A Vintage House Transformation

Downtown Conroe is home to a dream come true

Susan and Dean Johnson never imagined they’d move to Conroe from their home of 15 years in Magnolia. Their large property was the perfect setting to raise their daughter Claire and three sons, Spencer, Elliot, and Lucas, the youngest two with special needs.

An unusual residence at 811 N. Main Street in downtown Conroe piqued their interest and convinced them to downsize to a home in the historic Uptown District. Locals speculated that it could be a kit home (possibly ordered from a Sears & Roebuck catalog) constructed by the Doyal family in 1911. The 1,826 sq. ft. pier and beam home was well over a century old by the time the last occupant, retired Houston police officer James Doyal, passed away in 2015.

Susan, a savvy Real Estate Broker, knew that very few wood houses had survived the Conroe fire of 1911, which engulfed and devastated much of the city. She fell in love with the vintage architecture and nostalgic character of this rare home. With their nest in Magnolia emptying (Claire became an attorney and Spencer a photographer), it made sense for the Johnsons to buy the fixer-upper from the Doyal family. They made an offer that would change their lives forever.

Lots of TLC

The home, constructed of sturdy red pine lumber indigenous to Arizona and Southern California, was built to last. “When we had it inspected,” says Dean (a building contractor & remodeler), “I crawled under the house and was amazed that the beams were in great shape and the structure was sound.” Their inspector said, “If you don’t buy it, I will!”

The house didn’t qualify for a historic designation due to previous renovations in the 1970s and ‘80s, but still, the Johnsons were determined to retain the character of the charming 110-year-old house. In addition, they totally updated the interior by stripping it out, reconfiguring the layout, showcasing the shiplap, and ensuring the plumbing and electrical were completely brought up to current code.

The result? The Johnsons are proud of their home’s fascinating backstory and their preservation of its iconic exterior, reminiscent of days gone by. The restored home now boasts of many modern amenities and a comfortable living environment, while paying homage to its historic past.

“I’m excited about every project that adds to the revitalization of downtown Conroe and the expansion of the Old Marketplace District,” says Susan. “The residences, the shops, the restaurants, the entertainment, as well as Conroe’s rich history make this an exciting place to live, work, and socialize.”  

It’s true that Conroe is reinventing itself while, at the same time, honoring its roots. As Frank Robinson, former City of Conroe Downtown Manager, says, “There’s a new Renaissance going on in downtown Conroe, and it’s attracting many investors, developers, and residents.”

In Tribute

The Johnson’s two younger sons, Elliot, born in 1991, and Lucas, born in 1993, were both diagnosed with Walker-Warberg Syndrome. The life expectancy of babies who have this severe form of congenital muscular dystrophy is short (early childhood). Yet these two remarkable boys surpassed all expectations, with Lucas living until age 12 and Elliott living until age 25.

In honor of her miracle sons, Susan works with families who need homes that accommodate wheelchairs through hallways, past doorways, and in bathrooms. Her personal experience, combined with a designation as a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), brings a wealth of knowledge and understanding to each client’s circumstances. Dean’s company, Splendid Restorations, offers specialized design and contracting services to those who require expert assistance in the process of building new ADA-friendly homes or retrofitting existing homes.

To learn more about any of these services and other types of home listings in our area, please send an email to Susan at susan@jpropertiestx.com.

“I’m excited about every project that adds to the revitalization of downtown Conroe and the expansion of the Old Marketplace District.” ~ Susan Johnson

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