upstairs bedrooms and two downstairs bedrooms.

Yes, he adds, there already was a second-story, but it wasn’t up to code because it was only about 5-feet high.

‘We want to get it done. Do it right.’

There is one bathroom now; when he’s finished there will be 3½. The square footage of 1,500 feet will double.

The first thing most drivers notice, after the stone, is the new roof.

“We had to put a big old roof on that thing,” he tells me.

“We are doing it all,” he says. “We want to get it done. Do it right. We will preserve it as best we can. And hopefully it will be a special home when it is done and we’ll see if it can go another 100 years.”

A second story addition means the house will have two upstairs bedrooms and two downstairs bedrooms. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

The project will double in cost the $300,000-plus he paid for the land and house.

Wife: Tell me again why you bought house?

“My wife has asked me, ‘Why did you but this house again?'”

He says he tells her: “I have no clue; I must have been drunk.”

The truth is that he realized he couldn’t do the job half-way.

“If you are going to do it, in order to protect our investment, we have to go all the way in. … It’s going to be beautiful.”

One major consideration, he says, is that the neighborhood is solid and desirable.

If he has to rent it, perhaps temporarily, he says, there is a ready rental market with the Missouri State University campus nearby and Mercy Hospital down the road.

Almost everything will be new, but not the stones

The stone house will have new windows, new heating and air conditioning, new insulation, new flooring and new cabinets.

The house was built in 1914 and its stone and brick walls are 15 inches thick. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

What won’t be new is the limestone, he says. He is renovating the house with the same stones.

Eventually, he says, he will build a new home on the second lot.

It will be a home which he calls his “Millie” model: three bedrooms, two bathrooms, 1,500-square-feet and a two-car garage.

‘I’m a bearded, ugly, fat old guy’

I ask Grant if I we have permission to use a photo of him from his social media sites.

He is amused by my request.

“I’m a bearded, ugly, fat old guy. There is nothing pretty about me.”

(For the record he is 41.)

“I am just a good old boy who figures out how to build stuff.”

This is Answer Man Column No. 25.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin