Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Search For Butler's

In 1978, former Butler's owners Herb and Florence Taylor caught their first glimpse of the house:

"Butlers -- Fell in love immediately--Great entry drive under old established trees-House needs heavy repair, floors & inner walls--Great property- Fruit and nut trees. House & 5 or 6 acres for sale. Took pictures. Visited by elderly farmer. Distant view of Sea. Right under Nevis Peak. Hard to leave. "

31 years, 1 earthquake and 1 fire later...and we found ourselves at the same place Herb and Florence had...but for us it was an overwhelming sight. We saw great potential but it needed a lot of work and that was only on the outside. It was looking for someone with great resources. We weren't that someone. At least we thought we weren't...

November brings rain. Lots of rain. On the day we began our search in November 2004, Nevis was overflowing with it. We found ourselves trudging through muddy lawns and sidestepping leaking roofs looking at several lovely, appealing homes that real estate agent Suzanne Gordon showed us. Then she drove us to Butler’s. Actually, it was the outside of Butler’s. Stone and shingled gables, nestled into the woods and foothills of Butler’s Mountain with a spectacular sea view. It was not love at first sight but something felt familiar…and although the storm shutters were closed you could see the potential. Priced well beyond our budget and obviously requiring very deep pockets, the building would continue to stand alone looking lost amongst the overgrown 6 acres of land it occupied. We fell for another "ready to move in" home called Fig Tree Cottage and later made an offer.

Our offer was declined. It was now 2005. Undeterred, Tim kept searching and saw Butler’s House (aka Butler’s Yard, Butler’s Mansion) on EBay for a much more realistic price. We decided to go back for another look—this time a thorough one with a structural engineer and a reputable builder. The photo above was taken the day we decided to buy Butler's.

Bats and frogs had made Butler’s their home. I disturbed a white frog hidden inside one of our shutters. I don’t know who was more scared by the surprise!

While some thought the building should be raised, the considered structural expert concluded it was a structure solid. It had some cracks but Butler's was sound. The list of jobs had originally included: re-wiring, new roof, new bathrooms, hot water heater, storm shutters…the list went on. The initial estimate was doable…until it wasn’t and more than quadrupled in price. It was about being liveable vs living in comfortably. We wanted to live comfortably.

We hired the well-respected building contractor Noral Lescott and about 6-10 months later the restoration began. Simultaneously, Tim found award-winning landscape designer Julie Toll who had designed now deceased Englishman Sir Bourne's home on Nevis. Julie, together with her partner Landscape Architect Ian Kitson, transformed our landscape of what had been euphemistically called lush into a sympathetic restoration, uncovering the original drive that sweeps up through the property and transforming the monkey vine-covered Victorian Gardens into what we now call the Pool Terrace.

Three years later and Butler's was ready for guests. It's still a work in progress but so far our guests have really enjoyed Butler's. You never really know if what you've done is enough, if it works. Yipee is all I can say...the extra mortgage, the worry, the sweat & tears...all worth it.

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