Meet Rachael Meyerink

Dietician, Sanford Children’s Hospital

When it comes to old houses, most people see a project where Rachael Meyerink sees potential.

She’s been a member of the Sioux Falls Board of Historic Preservation for six years, but her passion for the conservation of historic properties starts with her own house – or rather, houses.

Rachael and her husband first moved into a Victorian house near downtown Sioux Falls about seven years ago. The house was built in 1889 and needed some work, so the couple began restoring it.

Rachael and her husband do almost all the restoration work themselves, everything from demolition to plumbing. And instead of buying new windows, they restore the old ones.

“A lot of people don’t know that windows in old houses were made to last hundreds of years,” Rachael says. “Everything in an old house was made to be repaired.”

Restoration work requires a healthy dose of resourcefulness. Instead of buying modern fixtures, Rachael looks for antiques – anything from lights to medicine cabinets and sinks.

“We’ve taught ourselves how to repair and restore old features,” she explains. “We add the character that was taken away back into the house.”

After living in the downtown neighborhood for a couple of years, Rachael started noticing other houses on the block that were falling into disrepair. So she and her husband partnered with her brother and sister-in-law to purchase a second old property, a rental house next door to their own.

“We decided that we’d like to be the ones that owned it so we could treat the house right and take care of it rather than watch it waste away,” she says.

But not long after buying that house, another couple of houses they were interested in went on the market too.

“Ideally, it would’ve been over five years that we would buy three houses, but we bought them all in just five months, so it moved really fast,” Rachael says.

One of these three houses ended up being the couples’ most extreme makeover yet.

“It could not have looked worse. It truly could’ve been on a TV show, it was so bad,” Rachael describes.

From old photographs she received from the Irene Hall Museum Resource Center, Rachael and her husband immediately saw differences in how the house used to look and how it stood before them. The photographs showed intricate Victorian columns, narrow cedar siding and even windows that were now missing.

“There were these plain, square columns on the porch so we wondered if the originals were inside – and they were,” Rachael says. “We also tore off two layers of newer siding – wide, ugly 1970s siding and a layer of 1950s cement siding – to find the original underneath.”

Even all of the missing windows were revealed under a layer of faux wood paneling.

“It almost felt like we lifted a box off and underneath it we found a Victorian house,” Rachael explains. “People assume that if something has been covered up, it’s bad, but with old houses the best thing you can do is let the house be what it was supposed to be to begin with.”

The restoration work fills all the houses with character, making them stand out to neighbors and potential renters.

“These old houses are like a work of art, so when I walk down my street, it’s like I’m in an art gallery,” Rachael says. “For me, it’s a way to be artistic and to preserve the story of our past. You feel like you’re doing good in the world and making it a better place.”