SAN ANTONIO – We all have a place we call home, but home for Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) math professor Daniel Cheshire is a little different than most. Cheshire is nearing completion on his hand-built house in the Hill Country, having spent over 20 years working on the project.
After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1999, Cheshire moved to Austin, but he found himself growing tired of city life.
“Me and three other friends decided to go check out some land in the Hill Country,” Cheshire said. “We went out to Wimberley and just looked around, and together we decided that we would like to move out there.”
The four pooled their resources together to buy ten acres of land.
“It was just a blank piece of land, just a lot of juniper trees,” Cheshire said.
Having bought the land, Cheshire’s attention turned to building himself a place to live.
“I didn’t have any specific plans about what I wanted to do,” Cheshire said.
Cheshire’s first building project was a 16-foot by 16-foot cabin. After its completion, he turned his attention to the larger house that he would eventually call home. Cheshire, who was teaching high school at the time, used his off time during the summer to work on the project.
The new house was built using a straw bale structure, as it was financially viable, environmentally friendly and easy to construct.
“Essentially, it’s just a bunch of big straw bricks,” Cheshire said. “I realized that I had no construction experience whatsoever, so I bought myself a couple of books, and I read up and figured out how to do it.”
Cheshire eventually completed the first structure, which measured about 1200 square feet, around 2010. A few years later, he married and had his first child, which necessitated an addition to the house.
“Right about the time that [my daughter] was born, my wife and I decided that the house was going to be too small,” Cheshire said. “We decided to build an addition, which is a whole different kind of project.”
The addition, a three-story cylindrical structure measuring 30 feet in diameter, would become known as “the tower.”
“We’ve just gotten to the point where that cylindrical tower is ‘dried in’ or environmentally controlled,” Cheshire said. “We’ve been working on that structure for five years now.”
The tower proved to be a different challenge, with design needs resulting in a more carpentry-based structure.
“It was really a fun and great process to design it,” Cheshire said. “I did all of the design myself. I had a lot of fun designing that.”
After inheriting a significant amount of money, Cheshire was able to hire his friends to help him construct the tower.
“I was also able to pay my friends a living wage,” Cheshire said. “I want them to feel that this is their project as well.”
With the help of his friends, Cheshire has nearly completed his latest construction project.
“We’re now getting to the part where we’re building out the fun stuff on the inside,” Cheshire said. “I’d say that me and my family can probably move in by this summer, which is really exciting.”
For Cheshire, the most rewarding thing about the project has been “getting into the work.”
“I never enjoyed anything as much as sometimes working late into the night stuccoing a wall or tiling a floor,” Cheshire said. “The ability to do work with my own two hands has been the most rewarding thing I can imagine. I absolutely love it.”
Cheshire credits his success to being able to learn.
“The ability to do it is really just a matter of being a lifelong learner, paying attention to my education early on, and then being creative in how I might apply the education that I had gained over the years,” Cheshire said.
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