What To Do With 118 S. Driver Street? Part 3
“Hey Wendy, it’s Victoria. Call me back when you have a chance.” She sounded very serious.
Victoria Broccolo is usually an effusive Italian-American New Yorker. More than once she had called me, excited about hidden features found during the rehab process. This sounded different. I called her back.
“So,” she said, “The back part of the house has to come down”. Sigh.
This wasn’t a complete surprise. We all knew that the rear addition had some major structural problems. This wasn’t the oldest part of the house, but it was built not long after the original (Sanborn maps date its construction to sometime before 1913). Thankfully it wasn’t the part of the house that faced the street; it was a utilitarian addition, devoid of exterior ornament. Still, it was an unwanted complication that was going to add time and expense to an already tight budget.
Victoria texted me a video. Sure enough, there was the addition, coming down.
When Nick, Victoria and I first met to talk about the house and its rehab, we agreed to value the original features of the exterior over the interior layout. As mentioned previously, the 7′-tall (original height at bottom of joists) interior ceilings were oppressive and the second floor, built into the eaves, was accessed by a narrow, steep stair and had its own low ceiling issues. This is part of why, despite the many parties who had looked at it, the house hadn’t sold in 6 years on the market.
The exterior charm was an asset; the interior realities, a liability.
I agreed to let them remove the second floor and raise the ceiling height of the first floor to the very bottom of the second floor dormer windows. This opened up the floorplan considerably and gave it a welcome light and airiness.
As for the addition: it had sagging, overstressed floor and ceiling joists, and an odd floor plan. We were going to make this work, but had largely planned on reconfiguring the original spaces.
After Victoria’s call, we quickly regrouped. Wood floors and doors were salvaged from the wreckage for reuse, and the rest was removed. The addition was rebuilt, using the same floorplans originally permitted for the remodel. A new kitchen and 2 new bathrooms were added, recycled wood floors were installed and refinished throughout the house, new moldings installed (using custom-cut profiles to match those found in the oldest part of the house) and the original mantels retained in both the living and dining rooms.
On the exterior, the vinyl siding, installed sometime after 1980, was removed, revealing intact German drop siding in good condition below (begging the question of why the vinyl was ever installed in the first place). Removing the vinyl siding revealed paint shadows at the location of original decorative floral appliques over the windows; these were re-cut out of new wood to match the found outlines.
Original wood windows were restored and the buckling floor of the wrap-around porch was reinstalled and refinished. A salvaged door, to match the original multi-lite front door (visible in the 1980 photo) with side-lites, was installed in place of the generic Home Depot door that had appeared within the last 30 years. As for the addition, it uses wood siding that exactly matches that of the original building.
The Final Reveal
I’m biased, but the results are stunning. When you compare the before and after images you see a desirable home that has been given a new life. And to think that there were those who wrote this house off as undesirable and beyond saving.
These are exactly the type of before-and-after images I love to share as they show that modern living can be accommodated in a home with character, soul and history. The exterior of the house, restored to its original appearance, continues to add to the distinct character of the neighborhood.
Tomorrow I’ll follow up with a discussion of why historic neighborhoods, like East Durham, are so important to the health of the city as a whole, why they are great places to live, and all the collaborative work it takes (from residents, non-profits and local government) to encourage reinvestment.
Wendy Hillis, AIA