A historic property that boasts a creek and grist mill is where the Mechlings decide to build a debt-free weekend home.
Before the author, Kurt Mechling, and his wife could come to their debt-free home for weekend retreats, they first had to spend many weekends building it. In eight years, they worked to transform a decrepit building into a place they wanted to stay.
Photo by Kurt Mechling
Our second home is a debt-free, small-budget, historic project.
My wife and I acquired a historic property in Six Mile, S.C., and made it into our weekend home. We worked with minimal budgets. We also created a home site on the property for a primary home if we elected to build one in the future.
The property is part of a larger track that has three historic references. When this was a Cherokee territory, the property was a Cherokee camping area and trading post with the Charleston Settlers. At that time Charleston was the capital of the South and the English and Germans had emissaries from their kings who gave out land for annual tax. During the Civil War, it was home to Puckett's Mill, a grist mill. Finally, it became the place where the first electricity was produced in Six Mile, as the property owner was some kind of engineer with a southern textile company and was in charge of their power generation — thus, he had his own power-generation plant.
We have nearly 4 acres on both sides of the creek/shoals and the mill. We spent the better part of the last eight years renovating and turning the old, decrepit building into a weekend retreat. We did almost all of it ourselves with some help from friends who are skilled and licensed tradesmen.
As you can expect, building was very frustrating because it was a huge weekend project that took years to complete. Now, it has an awesome great room with a wood-burning stove, DirecTV, a pool table, a kitchen, a laundry room, a full bath and shower, a half-bath, a nice bedroom, and two walk-in closets, plus a deck overlooking the creek.
We paid with cash or used our credit cards as we renovated, using and relying on our Home Depot and Lowe’s credit lines to make our purchases and then pay them monthly as we could. We had some big-ticket purchases because we had to install a new metal roof and new windows, and we basically spent two years stripping the structure down to the block walls, pressure-washing the skeleton and building up from there. Everything is new.
There is a period in your life when you have the dream and the energy to complete this kind of project. That was our time. Today, we can't believe we did it. It was painful and consumed a lot of energy and money, but it is an incredible place to go relax. My wife would say that I am too much of an optimist and I say “yes” and then figure out the details later — that is a little bit dangerous. But if I had laid out all of the hours and costs for this kind of project I would have never attempted it and it wouldn't be what it is today. So, if you have the energy and resources to tackle a project like this, it can become something really special for your family — much more so than if you went out and bought something that someone else built.
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