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With an eye for design, a head for business and a heart for history, Napan Joe Brasil has turned a rundown 137-year-old Main Street home into a showpiece – and one that will hopefully last another 137 years.

“I am a huge history buff,” said Brasil, who also works as a Realtor. “For me, it’s important for me to maintain a little bit of our history. I just love it.”

That’s one of the reasons he bought an aging home at 1964 Main St. and spent the past eight months and six figures fixing it up from top to bottom. To Brasil, “it’s tragic when you see an old building just fall apart.”

Brasil has bought and fixed up seven other such homes – almost all in downtown Napa — including the house he lives in.

The Main Street house was in bad shape when Brasil bought it in April. But he had a vision for the home.

“It’s a special property – it’s so unique in a Victorian way,” he said.

The previous owner’s mother had lived in the home, said Brasil. He accepted Brasil’s offer after seeing examples of the other renovations he’d done. “He wanted to see his mother’s house restored.”

Brasil paid $490,000 for the 1,200-square-foot home. Today, it is listed at $899,000.

“It needed a full restoration,” said Brasil. The home had old electric systems and leaking plumbing, was filled with rot and needed a brand new roof, in addition to many other issues.

Brasil wouldn’t state how much he’d put into the house, but such a renovation could run from $225,000 to $350,000, he said.

Today, the house has all-new plumbing, electrical and roofing, and was seismically retrofitted. Inside, it features all-new appliances, bathrooms, kitchen and interiors.

“You drive down Main Street and it’s a head-turner now. It’s a trophy property,” he said. “It’s back to what it once was and I’m really proud of that.”

Some of the history of the home, which is listed on the city’s Historic Resources Inventory, has been collected. The first known resident was Henry Fredrick Frahm, who was originally from Germany. Frahm worked in Napa as a news agent, according to voter registration rolls.

From around 1900 to 1935, the Martin family lived in the home, later followed by the Johnson, Connolly, Clark and Anderson families.

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“I held an open house this past Sunday and a woman who grew up in the home in the ‘70s and ‘80s came through to see it,” said Brasil. “It was neat to see her reaction to the home that obviously held a special place in her heart.”

This is not the first time that this has happened, he said. “On other projects I have been contacted by prior occupants to tell me about their time in the home, which I have loved,” he wrote in an email.

One previous owner seemed to have the angels on his or her side. During the renovation, Brasil said he found half a dozen little cherub or angel statues hidden in crawl spaces or behind beams.

“There were lots of angels watching over the place,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I did it justice for him.”

The house has been on the market for about two weeks, but he’s already received one offer, said Brasil. However, it was below asking price. “It’s one of a kind,” he said. “It’s worth what I listed it for. I’m not going to let it go for less.”

With housing prices rising in Napa, Brasil could be priced out of such renovations in the future. “It is becoming prohibitive,” he said. “The starting point is a lot higher. I hope it’s not my last.”

Brasil’s already searching for his next project.

“I’m going to look at two cottages, one in the Fuller Park and one in the Abajo district. Both are priced too high but I am going to see what happens.”



Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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