House Tour: John and Nancy Salerno 2007.11.21

Written by David Green.


People go on home tours expecting to see “the finished product.” All the projects are complete and everything is in order.

Then they return to their own homes and the reality of fixing things up.

You might say that John and Nancy Salerno’s residence is the home tour house for the rest of us.

Lots of big plans, Nancy says, but not everything gets

For example, the siding on the exterior isn’t yet complete. The tour won’t include the basement that remains on the to-do list. There’s some rough plaster showing from a project on a stairway.

Just take it as it is and enjoy this spacious 112-year-old structure that, despite the status of on-going projects, really has had a lot of work put into it.

For example, the basement walls were bowing inward, so new block was laid. They put in a new bathroom, removed carpeting and layed wood and wood tile, replaced a stairway, built a garage, paved the drive, refinished bedroom walls—the list goes on and on. No wonder it’s still a work in progress.

The Salernos bought the house east of Morenci in 1993 and have become  veteran owners after just 14 years.

“This house was sold and sold and sold,” Nancy said.

“I think we’re the 13th owner,” John said while leafing through copies of past deeds.

Some people lived here for only a couple of months. One person was the owner for just 12 days.

The Salernos arrived in Morenci from Syracuse, N.Y., part of a migration in the early 1990s due to the closure of a GM plant.

In Syracuse, the family of six were crammed into a two-bedroom Cape Code. John headed to Michigan ahead of the family for work and to find a place to live.

“I told him he would have to find a big house and then I would come out,” Nancy said.

John got that mission accomplished.

This was a good-sized house before the large addition was built by previous owners.

Moving from the city to the country was an experience. Nancy remembers the curtains blowing in the wind from the leaky windows. Eventually, 33 windows were replaced among the total of 40.

And then there was the wildlife, such as the raccoon who lived in the barn and later moved into the house after the old barn was burned.

“We had to come to an understanding that I lived inside and the animals lived outside,” Nancy said.

Birds, bats, snakes, even a rat on the inside, plus opossums and ground hogs outside.

“We don’t have critter problems anymore,” Nancy said. “At least I don’t think we do.”

The Salernos scraped and painted the house, but that fresh surface didn’t last long. Traces of a colorful paint scheme are still visible around the front porch. Rather than go through that again and again, they decided to cover it over with siding.

The family enters the house through a rear door—one of five doors leading to the outside—to arrive in what they call the library. A stairway leads up to the master bedroom and to John’s office. There’s a clawfoot tub in the bathroom they created upstairs, and there’s a story about moving the heavy thing up the stairs, with the fear that it might just slide back down and crash through the back wall.

Turning left out of the library takes a visitor into the large family room.

All of that is in the addition to the original house.

Next comes the kitchen that contains some of the original cabinets. Nancy had the doors and back of one cabinet removed for easy access to dishes—both from the kitchen and from the adjoining dining room.

The dining room includes furniture that was once owned by Nancy’s grandmother. The window shows one of the many stained glass designs she’s painted. It’s actually plastic paint that can be peeled off.

Next is the living room and finally there’s a main floor bedroom. A stairway in the living room heads up to three more bedrooms. John replaced the sagging stairway with new, bright wood.

Outside the house is a deck facing the garden. Nancy and her daughter, Valerie, once planted several herbs there and they grew like crazy. That was the start of the garden.

Her boys—Jonathon, Christopher and Joseph—dug a small pond for fish and the garden expanded over the years. It now includes a gazebo, outdoor lighting and a fig tree that the boys are bringing inside for the winter.

It’s been a lot of work and considerable work remains to be done, but it’s a home the family has come to appreciate.

Even those 40 windows are a joy to Nancy.

“Nobody has a lot of windows anymore,” she says.

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