In fact, if some old house seems to you to call for drastic reconstruction, you would do better to let it alone and look for one that more nearly fits your mental picture. Buying a house you do not really like is as foolish as marrying with the same reservation. Some hardy people go through life so mated but more get a divorce. So it will be with the house. After a season of dislike, divorce by sale will be the end. If it pleases you from the start, however, you and it will develop a mutual affection as the years go by and it will become the old home in more ways than one.
Substantial houses built by old craftsmen who knew how to achieve beauty by restraint lined the straggling single street of a forgotten farming town. Despite weatherbeaten clapboards and sagging roofs, the fine ornamental detail of doorways and window frames assured similar niceties within.
“What good are they,” snorted practical grandfather. “If they were where people had adequate incomes it would be different. But here! Once this was a prosperous town. Men made money breeding merino sheep. Now the town’s dead and its houses falling apart. Better tear them down to save taxes.”
Twenty-five years ago many substantial old houses were doomed to die with their towns. Today, people who want an old house but cannot find it where they wish to live have learned that it is practical, financially and otherwise, to transplant an old structure to a new location. Once this was the sport of eccentric millionaires or of amply endowed museums. Now it is done for people of average incomes. The expense will about equal that of building a new house of the same cubical content and architectural detail. Sometimes it can be accomplished at a slight saving. But whether the cost is equal, a little higher, or somewhat less, the great advantages of a transplanted house are a certain mellowness of age and that charm of individuality which only old structures possess.
For those who want an old house on a site of their own choosing, there are now men who deal in old buildings ready for removal. Just as pickers comb the back-country for antiques, a related group search for untenanted old houses. These men are a cross between practical builders and antique dealers. They know Early American domestic architecture and experience has taught them the point beyond which salvage is impossible. Also they are experts in dismembering such houses so they can be re-erected.