David Giffels’ Version of This Old House


It was 1997 when Akron Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels and his wife Gina stumbled upon the decaying Gilded Age mansion in Akron. Trees burst through the roof, there was no electricity, and aside from a senile old lady, the only other beings calling this place home were variety of woodland creatures... While most prospective homeowners would run the other way, the Giffels saw their dream home. “When people are establishing themselves as a family, there is this apprehension that you are going to lose your sense of self,” Giffels says “Buying a house was this formal gesture of putting down roots. But buying that kind of house showed we were being adventurous and irresponsible – that we were able to maintain some sense of ourselves.” The Giffels moved in and began renovating the mansion with help from relatives and friends. As Gina scrubbed down fireplaces, David rebuilt the home’s structure. Amidst the massive construction, they also gave birth to their children. Now, a decade later, Giffels has immortalized his family’s crazy tale of home improvement in his new book, all the way home: building a family in a falling-down house, which will hit stores on May 27. The book is a deeply personal memoir not simply about how one renovates a decrepit mansion, but what it means to become head of a household. As Giffels recounts tearing down walls, he poignantly reflects on his fears of losing his sense of self in the midst of becoming a father. There are plenty of anecdotes, from the time he and Gina found a huge bag of money in a wall to their terrifying encounter with a family of raccoons. Even if you aren’t a This Old House junkie, all the way home promises to be a fine read for anyone who simply knows what it’s like to grow up. – Denise Grollmus

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