Friday, December 19, 2014

(The other) Eddie Murphy

For faculty nearing or at retirement who have taken advantage of the UCLA Emeriti/Retirees Relation Center, comes the sad news that its director, Eddie Murphy, is retiring at the end of this calendar year. []

And from the UCLA newsroom webpage comes this story of her interesting project, post-retirement:

Eddie Murphy and her historic Ohio home
Murphy's 19th-Century home sits near a gurgling stream and is surrounded by acres of green fields.

This is the latest installment of “After Hours” — a series about faculty and staff who balance their work lives with side projects or fascinating hobbies.
Name: Eddie Murphy
Day job: Murphy is director of the UCLA Emeriti/Retirees Center, where, since 1998, she has helped guide thousands of faculty and staff to forge productive, satisfying retirements. 
Going home: On Dec. 31, Murphy will retire from UCLA, giving up a daily road-warrior commute to campus from her townhouse in Orange County to finish renovating a historic home she purchased in her hometown of Wellsville, Ohio. A bustling steel town where she grew up and last lived in nearly four decades ago, Wellsville is a close-knit community of about 4,000, “nestled in mountains and situated on the Ohio River,” as she idyllically described it.
Where to next:  Over the past 15 years, Murphy has been working on the historic stone house remotely and during visits home. She spotted it in 1995 while driving along a country road. It was “a very interesting house way up on a hill … I was drawn to it,” she recalled. Sitting near a gurgling stream and surrounded by acres of green fields, the abandoned house “looked like something that you would see in England. I was fascinated by it.”
In pursuit: Two months later, Murphy was back in Wellsville for a high school reunion and mentioned the house to a former classmate, a real estate agent. The agent’s uncle, Murphy found out, owned it. “But you can’t have it,” the agent said. “He’s going to give it to the state of Ohio.” Yet Murphy persisted, and six months later the owner showed the house to her, who brought along an entourage of family and friends. “I didn’t know what I was looking at,” Murphy recalled, who knew nothing about historic homes. This one hadn't been lived in for more than a half-century. But she brought along a contractor as well as a friend who had restored a turn-of-the-century house. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but this is a jewel,” they told her.
What? No potty?: Built in the 1840s, the two-story, 2,700-square-foot house has exterior sandstone walls 2 feet thick and a slate roof. “There are only four rooms [plus a kitchen],” Murphy said, “but the rooms are ‘ginormous.’” There is no indoor plumbing or bathroom, only an outhouse. The only heat comes from five huge fireplaces. There’s also a two-story carriage house. Everything in both buildings, with the exception of the front windows of the main house, is original, from doors and hardware to built-in wood cabinetry and horse-hair plaster walls.
Putting her dream aside: When Murphy asked the owner for his selling price, he answered: $100,000.  “I thought $100,000 is a lot of money. And this guy’s a little eccentric — he’s not going to come down.” So she headed back to California with a handful of photos of the house. “I put them in a little folder, and I wrote ‘My Dream’ on it. I kept the folder in my desk drawer at work, and I would sometimes look through it … but I didn’t really see it as becoming a reality.”
A dream realized: Two years later, Murphy learned that the owner had died, and his daughters had put the house on the market with an asking price of $85,000. She called her realtor friend. “Oh, Eddie, don’t talk to me about that house,” her friend told her. “Several people have put bids on it, but everything falls through.” Murphy hopped a flight to Wellsville to take another look. “It was mine before I left to come back to California,” said Murphy, who started her bidding at $65,000 and inched it up until the sellers finally relented. “At $70,000, they let me have it.”
Making history: First on Murphy’s to-do list was to hire a history professor from Youngtown State University to do research and complete paperwork to apply for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. That would both help ensure the long-term integrity of the house and entitle Murphy to tax credits for the renovation. Her quest for historic status lasted seven years. (She learned the house was built using locally quarried sandstone for well-to-do farmer and flour miller Daniel McBean and his wife, who emigrated from Scotland.) On Jan. 12, 2005, according to official records, “the Daniel McBean Farmstead, also known as Eddie Murphy House on Fife Coal Road, in Wellsville, Ohio was posted to the National Register of Historic Places.” “That was a happy day,” Murphy recalled. “It was huge.”
Getting to work: Rehabbing the house has been a lengthy, painstaking affair. First, Murphy launched into re-mortaring the exterior stones from top to bottom. Then she hired a historian-architect as project manager for the rest of the restoration, starting by converting the carriage house into an apartment. Murphy’s contractor on that project, a friend she went to kindergarten with, worked with a crew to remove and inspect every single plank of wood from the exterior to determine if it needed to be replaced. The wood is hemlock, once indigenous to the area but no longer so. “My contractor friend searched throughout the state until he found an Amish man who had a grove of hemlock, and he had him cut some down for us.” The apartment, “a darling place,” Murphy described it, was completed in 2012. She inaugurated it by hosting a sleepover for her sisters and women friends, and she has since leased it to a tenant.
Countdown to move-in: This past August, Murphy hired craftsmen to wire the house for electricity and install heating and air conditioning. Currently, plumbing is being installed. A stonemason will start restoring the five fireplaces. In the spring, Murphy will head to Wellsville to oversee the addition of a bathroom and plunge into the work of cleaning, plastering, painting walls and restoring the woodwork and floors … the list goes on. “My girlfriends have all signed up” to help, said Murphy, who plans to become a “snowbird,” wintering in Southern California and spending the rest of the year in Ohio in the stone house, which will be ready in 2016. “It’s going to be a big difference,” she said. “I see myself walking that country road in my retirement.” 

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