The Herald Bulletin

October 19, 2013

New life for Nichol Avenue home

Neglected property bought at tax sale

By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON — Kevin and Donna Hawes used to drive by a neglected brick home oozing with charm and think that someone needed to invest a little love and elbow grease into the property. When it appeared on the commissioner’s tax sale about 2 1/2 years ago, they decided to become those people.

“We thought we’d step up,” said Kevin, business analyst at Sonoco. “Nichol Avenue used to be so beautiful.”

At the time of purchase, Kevin was expecting to be laid off and thought the project would keep him busy and position the family to earn some money. He and Donna estimated the house to be finished in four to six months. Instead, he continued to work full time and construction has taken just under two years.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t get laid off,” said Kevin with a laugh. “I couldn’t have afforded to finish the house.”

When bidding on a home at a tax sale, participants are not allowed access to the house. They may drive by the property, but may not enter. Therefore, the Hawes had to guess at the interior condition, including structural issues and the integrity of the plumbing and wiring.

“People had come in and torn out every door – including all the cabinet doors and drawers,” said Donna, quality manager at Delta Faucet Company. “The roof had leaked so long that there was a strong smell when you walked in.”

While Kevin and Donna completed as many projects as they could handle, they did work with five contractors to handle the highly-skilled work. Some of the larger tasks included replacing many of the floor joists and rebuilding the wall along the closed-in back porch.

Between time spent on interior and exterior painting, woodworking, glazing windows and restoring hardwood floors, the couple made time to research previous owners. Donna reported that the home was built in 1931 by a man named Stout who worked in the tool room at Delco. His family lived in the home for 30 years.

“I think about the feeling of optimism of the family as they built this house during the depression,” said Kevin. “Old houses have so many memories.”

“One day a lady who grew up in the house stopped by,” said Donna. “She was from another state. She came in and was so excited. She ran through the house and talked about all her memories. She said: ‘These are my mother’s hardwood floors! How she loved her hardwood floors!’”

That special flooring was covered with carpet before the Hawes started working. Kevin sanded them down and painstakingly brought them back to life. The result is a beautiful addition that is favored by today’s homeowners and reminiscent of yesterday’s homeowners.

Kevin and Donna’s daughter, Mackenna, now 12, didn’t shy away from the work. She learned how to operate a power nailer and a small sledge hammer.

“The demolition was fun,” said Mackenna. “And it’s nice to see the finished project after all that work.”

“The initial clean-up was not fun – and there was no furnace and no water,” said Kevin. “I didn’t mind the heavy work, like building walls, but it’s amazing how long it takes to trim out a house. I’ve been two weeks from finished for six months.”

“We have tried to make it a house that we could live in,” said Donna. “We wanted it to be a house people could be proud of.”

“There is a whole lot of satisfaction in a project like this,” said Kevin. “After we started, people around us began to take a little more pride and Nichol Avenue started to look a whole lot better. It spreads. Everyone can do something to make a neighborhood look better.”

Each week, Emma Bowen Meyer features a Madison County home. If you know of a home that should be showcased, send an e-mail to