This Old House’s first broadcast, of the crew’s renovations on the Dorchester House, aired locally in February 1979— the same year, fittingly, that the band Men at Work formed. That band is no more, but the guys play on.
We sat down with TOH master carpenter Norm Abram, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, landscape contractor Roger Cook, host Kevin O’Connor, and show creator Russ Morash—those familiar faces shown here—to share memories, find out what they’ve learned over the years, and get an idea of what keeps the hits coming.
“There’s a real fascination in watching a craftsperson execute a task and solve a problem,” says Russ, and that, in essence, is the show’s magic. Early in his television career, Russ, whose father was a house builder, would occasionally cross paths with a plumber or electrician arriving to fix something at his home as he was leaving for work. “I’d come back, and there’d be a bill on the table, but I really didn’t know what the person had done while I was away.” That got him thinking: Maybe there was a show in there somewhere, one that would document and demystify the home renovation process. He convinced his employer, WGBH, to purchase a run-down Victorian-era house in a rough part of Boston, gathered up a crew, and started filming. The camera was heavy and cumbersome,