The destruction and reconstruction of the McGwinn house in Brickelltown proved to be much more than just a historical reconstruction process, but a journey through the life of a house and the life of its owners.
While peeling off layers of paint and sifting through belongings in the house, home builder Mitch Clarin got some unconventional glimpses into the life of Doyle McGwinn.
“He was a packrat,” Clarin said. “We found so much used oil. He used to do his own oil changes and kept it.”
Clarin, who owns Blue Sky Homes, and his workers found “hundreds” of gallons of used oil in drums inside the house before it was demolished.
They also found old newspapers that were used for insulation as well as old bottles that held ointments, even one that held opium.
“There wasn’t a whole lot that was savable,” Clarin said.
Some of the items will be on display in the house, which will be open to the public. It is currently on the historical walking tour.
The house – rebuilt almost exactly to its original late 19th century glory – boasts historically accurate architectural details on the outside, which covers a completely new interior that will become Blue Sky’s new office sometime this spring.
“It’s a historical reconstruction. It’s a deconstruction and a reconstruction,” said Cathy Harry, a broker and sales manager for Blue Sky.
Crews had to tear down the entire house – which was falling apart and didn’t have a foundation – and rebuild it using historical photos, many of which show only small portions of the original home.
Although nothing is left of the original structure, some of the original siding was used on the back of the house.
“We reused whatever siding we could. So it’s got 100-year-old siding on my brand new building,” Clarin said.
Extra siding purchased to finish the rest of the exterior was specially milled to match the old siding.
The utilitarian style of the home reflects the workingman’s community that dominated Truckee for much of its existence. Utilitarian buildings, often made of wood or brick, are basic square shapes and have very few architectural details. Many buildings dubbed ‘utilitarian’ were factories.
After finding a layer of blue paint while on the original house, Clarin decided to paint the reconstructed house blue. (He made it clear the color was not chosen because of the company’s name.)
The best view in the house – of the Truckee River, downtown and surrounding mountains – is framed by a small window. Clarin said he would have liked to have put in a bigger window, but decided on the small window, which is more historically accurate.
Although there wasn’t a porch on the house when Blue Sky bought the property in October 1999, Clarin decided on the porch after looking at many old photos of the house, and integrated an architectural element for the railing that fit patterns found in the old photos.
The home was previously owned by Doyle McGwinn, a Truckee butcher who operated out of what is now the Ponderosa Deli.
Blue Sky’s office next door was built by Frank Titus Sr., who was Truckee’s night watchman during the early 20th century. Once the office moves in next door, Clarin will begin to renovate that house as well.
Instead of tearing it down completely like the McGwinn house, Clarin hopes to maintain the structure of the building so he can get it on the National Registry of Historic Places.