Bob Yapp teaches the art and economics of historic preservation.

Bob Yapp bought his first house while he was still in high school and conveniently forgot to tell his parents about the purchase. While classmates went to movies and football games, he stripped wallpaper and repaired floors. He eventually confessed to his parents, and forgiveness came quickly when he told them about his $60,000 profit.

Bob has since restored dozens of houses, shared his expertise on prestigious projects that include George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and hosted a PBS television series. Now he’s focused on training a new generation of old house restorers at his Belvedere School for Hands-On Preservation in Hannibal.

Bob Yapp founded Hannibal’s Belvedere School for Hands-On Preservation in 2008.

Q—What led to your interest in historic preservation?

A—When I was six, my father looked at me and said, “We don’t own this house. You can go to the courthouse, and they’ll tell you we own this house, but don’t you ever think you own this house or any old house you buy. We are stewards. We have to do good work that lasts so the next family can enjoy it.” I took that along with me.

Q—What advice would you give to someone considering buying a historic house?

A—Unless you have mad skills, hire a third party historic preservation expert to go through the house with you, top to bottom. The two things I look for are, I run down to the basement and look at the foundation and joist structural system, then I go look at the roof.

Q—Is it ever OK to tear down an old house to build a new one?

A—There are times when demolition by neglect has gone on so long that a house can’t be saved, but when that happens, we should be repurposing every bit of material out of that house so we can reuse it. First-growth forests no longer exist, so it’s an absolute treasure and that wood should never go to a landfill.

Q—How did you go from house rehabber to the host of a nationally broadcast home improvement show on public television?

A—I was writing for Meredith Publishing for their woodworking magazine and met with somebody from The Des Moines Register who said I should write a weekly column called “The House Doctor,” and I did. Then WHO radio in Des Moines got ahold of me and said this “House Doctor” column is so huge, why not do a “House Doctor” radio show? Then we syndicated the radio show and the column. The syndicator at the radio station said, “Have you ever thought of doing television?” I’d never done television but thought I’d give it a try. I felt like I had been in front of the camera all my life. Somehow or another, it just clicked with me, and one day, I got a call from the head of programming for PBS. The show [About Your House with Bob Yapp] was on from 1996 to 2000. It is one of their top-rated home improvement shows yet today, with two to five million viewers a week.

Q—What can someone learn at the Belevedere School for Hands-On Preservation?

A—It’s set up specifically as a workshop-based school. I’m bringing in the top instructors in the country—multigenerational masons, plasterers, a woman who restores stained glass windows, and I teach a lot of the classes myself. They run from two days to eight days. About forty percent of the people who take classes here are women. The majority are millennials or younger.

Q—Why is historic preservation important?

A—It’s important culturally because it is the exclamation point in time of where we’ve been. We can’t reproduce the quality of materials we find in old houses. Economically, it costs less to preserve than to build new.