Built during the 1850s, this house on Hamilton has had three owners in all that time. Originally built and occupied by a doctor, who stationed himself on the burgeoning Lansing suburb, it sat vacant for over 20 years until it was purchased by Dee and Elizabeth Delind during World War II.
For 60 years Dee and Elizabeth lived in the house, raised their family, and became pillars in the community. Neighbors would stop on their walks to chat. People would ask for advice. Dee, who founded Okemos Hardware was well known and well respected in the area. People who needed construction supplies after the hardware store closed for the day knew they could walk to the Delind house, where a key to the store hung outside the door. They would then take what they needed from the store, writing themselves a receipt and paying the next time they entered the store during business hours. Many stories were shared and created under the Delind roof.
Dee passed away in 2002, and Elizabeth followed in 2006. For three years the house sat for sale, empty and neglected. The only interest in the house/land was from a group of developers who desired to purchase the land, bulldoze the house, and turn it into medium to high density condos and apartments.
“I didn’t want to see that happen,” says Dave Delind, the current owner. “I liked the house, and I didn’t want to drive by it and say ‘Hey, that apartment building was where my grandparents lived.’”
Dave decided that he would purchase the house, renovating it for his own future family.
The Burgeoning D.I.Y. Culture
Dave has been working on the house nearly every day for the past three years, renovating and rebuilding the house from the ground up.
When asked about the state of the house when Dave started working on it, the answer is a blunt “It should have been condemned.” The house had a solid foundation, roof and flooring, at least structurally. Apart from that, there wasn’t much to go on.
Tearing out the guts of a house is slow going at best. But tack on a full-time job, with only evenings and weekends left to work on the house, and it will take you the better part of a year, and the better part of your patience. “I thought that my engineering education would provide the knowledge I would need to do it. And I was very, very wrong. That’s not to say it didn’t teach me to solve problems, but I got way in over my head.”
Getting over the mental hurdle of completing such an enormous task is not something that came easy for Delind.
“There have been a lot of challenges and things that I didn’t enjoy doing such as working without heat or proper lighting in the middle of winter. I was fighting myself ... I didn’t have a plan at that point. It needed planning. It was something that you couldn’t just do. I don’t know why that was such an epiphany, but it was.”
Buying Local Supplies
Delind was able to re-dedicate himself to the task at hand in a way that many Lansing area Do it Yourselfers find refreshing. He explains that even after formulating some design ideas, and searching for materials, there were still hurdles to overcome. The big-box stores were offering up generic, inferior products at inflated prices. Utilizing locally-owned businesses to supply him with a greater product, Delind began purchasing materials - such as glass from Delphi
- to create something all his own.
“It started to get fun when I realized that I didn’t have to adhere to anyone else’s standards or designs if I didn’t want to. I could put in a spiral staircase, or do custom trim-work. I could make it unique. “
As you tour the house, the individuality of the house, and Delind himself, become readily apparent. Stained glass windows in the sun-room or the spiral brick staircase leading to the basement lend the house a look and feel not found in most homes. He’s created a one-of-a-kind house, unique in so many facets, but one that has also tied him into the community.
As for all the construction that he has been putting into the house for the past three years, Delind states the neighbors are either blind and deaf, or more interested in the way things are going to turn out in the long run. It seems to be a relief to them that there isn’t a group of cookie cutter condos or apartments going up and blocking the natural scenery of the neighborhood.
Tying Continuity to Change
Delind’s fiancée, Amber Toth, notes that people “stop by all the time and check out the progress and ... tell stories of when they were younger and would stop by to see Dee and Elizabeth.” It is refreshing to her to have a sense of community pride, as she grew up in a rural neighborhood with her closest neighbor being half a mile away. The Capital region is redefining its sense of community, and they are now a part of that. But it goes beyond that, it also ties them together with history.
Re-installing some of the original fixtures of the house, and “placing photos that had always been in the house back where they belong” was an emotional investment. “It’s a reminder of what the house used to be. A thread that carries on about the place. We had changed so much about the house that it’s nice to have that reminder of what it once was."
Not only have Delind and Toth invested their time and energy into the house, they’ve invested in themselves. Challenging each other, pushing each other, growing with each other, and moving forward with an eye to the past.
Dave and Amber are part of the reason the Lansing area is thriving. They have taken pride in something that once was, and are working toward creating something that future generations will take pride in. And Delind’s plan for the next 160 years of the house?
“My kids are going to bury me in the basement.”
If you happen by the house and see Delind working, feel free to stop by for a chat or a tour of the house. If you are polite, you might be able to get a warm meal out of the deal. But they would appreciate it if you didn’t carve into the bricks.
Read all about Dave and Amber’s work here.
John Buckler is a freelance writer for Capital Gains. Being one of the founders of the Great American Fierce Beard Organization
(GAFBO), he is also known for his fierce beard.
Photos © Dave Trumpie
is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.