Local builder stars in ‘This Old House’

MIDDLEBURY — The long running, popular PBS television show “This Old House” will soon showcase the wares of a Middlebury-based business that specializes in construction of new old houses — Connor Homes.
Representatives of the show confirmed on Tuesday that Connor Homes will provide a pre-engineered, 3,000-square-foot home that will be assembled at an Essex, Mass., site for a young family during the course of 10 upcoming episodes of “This Old House” for a project titled, “North Shore Farmhouse.”
It’s a show that will give national publicity and therefore a potential major boost to Connor Homes, which has carved out a niche as a manufacturer of complete, highly detailed, historically accurate homes in kit form. A workforce of around 100 employees designs and manufactures sections of each home at Connor Homes’ 118,000-square-foot headquarters on Route 7 south. The kits are then shipped to clients throughout the United States and assembled on-site.
“Obviously, it’s an honor to be selected for the program, and it’s a great opportunity for us,” said company President Mike Connor, who founded Connor Homes in 1969.
Now in its 36th season, “This Old House” is a home improvement TV show with a current viewership of around 2.4 million. Each season, the show’s hosts and work crew renovate two different historic homes — one step at a time — using “quality craftsmanship and the latest in modern technology,” according to the “This Old House” website. The show features experts Norm Abram, Tom Silva, Richard Trethewey, Roger Cook and host Kevin O’Connor. “This Old House” is distributed through WGBH TV (Boston) for public broadcasting stations throughout the country.
The “North Shore Farmhouse” series is tentatively slated to premier on Thursday, March 24. Addison County viewers are encouraged to check their local PBS station schedules to confirm dates and times.
Connor said he and representatives of “This Old House” have been chatting informally for several years about collaborating on a show. While the program usually showcases improvement projects involving older homes, producers saw good potential in a series that would chart construction of a “new home that looked like an old home,” Connor said.
It was last year that “This Old House” and Connor Homes found the right opportunity to team up — on a home for clients Bill and April Harb, who have a 10-month-old child. The family selected a Connor Homes model known as the “Sarah Taylor House,” which Connor described as being of a federal farmhouse design. It includes some architectural details of the late 1700s, coupled with practical layouts, modern amenities and energy0-efficient construction.
“Our audience will be drawn in by this unique twist,” John Tomlin, senior producer of “This Old House,” said through a press release. “Featuring a new home is a departure for us at ‘This Old House,’ but it’s a story that we are very excited to tell. It’s a great opportunity for our viewers to see an historic-style home built from the ground up, using some of today’s most innovative building and engineering techniques.”
The TV series will chart the North Shore Farmhouse project from groundbreaking to move-in day for the Harbs. Viewers will also see how components of the home were pre-built at Connor Homes’ Middlebury headquarters, then assembled at the Essex site in a fraction of the usual time. Connor noted “This Old House” crews visited Middlebury twice to get footage of the construction process.
Clearly, “This Old House” will be priority viewing for Connor Homes employees and many of those in the market for a new abode. Connor expects the company phone to jingle a little more frequently during the airing of the 10 episodes.
“If you have 2.4 million people looking at your product and you don’t get a spike (in sales), something’s wrong,” Connor said with a chuckle.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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