A Couple Find Their Forever Home in Granville After Renovating 10, Building Two New
Serial preservers update their third 100-year-old Granville home
Jim and Julie Hopson’s most recent renovation in Granville is a grand 1905 house that looks out over a historic home they updated almost 25 years ago.
The Hopsons have drastically refurbished four homes in Granville and many others elsewhere. Three of those Granville houses, including the one just completed, are at least 100 years old with more than 3,000 square feet of space.
The couple arrived in Granville in the early 1990s when Jim was hired to oversee a group of Ohio newspapers, which included the Newark Advocate. They purchased their first historic Granville home, which was built in 1864, on College Street. That house was once a Lutheran church and is said to have been a safe place along the Underground Railroad. Before the couple and their then-teen-age daughter moved their possessions to town, a thorough renovation was completed.
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You would be hard-pressed to find any couple in Central Ohio who has had more courage working on and living in old houses. Their current house, says Julie, will be their forever home. It works for their family and certainly welcomes visitors with its large foyer and original, stained glass windows that grace the front entry.
“One of my favorite quotes is Churchill’s: ‘We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us,’” says Julie.
“The way rooms are placed dictates the ways in which people interact in those spaces, and that affects the quality of life lived there,” she adds.
In their quest for perfection on this latest project, Jim visited Granville’s zoning commission and village council on at least six different occasions, as the couple worked with various contractors to restructure an attic stairwell, add a gated backyard and update the front porch—which sloped 18 inches from one end to the other. They closed on the property in mid-October of 2019 and moved in the midst of the pandemic in June 2020.
This summer has found Julie enjoying the wide front porch with its temporary furnishings. (Supply chain issues stalled delivery of the furniture she ordered months ago.) A decade and a half after his official retirement from publishing, Jim has now settled into a routine that starts many mornings at the Granville Golf Course—two blocks away. As the last school year wrapped up, they enjoyed early mornings with two of their grandsons, including a breakfast occasionally cooked in their new kitchen by the 10-year-old.
Their vibrant kitchen is alive with cream-colored cabinetry, light green granite and a green-and-cream checked tiled floor that Jim designed. The fleur-de-lis pattern in the tile backsplash echoes the one in the foyer’s original stained windows and front door. Julie says the soapstone countertops that were under consideration for a time were ditched after she discovered the upkeep the black stone would require. Instead, the duo ordered the exact granite that they had installed in a home they once built on Sanibel Island, Florida.
A wide center island and all of its organizational structure provides plenty of space for whomever is working in the kitchen. Many chef duties in recent years have been handed over to Jim, who continually takes courses and tries new recipes.
Still, Julie enjoys cooking and is part of a cookbook group that meets regularly at the Granville library, located just two blocks away, opposite the golf course. On a recent afternoon this summer, she had a sweet potato-mango cake cooling on a nearby counter, from the cookbook “Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African-American Cooking.” Nearby, stools provide seating space for visiting grandsons and other guests.
Back at the front of the house, the parlor adjoins the entry and offers an intimate conversation area with chairs that can be turned toward the fireplace or two recently recovered love seats. Every corner, every nook in this house has been updated—even a concrete wall at the rear of the parlor’s fireplace was knocked out to join the dining room’s fireplace for a see-through effect. No surface, it seems, has gone untouched. The Hopsons—more than a dozen houses into their marriage—have become experts at designing efficient living spaces, bookshelves, storage areas, hobbyist rooms and all.
Still, mistakes will be made. They cringe when they talk of their recent flooring challenge. The old oak in the first floor of this home was sanded and then coated in a too-dark, almost-black glaze that went against the honey color they had ordered. Their solution? Rip up the old, worn floorboards and install new glistening oak, still matching the golden aura of the house.
The rear of the first floor features a warm den that they refer to as the “man cave,” replete with Jim’s desk, plenty of bookshelves and other built-ins. There’s a doggy door for Penny, a vizsla, and Summer, a Labrador retriever, who at their own will go in and out to the fenced rear yard. In this room last spring, their oldest grandson studied remotely while his mom tended to her onsite teaching job and his younger brother worked in the parlor at the front of the house.
On the second floor, the homeowners created a comfortable haven. One of the house’s four bedrooms was removed in favor of a spacious owners’ suite, complete with compact laundry facilities, a large bath, two closets and more. Two additional bedrooms down the hall provide plenty of sleeping space for visiting family and friends.
Julie’s private quarters is a large space accommodating both her office and sewing room where iPads and machines and design boards and plenty of fabric and quilts-in-progress keep her busy. A gabled landing was designed along with the new stairway to this formerly dusty attic. Various nooks and closets allow the homeowners to tuck away luggage and other things not currently in use. (Jim also raves about the basement’s size. It is a neatly organized storage space with holiday décor and other items not commonly used but now within easy reach.)
The Hopsons’ journey to get to this home has been a long one. They have lived a corporate life throughout the United States, including several years when Jim was a publisher in the Northeast. The two met in journalism school at the University of Missouri, and then Jim served in Vietnam and got an MBA from Harvard. They purchased their first renovation project in Des Moines when both took jobs at the newspaper there.
“We bought our first house in Des Moines in 1974 and did what pathetic renovations we could afford when we moved in,” Jim says. “[That] first house was bought under a GI [now a VA] loan, no-money-down program,” adds Julie.
As young parents, they then moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, with two sons. Upon moving there they dropped a contract they had to buy an older home that needed renovations—because time was limited with children and jobs involved.
“The whole house, inside and out, was painted a deep Wedgwood blue and we knew it would take gallons of coats of paint to change it,” explains Julie. “With two toddlers, we just didn’t have the bandwidth or energy to take on that scope of a project. Later, just before Thanksgiving, we learned it was next to the most famous Christmas decorated house in town, one that even made The Today Show, and we felt lucky to have passed [due to traffic created by the spectacle next door].”
That, though, was one of the few times the Hopsons—who later had their daughter and now have five grandsons—decided against buying a home that needed work. In all, the couple has renovated at least 10 homes, in addition to building two new.
Back in the 1990s, after completing two of their Granville renovations—and after Julie had finished teaching at OSU-Newark and commuting to the University of Pennsylvania to eventually earn a doctorate in education—the couple left Central Ohio.
Jim took a publishing job based in Madison, Wisconsin. First, they lightly updated a home and then built a new one on a vacant lot beside it. After six years there, they thought they might slow down. As Jim retired from publishing, they purchased a spacious 1970s contemporary styled condominium perched on a hill overlooking the Granville Golf Course and Denison University beyond.
Their official residence was in Florida at the time, but they still updated the entire Granville condo while both regularly flew in and out of John Glenn Columbus airport. Jim worked around the country on several different newspaper consulting gigs, even temporarily overseeing The Columbus Dispatch following the sale of the paper and its sister publications, including Columbus Monthly, to GateHouse Media. (Over a series of disrupted summers, he also walked and later rode a bicycle across the United States.)
Both Hopsons loved the fact that their daughter and two grandsons moved to Granville and were within walking distance when they were in town.
The couple’s latest Granville project brought them off the hill and out of the condo. They had long admired the turn-of-the-century home, which had been owned by the same family for the past 98 years. When it went on the market, they quickly purchased it from the heirs and hired contractor Keith Wills to do the three-story renovation.
When it came time to sell their condo, word was out in the village and a sidewalk conversation between Jim and Granville Golf Course developer Bob Kent resulted in its sale. That’s just the way it works in Granville.
The Hopsons, now a bit tired of renovations, smile at their pandemic escapades. By the time this Granville renovation was done, they had sold the graceful stilt home within an easy walk to the beach that they had built on Sanibel. The drive to southwest Florida had become too long. Yet with a continued desire for a cold-weather refuge, they found another home in the center of Hilton Head Island and did some renovations there, too.
It so happens the younger of their sons is a professor of industrial design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and his family is within an hour’s drive. (Their oldest son is the head of user research for a computer game studio and lives in Seattle with his family. Thus, the Hopsons take occasional jaunts to the West Coast, too.)
Certainly, the past couple of years have been very busy with renovations and such. Few furnishings were bought new, though. The Hopsons talk of shipping things from the Granville condo to Hilton Head, and from Sanibel to the new Granville house. They shipped things to their kids in other places, including their daughter’s new home in Upper Arlington. Finally, by the Fourth of July, almost everything had arrived at its destination, and they had settled in for Granville’s weekend Independence Day celebration—it was just one block away.
“We have ruled out any more moves,” says Jim.
This story is from the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of Home & Garden.