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Builder uses recycled materials in home

Submitted photo The arched window in the foyer of Richard Papousek's home was once used in a bank. The chandelier is made from an old windmill. Chinking material used to fill the gaps between the old logs is a special lime and sand mortar mixture Papousek researched on the Internet.

COLOME -- Where some people see junk, Richard Papousek of Colome sees possibilities.

Papousek, 54, a part-time innkeeper and full-time entrepreneur, has found ways to go green and beat the high cost of housing at the same time.

Papousek uses building skills learned at Mitchell Technical Institute and developed over a 25-year career as a building contractor to reclaim and recycle old, occasionally historic, buildings.

A case in point is his current home -- the Zion Inn, an old Lutheran Church two blocks off Main Street in downtown Colome.

"I built a new church for the congregation on the edge of town but they didn't know what to do with the old one, so I took it off their hands," he said.

He added bedrooms to the basement and redeveloped the main floor into a gathering place.

Most would be satisfied with completing such a project, but it's the personal residence to the rear of the inn -- which uses a century-old log cabin as its core -- that shows Papousek's design versatility.

The two-story blend of old and new has a wraparound porch, upstairs bedrooms, a long roofline and a striking great room with a massive fieldstone fireplace. Not counting labor, Papousek claims it cost him $5,000 in materials to build the rustically modern home -- all using recycled and cast-off materials.

"I did all the work myself. I even hand-dug the foundation, so no extra fuel was wasted," he said.

Finding the old cabin that inspired the project was a bit of serendipity. Papousek was out taking fall color photos on a ranch south of Gregory when he ran across what appeared to be an old farm building. Some of the siding had fallen off, revealing the log cabin beneath.

"The original 16-foot-by-28-foot cabin probably had a dirt floor," he said. "As soon as the owners had money they added the siding. Back then, a log home was a sign of poverty; today it's a sign of affluence."

The building's footprint was expanded to roughly 28 feet by 34 feet, he said.

The old cabin was going to be burned, so he got permission to move it. Disassembly gave him some insight into pioneer building methods.

"They probably fitted the logs together in a woodlot where they felled the trees. Then they numbered the pieces and moved them to the final building site," he said. The logs were numbered using red paint, which Papousek discovered when he disassembled the cabin.

"It was pretty clear that it had never been modified," he said. "It still had the original spacing for doors and windows. It was also pretty clear that it had never been electrified. It still had an iron hook in the ceiling where a lamp was hung."

Pioneer carpentry was impressive, he said. When the cabin was reassembled at its new location, the top of each wall varied only by three-eighths of an inch.

"Those guys really knew what they were doing," he said.

Apparently so does Papousek, who ticked off a list of recycled items he used in his new home:

- The fireplace was made from dry-stacked field stone that was used in an old foundation. The hearth stone was a former corner foundation stone from the original site of the old log cabin.

- The fireplace mantel is a beam that was once part of the 1875 Fort Randall Chapel.

- All wood was recycled from old area buildings; the ceiling is redwood purchased at auction.

- An arched leaded-glass window in the foyer was reclaimed from a now-defunct bank and the chandelier was made from an old windmill, rewired with reproduction antique lanterns.

- The vertical balusters in the railing that separates the loft above the great room below are pieces of discarded pine branches.

- The solid maple flooring was reclaimed from the old Gregory gymnasium.

- Modern windows were discontinued demonstration models from area lumber yards and all kitchen appliances are recycled.

Recycling isn't always pretty.

Papousek said when he was collecting items for his house he received a letter from the city of Colome. "They told me to haul my junk out to the curb for clean-up," he said. "I told them that that junk was my house."

Papousek firmly believes others can do what he did.

"In the old days people used to build their own houses," he said. "Maybe we should go back to that. If we did, maybe we wouldn't be in the mess we're in."

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