Restoring Sidney’s history


SIDNEY — The owners of Bonnyconnellan Castle, located at 105 N. Walnut Ave., Sidney, Heather and John Moffitt were finally able to buy back the original hardwood that was stripped out of the four first-level rooms of the castly by one of the previous owners.

The couple purchased the property in December of 2021 and moved from Washington to Ohio in May of 2022 to begin the ever-growing project of restoring Bonnyconnellan to its original glory. The couple plan on doing as much of the restoration on their own as they can. Even with their experience in wood work and home restoration, the Moffitts have yet to take on a project of this size.

The two are taking on the project by themselves because, according to John, asking someone to help take on the pressure of working on such an important project that cannot be messed up, because there would be no way to fix any mistakes, is unfair to anyone they might ask for help.

“It deserves it,” said Heather when asked why return it to its original state and not remodel the property in their own way. “Honestly, when we bought it — obviously we aren’t from Sidney, I grew up in New Jersey, he (John) grew up in Texas —we just thought it was a cool house. Then we came here to close on it and we quickly understood that it was more than just a cool house. Not that we don’t love old houses, but you really begin to understand how much the community loves this house and how much it means to them. So, your plans change a little.”

“That and the immense amount of social pressure,” said John to add to why they are restoring and not remodeling the property.

“I honestly think we had originally thought if we could get the wood work back, great, if we couldn’t, whatever, we would just go on with doing what the last people did and kind of make it their own and do the best you could. It (how much the house means to the community) definitely drove us a lot harder to get it back,” said Heather.

Heather is no stranger to this type of work and has worked on restoring homes in some capacity since she was a child, helping her father and grandfather. John said he is a huge history buff and that as a couple they both love and appreciate old architecture. The two completely remodeled a 1924 Craftsman home in Washington, restoring it to its original state, even though it was not a historic home.

“The plan is one day at a time, one room at at time,” said Heather, but she admits, “its going to be a learning curve.”

Now that the couple was able to purchase the original wood back, for around $30,000, they have started organizing it by room and are slowly but surely preparing to return the castle to the original state, or as close as they possibly can. Each of the four rooms that were previously gutted of the original hardwood had a different type of wood. What was the lady’s parlor was done with bird’s eye maple, the living room and stairs were done with mahogany, the library was done with cherry wood and the dining room was done with tiger oak. The different woods for each room has helped the couple solve what they referred to as a “jigsaw puzzle.”

“So, the same person had all of it (the hardwood), so that made it easier. But, he started out quite unrealistic in his prospects of what he could get for it. I think his initial offer to us was $75,000. And he came down (on his offer), his first offer to the people we bought the house from was over $100,000. We came to find out later he only paid around $12,000 for it,” said Heather.

Out of all the hardwood that is original to the home, the only irreparable damage done was to the grand staircase. While they are not able to return the staircase to its original glory, the couple plans to use the damaged staircase as a template to rebuild a copy of it.

Before they can continue refurbishing the castle, there are numerous repairs that are easier done before the hardwood fixtures are returned. Heather noted that repairing the windows, floors and painting the walls would be better done before bringing in and redoing the wood fixtures such as the fireplaces and bookshelves. The realization that there are a lot of extra projects to be done before the couple can return the wood to its original state and place in the castle has extended the already years-long project. As of the end of March 2023, the couple is unsure of when the project will be finished, but they do know it is going to take them years.

While refurbishing the property, the couple has made it their home.

“This is home, until we can’t make it up the stairs I suppose,” said Heather.

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