Remodeling old homes is rewarding, but it definitely has its challenges. The wear and tear of years can present structural issues along with the basic deterioration of pipes, wiring, and building materials.
In the case of a home that is on a historic register, these challenges can be exacerbated by the need to place historical integrity ahead of expedience and aesthetic intent. The results of meeting these challenges, however, are among the reasons we do what we do.
The vision for this North End remodel was straightforward: restore a basically sound dwelling to something approaching its former glory, and in the process add a garage where none had previously existed. Unfortunately, that vision was probably the straightest thing about this project, as you’ll soon discover.
The original wood siding of the home was covered completely with the kind of metal siding that looked like it was polished and processed. Stripping this away revealed the wood siding beneath the metal — most of which we were able to keep. The back of the home, which was exposed to the most sun, was the notable exception. To add any new siding to the home, however, was complicated by the fact that the entire house was almost 3 inches off level from corner to corner. In addition, sections of the roof were sagging, especially in front of the dormer. The front porch looked as though it should have had a knee wall around it — which would have been historically consistent with that neighborhood. One of the biggest challenges we faced was convincing the Historical District of this, given the home’s historic standing.
To straighten the fascia line of the roof, we had a custom brace fabricated from angle bar and ran it all the way across the roof line to straighten out the dip. We restored or replaced all the wooden siding, constructed a separate garage with details harmonizing the home’s finishes, rebuilt some existing knee braces, and added the pony wall to the front porch. The net result of these efforts was nothing less than the restoration of an old home to its historic beauty.
Building the knee wall around the front porch was crucial to giving the entrance of the home more definition — but getting the approval of the Historical District to build it took some effort. We researched previous owners to see if we could find photographic evidence of its existence, but to no avail. What turned the decision our way was the outline of a former wall that emerged when we removed the metal siding from the home. We took a picture, submitted it to the Historical District, and got the approval we needed — proof that history does repeat itself.
Notes on the images:
Looking at the house from the front. Note the absence of a porch knee wall on the before picture to the above right. Also note the fascia line of the roof dips along the front of the home, especially in front of the dormer. Creative use of a steel brace hidden beneath the new fascia straightened out the dip. Most of the siding on the home was original, whereas the west facing rear yard wall was in rough shape and mostly replaced.
Future garage in back corner of yard and a detail shot showing some of the metal siding peeled way to expose the original wood siding. See below for an historical picture of this corner shortly after the home was build around 1910.
Hours at the historical library resulted in a list of names of people who had lived in this home. I (Michael Snow) noticed that the first name listed, had the same surname as a friend of mine. I called him, and it turned out to be his great grand parents, pictured above. We were looking for pictures of the front of the home to prove that there once was a porch. When we were told by a relative of my friend that they had a picture of the home with the owners in front of it, we were elated! When the above picture arrived, we found that the picture was of the rear of the home – almost had it…The two windows to the left, have been reduced in size, but the larger windows behind the man are in the same place. Also note that the lower corner above the concrete, is the corner shot shown above of the metal siding peeled away.