Log home restorer Tim Kilby
gives new life
to a house on the verge of collapse
by Heather Berry
|Tim Kilby says “log
homes are a vanishing species,” so
he makes his living restoring them one piece at a time. He took an
especially personal interest in the Isaac
McCormick house as it would become his home.
Although the old
Isaac McCormick place was an eyesore to most onlookers, Tim Kilby saw
much more. Tim bought a 23- acre farm in Defiance and when his neighbors
saw the dilapidated log home that sat upon it, they advised him to
doze it and start over. But he moved into the rustic house, with ivy
growing inside and wind whistling through its cracks, and he dreamed
about what the home could become.
“One of the reasons I bought the property was because I knew what
was under the old blue tin siding,” Tim says. “I knew there
was a good bag of bones in there.”
That bag of bones hidden in the tall grass was a rare style of log home
that dates to the early 1800s. Tim new he’d just bought a huge
money pit, but in his mind he could see the finished project — and
that was enough to carry him through the long days of work to come.
bare bones of the old log home as it stood in the fall of 2004
before Tim began the addition on the back.
The old McCormick
homestead offered Tim a chance to do for himself what he does for others.
When Tim’s not working on his own place, he
dismantles and reconstructs antique log and post and beam houses for
For the next two
years, Tim and his wife, June, photographed and numbered every board,
cleaned the gaps between the logs and literally put most of the house
away in an old barn. “We stripped it down. There was
no roof, nothing,” says the 44-year-old as he surveys the now-finished
One thing Tim needed to do before he went any further was locate an old
picture of the house because it had been dramatically remodeled in 1906.
Luckily, he was able to get in touch with a great-great-granddaughter
of Isaac McCormick who shared several photos, including a portrait of
the original builder.
When the father passed away in 1904 the son took over and made major
changes, some of which were documented in old store ledgers.
“It showed the son, known as I.M., bought things such as brick and sash
cords — but there was never a mention of a level being purchased,” says
the Cuivre River Electric Cooperative member. “The floors pitch in every
direction in this place.”
Isaac McCormick originally built the log home Tim restored.
The younger McCormick’s
additions turned the original floor plan into a center-hall house.
Other changes included adding a bay window, raising the roofs and reframing
Ironically, the elder
Isaac bought the land in 1845 on the courthouse steps and the son,
after putting too much money into modifications, lost the log home
in the same spot nearly 100 years later.
The home was owned
by several families between the 1940s and 1998 when Tim bought the
place, but Tim just shakes his head when he thinks about one of the
last home owners building skills.
last guy did never made sense. My outside door went out, so if it snowed,
get out. His plumbing looked like something the Three Stooges might
have done,” says Tim. “I guess I’m
really lucky he didn’t attempt any electrical work.”
in the fall of 2004, Tim decided if he was ever going to put this house
back together he’d have to take a break from his real job and
instead work on his own log home.
was to restore the home and list it on the National Register of Historic
Places, which would require any additions to be approved by preservationists
in Washington. Tim’s third set of plans was approved. Now the
puzzle work began, piecing it all back together — and adding
an addition in the back to house the plumbing and laundry room.
didn’t feel the need for the back addition, but my wife did,” he
says with a smile.
Nearly a year later, Tim and June declared the task finished and
began moving period furniture into the cozy log home. “It’s larger
than you think,” he
says of the 2,450-square-foot home. “It rambles around a
finished “Isaac McCormick House” is now on the National
Register of Historic Places after a solid year of work.
One of Tim’s favorite features in the log home
is the cherry staircase in the center hall.
“When we first saw the staircase, it had layers and layers of black and
red paint on it,” Tim says. “It took us nearly two
weeks to strip it down to the beautiful woodwork, but it was
well worth it.”
Fireplaces in all
of the main rooms and bedrooms are also features that add to the charm
of this old log home.
Tim says he didn’t
mind spending a year to rebuild this log home. “They
are a vanishing species and I think they’re worth saving,” he
Most of the 60 log
homes and cabins that Tim’s
rebuilt have been saved from the mouth of a bulldozer as
people keep knocking historic buildings down to make room
for condos or subdivisions.
“I try to let
developers know that it’s good PR to let someone move
the log home off-site instead of knocking it down,” says
better to give it a new life for someone who really wants
Tim says he’s
ready to begin work on “the
granddaddy of all cabin” projects — the
restoration of an 1820s cabin that was built by the
founder of Moscow Mills.
|The home features a fireplace in each of the main rooms.
Miller) cabin’s going up in St. Louis,” says Tim. “In
one way, I hate to put the cabin there because it’s
going to be out of context; but in another, it’s
great because everyone will get to see a piece of
history from now on. It’s a museum-quality
cabin and this owner wants it done right.”
says he could do more work with a crew, but he’d
just rather work alone. And why not — he
can refurbish historic homes, do the stone work,
design the plans and do all of the custom woodwork
for any project he tackles.
“Yes, it might
have been simpler to start this from scratch,” says
Tim, looking around the beautiful log home he’s
given a new life. “But
I love it and it looks good sitting right here,
where it’s always been.”
You can contact Tim Kilby at 705 Highway F, Defiance, MO 63341 or call