A home built with love: Note left by home’s original builder provides link from past to present
by Sally Litchfield
February 03, 2013 12:17 AM | 5839 views | 3 3 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sensenbrenner looks at the blueprint he created for the house he built. <br> Emily Barnes
Sensenbrenner looks at the blueprint he created for the house he built.
Emily Barnes
Jim Sensenbrenner stands with current homeowners Lisa and Drew Ames in front of the trellis he built behind the house he constructed.
Jim Sensenbrenner stands with current homeowners Lisa and Drew Ames in front of the trellis he built behind the house he constructed.
When Lisa and Drew Ames renovated the basement of their east Cobb home, they found the unexpected — a note to the future. Written by the original builder, James Sensenbrenner, the note was a link between past and present.

“I thought the note would be something nice to leave to the future. I thought eventually someone would tear that house down because time does pass and houses do get old. I just thought it would be good to write the note,” 86-year-old Sensenbrenner said.

The Ames purchased the home built by Sensenbrenner, located 3 miles away from their previous residence on a short sale in 2011. The fourth owners of the home, the Ames were attracted to it because of school system, the large 2-acre tract of land where it is situated, and because it is a ranch, the style of their dream home.

“The house and yard was in a bit of disarray. There was certainly some work we needed to do. We had a vision when we bought the house. It was just going to be a matter of time,” Drew Ames said.

The family moved in and hired a contractor to renovate the basement and terrace area. During the demolition, the contractor found a handwritten note on a board behind the bar that read:

“A Note to the Future-

Today is August 6th 1970. My name is James Sensenbrenner — age 43. As of now I have spent 7 years building this house by myself. It cost approximately $53,000.00. To you, who someday tear it down —Remember that many, many hours of work went into building it. It was a grand home to all who lived here — Treat it with care — I love her.”

The Ames wanted to meet the author of the note. “It’s unique and the most solidly built home we’ve ever experienced. We were so intrigued by who would take such care and diligence to build such a solid home,” Ames said. The couple has three children Emily, 12, and twins Gracie and Charlie, 8.

“The house is so special. We’ve had so many contractors do work on the house and say, ‘This is the most solidly built house we’ve every seen,’” said Ames who relocated his family to Cobb County in 2002 from Manhattan Beach, Calif. He works for FishNet Security and Lisa works for Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company.

A 2-foot foundation of granite stone, a fully encased granite bomb shelter in the basement (a future wine cellar) and 20 inches of reinforced concrete overhead are evidence of the home’s solid construction.

After partly renovating the home, the Ames searched for Sensenbrenner on Ancestry.com and other websites and located him in White.

“We knew his name. We knew how he spelled his name. We knew it was 1970 and he was 43 years old (when he wrote the note),” Ames said.

Before Christmas 2012 Lisa contacted Sensenbrenner’s daughter-in-law Laura who arranged for him to visit the Ames at their home. “(James) was elated,” Ames said.

Sensenbrenner, an engineer who worked for Lockheed 40 years, gave the Ames the original floor plans along with a 3-ring binder of pictures documenting the building process. “I drew the house plans,” 86-year-old Sensenbrenner stated.

Sensenbrenner also built the house. “I started the home 50 years ago. At the time I wrote that note I had already worked on that house for 7 years,” explained Sensenbrenner who sold the home after remarrying following a divorce. He moved to Bartow County in 1986.

“I was excited when (the Ames) called. It brought back memories. You don’t build a house by yourself without having some memories,” he said.

“It’s real good to know that something you started is going to be taken care of for a long time by a great couple,” Sensenbrenner said.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 05, 2013
Great story! We all hope to find a secret message left in the wall or an old box in the attic with a link to the past.
February 03, 2013
It is a shame all builders don't take the same pride when building a home. Most homes built now days need work to repair mistakes or shoddy work by current builders, or should I say subcontractors and day laborers!! It is rare to find workers that take pride in their work.
February 03, 2013
Excellent story! Thank you for this, MDJ and Sally.
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