July 31, 2007
Lowndes Co. -- It seems to take forever to build a house, especially when you want to move in as quickly as you can. But what if you had to wait decades to see it finished?
You have to look hard to find Jesse Perez's new home because it fits right in with the tall pine trees. "When I started these pine trees were small," says Jesse as he proudly shows off his dream house.
Sometimes a big dream needs the right person with the right key at the right time to make it come true. "I see a project. It's been a hobby more than anything else," says Jesse as he stands in the front door looking at all the wood piled on the floor.
A seemingly never-ending project, with a goal that many others hope they would reach. "Build a house debt-free," says Jesse who built most of the house by himself, and enjoys improvising. He made a crane to put the heavy support beams in the right places.
"I thought it was going to take three years, at the most five years. It's been a while now," says Jesse.
Some people might say more like an eternity. He has put 25 years of his heart and soul into his project, finding that time moves quite slowly when you're building your own house, becoming rather philosophical about the construction time. "Nail one two-by-four at a time," says Jesse.
Cut one shingle at a time; make one laminated window casing at a time-all hand constructed to look as perfectly as he could make it.
At one time, he had a different construction plan until he got a life threatening surprise.
"My very first physical they discovered cancer. My building sat there for over two years," says Jesse who could barely show up for work because the treatments made him so weak.
After successful treatments, he tore down the original work and started plan B, a home with about 3,300 square feet of living space.
A lot of the wood for the big house came from the generosity of people who gave him their downed pine trees.
Jesse bought a saw mill to cut the lumber, stacked and dried it to build the house. "If you ever get sawdust on you, that's all it takes. You'll be a carpenter all your life," says Jesse as he cuts a two-by-four with a power saw.
A carpenter who follows local building regulations to the letter, but when will he finish it? Don't hold your breath. "Probably be in it in two years," says Jesse who feels a bit anxious, wanting the project to come to an end.
"I might contract some help," says Jesse. Why get help after 25 years? He has another dream. He wants special people to live in the house and not just anyone, either.
"Missionaries who travel up and down I-75 need a place to rest. They got one here," says Jesse who would welcome exchange students who want to continue their education.
A first-class rest stop built by a persistent man with a heart as big as his new house.