What was old is new again

Two leafy elm trees flank both sides of 319 McLeod Street, providing shade to the craftsman-style house beside them. 

The single-story home, owned by Lin and Dan Martin, screams classic Americana. The front face is a mixture of red brick, white footings and clean lines.  A wide porch, complete with a swing, seems to beckon passersby inward. 

And on May 15, the doors to this historic residence will be open.

For the past two years, the Martins have been hard at work restoring the 1927 pre-fab home to its former glory — and then some. 

Neighbors and perfect strangers have taken note. So, rather than encourage them to stop by individually, Lin Martin decided to open up her labor of love for public viewing. 

For an entrance fee of $1, anyone can take a gander of their home. The money, Lin said, will be split between the Friends of the Library and the Hospitality House. Both organizations are stewards of history, much like Lin herself. 

Historic pre-fabs

The house arrived at Big Timber in pieces. 

Like many pre-fab homes of the 1920s, it was shipped by rail, ready to be assembled by its new owners. These homes were popular during that time period, primarily for their affordability and convenience. Customers simply flipped through a mail-order catalog and selected the home that fit their needs. 

The Martin’s particular model was produced by Sears and Roebuck and Company in 1927. The company produced 370 different styles of pre-fab homes between 1908 and 1940 and sold more than 70,000 in North America, according to Sears archives. 

In 1927, Sears and Roebuck released 28 different styles of homes, ranging in price from $1,163 up to $3,350. In comparing the different styles, the Martin’s home looks most like the model called “The Walton” which was listed at $2,472. 

COMING HOME

The Martins discovered their McLeod Street home two years ago. They had been living on a ranch in Wilsall, in a home Lin designed herself. But despite the beauty of the place, they both realized they wouldn’t be able to maintain it as they grew older. 

They hunted for homes in small towns across the state before stopping in Big Timber. After her first viewing, Lin was overwhelmed by the scope of the repairs that needed to be done. But Dan saw it differently. 

“He said, ‘That house has some really good bones to it, and I think we should think about it,’” Lin recalled. 

And so they did.   

But they had their work cut out for them. 

“This was a disaster — the kitchen was so bad you couldn’t shut any of the cupboards. The floor was just so bubbled up from the dishwasher leaking for so many years,” Lin said. “When they started tearing it out, because it was so spongy, they said, ‘We don’t know how you didn’t fall through.’”

GETTING IT DONE

The couple did the only thing they could do — put their heads down and got to work. 

Lin had experience from designing their Wilsall home, buoyed by 10 years on the Livingston Historical Society. 

They painted every room in the house, plus the exterior walls. 

One wall in particular stood out in Lin’s mind: the kitchen accent wall. The rest of the room was painted light grey and Lin wanted to add a pop of color to the room. While Dan was downstairs cleaning paintbrushes in the basement sink, she cracked the seal on a can of deep blue paint. Serendipitously, the silver and blue were the same tones found on her family crest. It was meant to be. 

“He said, ‘What’s an accent wall?’ and I said, ‘I’m not going to tell you, you’ll see,’” Lin said. “I didn’t want to open the can and have him flip out.”

When he came back upstairs and saw the streaks of blue on the wall, Dan fell silent.

After a measured pause, he turned toward his wife.

“I think I like that.”

To read the full story, pick up the May 12 edition of the Pioneer or subscribe to our e-edition. Current subscribers are provided complimentary access to the e-edition with registration.

Story and photo by Mackenzie Reiss / Pioneer Staff Writer

CUTLINE: Lin Martin is pictured in front of her home at 319 McLeod Street which she and her husband Dan have been renovating for the past two years.

 

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