Phillip Engel stares at the back side of his “new” house in Healdsburg, a nearly $1 million fixer-upper slouching on a pile of bricks whose mortar has dried into chalky dust.
“This is why the house needs a new foundation,” he says with remarkable understatement. “I know it's surprising, but it's actually all very stable. Not like you'd want to live in it, but you're not going to fall through it right now.”
It was that willing suspension of disbelief that enabled Engel and partner Mark Goff to invest in one of Healdsburg's most visible wrecks — without a bank loan. Without a viable foundation, no bank would touch it.
But there was a sort of damsel in distress appeal to the historic 140-year-old Marshall House, a decrepit old lady with fabulous bone structure, still precariously perched on her crumbling foundation at the northwest corner of North and Fitch streets despite more than half a century of neglect.
Call it faith. Call it vision. Call it crazy. But Engel and Goff are determined to turn this neglected historic property into the remodel of a lifetime.
“We had an historic architecture consultant come in and talk to us about architectural issues and even he said, this is borderline tear down,” says Engel, a technology consultant. In fact, the lathe and plaster walls are not expected to survive when work crews start hoisting the old gal up for a new foundation in the next few weeks.
“It needs love,” says Goff, a paper artist who specializes in pop-up books. “It's a lost child and it's just a fascinating building that makes you want to try and fix it.”.
Goff and Engel, who sold a house in Los Angeles to help finance their remodel, had been house hunting in Healdsburg for a year and a half when they finally closed in on a deal for 227 North St. earlier this year.