A Personal Philosophy
Tom and Helena’s devotion to preserving the beauty and integrity of the natural environment is reflected in their own life style. They raised their five children in an 1830 New England barn which Tom, cleverly and singlehandedly, transformed into a uniquely beautiful family home with recycled materials including fieldstone from their own land for two large fireplaces and weathered boards from a fallen silo. The only contractors hired were the electrician, the plumber, and the heating men.
In 1982, the
Wirths purchased a tiny boathouse in Maine. They used it as a rustic camp (old cast iron
cook stove, kerosene, out house,
dug well) for ten years. In the early
1990s Tom and the entire family enlarged it slightly and added utilities
well as a small art studio/ wood workshop.
Both buildings are on posts so as to minimally disturb the land. Except
for the septic system and driveway, a
backhoe has never marred their land; as a result a succession of wild
flowers and native plants abound. The boathouse cottage is 1088 square feet; the studio/workshop is 900 square feet.
In 2006 they purchased the old stone schoolhouse, built in 1838, a half mile up the road from the boathouse. The previous owners had converted it into a vacation camp in the 1940s and added a stucco addition in the 1960s. By 2006, it was in desperate need of repair so the Wirths took a loan and hired contractors to fix the rot in the walls and schoolhouse floor, rebuild and replace the roof, add 3 dormers, three windows, a bay window, remove walls, and spray in foam insulation. The Wirths drew the plans and everything was done with respect for the building’s history. The contractors were made aware of the delicate nature of the surrounding environment and protected the moss lawn with tarps and plywood when they rebuilt the roof and added windows. As a result, they inflicted no damage to the existing native landscape, particularly the moss lawn.
Rather than use a backhoe, which would tear the moss apart, Tom, Helena, and one helper hand-dug the 3 foot deep foundation drains on 3 sides of the house to protect the moss lawn and the wildflowers. They piled the soil they were going to reuse on tarps and carefully removed what they did not need via wheel barrow and an ATV (all terrain vehicle) with soft tires. They drove it to a section near a culvert on the roadside that needed fill.
Tom, Helena, and their grown children continue to work on
the schoolhouse home. They reinstalled the original wall boards (milled from the land in the 1960's), laid newly milled as well as antique floors, set rustic floor tiles, replaced electric hear, hot water and plumbing, painted inside and out, and installed cabinetry and appliances in the kitchen and bath.
The Wirths have refurbished -but not enlarged- the original house footprint and it has become the inspiration for the 1800 sq.ft. limit defined in the architectural covenants.