Porch put back from a picture

A young couple bought the house across the street from us in 2003.  Shortly after they bought it they painted it and got a 50/50 grant to put a cedar shingle roof on it.  It is heartwarming to see newcomers to the world of old houses do things the best way.  As you can see at right, it had never been painted in the seventen  years we had lived across the street.

The owner started looking into what type of porch would have been on the house.  The Sandborn map indicated that it had a large wrap around porch. Then as destiny would have it, relatives of the origianl owners dropped in to see the house and to give them an old picture which showed the porch with classic Italianate posts.   The owners hired me to help them design the porch and make the elements.

The canopy over the front door was obviously not original. When they took off the canopy they found an original transom window and realized that the origianl opening had two doors, not one door and side lights.  The owner searched on-line and found two very approprite doors in an architectural salvage yard in Maine that actully fit his opening exaclty.  He had them shipped here and are now a wonderful addition to the home.

The owner took his old picutre and drawings to the Design Review Committee and got his plan approved.

I made a mock up of an Italianate post and balusters.  We put it onthe house and both agreed the spindles were too heavy so I made another with smaller spindles.

I used a design for the brackets from brackets found on old houses in the neighborhood.  I never create anything new, just use designs found on actual old houses. The design of the capitol is one often found on Italiante chamfered posts.

While we were discussing th porch I noticed the eaves had marks for large oaured brakcets oftne found on Italinate homes.  I took a design from a house nearby and made new brackets for the house.

Because of their above and beyond effort in rehabbing the house, the couple were awarded a Mayor’s award.

Before the porch was finished the owners offered to be a restoration in progress on the annual housewalk. A few years later, they were on a second time to show off the finished porch and a new designer bathroom.

Here is an article from the Herald talking about the young couple that bought the house and then did such a great job of rehabbing it:

Rebekah Isaacson let her boyfriend talk her into buying a junk-filled wreck of an old house where neighbors parked their cars and changed their oil on the gravel in the back yard.

Five years later Rebekah Berry has a husband, a young son and a historic Elgin home that sports a wraparound porch any old-house fan would envy and interior amenities like a great kitchen.

This is a love story on many levels.
Rebekah really wanted to own a home and, even though it was her significant other, Chris Berry, who fell in love with this Italianate built in 1872, she insisted on buying it on her own because they weren’t married or even engaged.

While she trusted his word that he would make it beautiful, her parents didn’t. But when he handled the pre-purchase walk-through for her, he planted romantic notes throughout the house and proposed the day the sale was finalized.

“I promised her I was going to fix this house up, and it took me five years to prove this is the place we should be,” said Berry, who worked as a carpenter while going to college and now is a Web developer.

“He kept his promise,” said Rebekah, a financial planner. “The first week he painted the whole front of the house-I think to show he was serious and not going to leave me high and dry. One day my mother and I went shopping, and in the time we were gone he and his friend Ed Helm closed in one of the many doors into the house, sided it and painted it.”

Although Dan Miller, a neighbor across the street who is well-known in Elgin old-house circles, showed up with ideas for rebuilding the front porch, Rebekah thought the interior should rank among the first projects.

And it did, with one of Chris’ major achievements the creation of an Italian cafe-inspired kitchen in what had been the dining room.

Rebekah’s father owns a sawmill in Wisconsin, and the kitchen’s cherry flooring came from a tree that had held a playhouse for her and her siblings.

The couple painted the walls with shades of creamy gold and merlot purple selected from the tile backsplash of multicolored slate. The cabinets are maple trimmed with American cherry.

A cutout into the nearby living room provides a charming space for a table and chairs and borrows light from a bay window that stretches to the floor.

To get a feeling for the amount of work Chris did, you should know the walls in the living room were covered with paneling, the birdseye maple flooring was black and the walnut staircase railing was covered with two layers of green oil paint.

His pride and joy is the fireplace mantel in the front parlor that he built with first-growth walnut donated again from his father-in-law’s sawmill.

Except for one recalcitrant piece of trim, Chris is finished with the first level, said Rebekah, and plans to create a master suite on the second.

But it’s the exterior that neighbors like Miller and passers-by can appreciate every day.
When Rebekah bought the house not only was the paint chipping and the siding falling off, but it had a concrete stoop, an asphalt sidewalk, an ugly leaking roof and a single front door with no relationship to the home’s style or era.

An early photo provided by a descendant of a long-gone resident proved the house had once worn a wraparound porch. Berry rebuilt the deck, Miller made historically accurate spindles, posts and railings, and a carpenter put it all together. The city of Elgin provided significant help with matching grants for the front of the house and a new cedar roof.

The elegant double doors with round-topped windows came from a New Hampshire antiques dealer, but they look like they were made for the house, which is confirmed by the marks the original hinges left.

“The double doors make this house what it is,” said Chris.
Chris was raised in an old Elgin house and chose to return because he liked the prices of the area homes and the fact that Gifford Park is close to downtown.

And he thinks buying old houses and fixing them up is a good choice for young people struggling to afford their first homes.

“They have more character and depth,” he said. “We never would have been able to afford to do this if we had contracted out.”

His wife agrees – to a point.
“I love the house,” said Rebekah Berry, “but I don’t know that I would do it again.
If I ever had a daughter who did this, I would put my foot down and say ‘no way.'”

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