Unexpectedly purchased, Guitar Mansion to be a home again

Monday, December 6, 2010 | 3:36 p.m. CST; updated 7:14 p.m. CST, Monday, December 6, 2010
Elena Vega stands by the front window on the second floor of the Guitar Mansion on Thursday. After she bought the house in the October auction, Vega said her plans are to renovate the house and live in it one day. "It's historic and it's beautiful," she said.

COLUMBIA — Elena Vega opened the side door marked “private entrance,” a reminder that the home she was entering had previously been a business.

As she stepped into the chilly and unheated hallway that smelled of dust and must, she walked right into the original room around which the rest of the north Columbia house was built.


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“This is it,” she said. “This is my home.”  

On Oct. 18, Vega arrived at the Guitar Mansion, also known as Confederate Hill, ready to take pictures of the antebellum house up for auction. “I just love old homes,” she gushed that day.

But after an intense bidding war, Vega — to her astonishment — ended up buying the home herself, for $155,500.

Now, after closing the real estate deal on Nov. 22, Vega and her husband have decided to renovate the Guitar Mansion and return it to family life.

“My husband loves old homes because I love old homes," Vega said, "and my kids think it’s hilarious.”

She said that, according to Brian Pape, the architect who helped previous owners Mary Ann and Noel Crowson with their renovations, the changes shouldn’t be too overwhelming.

“Columbia owes the Crowsons a huge debt of gratitude because of all the work they put into the house,” Vega said. The couple ran a bed and breakfast there until 2007.

But there is still work to be done to the two-story, four-bedroom, three-bathroom home. Vega said a few “visiting critters" — raccoons and opossums — were found in the attic and had torn up the flexible duct work for heating. Repairs to the upstairs furnace are also needed.

The Victorian Italianate-style home still has some of the original windowpanes, one of them on the landing of a spiral staircase just inside the front door. At the base of the staircase is one of Vega's favorite things about the house: a pine cone finial.

A room on the first floor is pretty much bubblegum pink — the walls, the ceiling and curtains. Vega isn't sure whether she'll change that yet.

And in the basement, that old-house vibe comes through the cold, stone walls and original fireplace, now bricked up.

The house on Oakland Gravel Road was built in 1862 by David Guitar, who held Southern sympathies during the Civil War. Since then, it has been a family home (Guitar had 10 children), an events business, and a bed and breakfast. For the past three years, it has been vacant.

“It’s gorgeous," Vega said, looking back at the house from the front steps. "It needs a lot of work, but it’s still gorgeous.”

As for redecorating the home, Vega has no specific plans or themes, but she knows one thing for sure: The old fox-hunt-themed wallpaper will be banished.

Vega dreams of placing a Christmas tree at the top of the staircase and decorating her favorite room in the house, a first-floor music room with bay windows. But she has no firm dates yet on when she'll start or complete the renovations.

“We just want to be good stewards to the house," Vega said. "The story isn’t about me and my husband — it’s about the house.”

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Patrick earney December 6, 2010 | 6:23 p.m.

Congratulations to the Vegas! Thanks so much for saving one of Columbia's treasures!

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Alisa Hoyt December 7, 2010 | 8:45 a.m.

Glad to hear it. Congratulations and thanks to the Vegas for continuing the work that the Crowsons started. It is a beautiful old house. May it bring you years of fulfillment.

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