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Restoring The Charm Of An Old Main Street Home

Diane Thompson was attracted to the old home’s charm.

The 1899 Victorian at 54 Main Street, with its quaint front porch ideal for sitting and sipping iced tea on summer evenings, had been on the market for a long time. In the last couple of years she had watched the tan-colored house as its paint slowly crumbled and moss grew on the roof. She waited for the price come down.

“It took a while to get it,” she said. But within the last few months since she bought it on a short sale, “which is never short,” the house has been hers, and renovations with the intent to resell have begun, she said.

“It feels homey; I hope I can bring it back so it is homey,” she said.

A banner facing Main Street shows off her new website: 54MainStreet.com, where Ms Thompson is detailing the project. She is coordinating the renovations with her husband, Chip Carpenter, who is often seen working with the contractors.

On her site, which she updates with photos and comments regularly, are pictures of the woodwork, staircases, entryway, bedrooms, attic, basement, and more.

Added to photos of the hardwood entry and main staircase, she writes, “Imagine greeting your friends here,” and, of another set of stairs off the kitchen at the back of the house leading to the far end of an upstairs hall is the remark, “Every home needs a set of rear stairs as well.”

Accompanying photos of the kitchen as it was are those showing a work in progress, with patched drywall and bare floors, and a color rendering of the preliminary finished design with the comment, “Here’s the kitchen. Tough room, five doors, one staircase, and two windows.”

Her website’s photos and added thoughts about the sitting room, with its tall windows, hardwood floors, and high ceiling, offer a glimpse into life at home in the late 1800s. She wrote, “The sitting room — right behind the parlor was where the women would retire after dinner, leaving the men in the dining room. The room has lots of windows and what used to be a false fireplace. It appears that there was never a fireplace in the house.”

Ms Thompson walked through the house in mid-June, describing its sunny front rooms and living space as “comfy,” and “homey.” She had spent time reading about Victorian houses and was able to point out which room off the front foyer was the sitting room, and which was meant for dining. She noted a space where a false hearth, mantel and fireplace façade had been ripped away to reveal old plaster and lathe.

Glancing upward in the dining room she noted the tin ceiling. “It was typically painted in white to cover the tin to look like ornate plaster,” she said. Underfoot were original hardwood floors, refinished in places.

 

Keeping It Traditional

Walking deeper into the house she stopped at a doorway. “This is the kitchen,” she said. On its floors were marks where counters had stood. To the side was the house’s back staircase, leading upstairs and lined with a curving, solid wooden banister. The space would present challenges during remodeling. Already contractors had taken out radiators and installed in-floor radiant heat to make more room for appliances and counter space. One side wall had been bumped out slightly to accommodate a refrigerator and a pantry

Despite the changes meant to make the most of the kitchen space, she said, “I am trying to keep it traditional and period.” Victorian kitchens, however, may not be something modern kitchen designers want to copy, she said. She indicated that there had been no upper cabinets, and only occasionally a sink.

Taking the back stairway to the second floor hallway, Ms Thompson pointed out two back rooms. A small, roughly six-foot by eight-foot space with a shallow closet was the maid’s quarters, she said. She hopes to turn it into a laundry room.

Three bedrooms, two of them connecting, ran along the sides and front of the house. The Edmond Town Hall’s front steps and white pillars were visible from the second-story front room. Ms Thompson stepped into the hallway and glanced up at a third set of stairs. Taking the narrow steps cautiously, she climbed to the attic. Already installed are new skylights brightening the space, which sits warm and dry beneath a new roof. She envisions the attic as a possible living space.

Heading back downstairs, Ms Thomson turned on a light to illuminate another staircase beneath the back kitchen stairs. It led to a basement crisscrossed with an old drainage network, but the space was still damp. A company was scheduled to install new drains so the basement space would be wet no longer, she said.

Heading back upstairs to the main floor, Ms Thompson said someone living in the house would have an easy walk to the Edmond Town Hall or to the General Store, the C.H. Booth Library, or “walk all over.”

From the side yard she pointed to a small porch area that has been replaced with newer sturdier stairs off the kitchen. Off that back door was a deep, narrow yard including a single-car garage.

 

Ready Later This Year

She hopes the renovations will take less than a year to complete, and imagines the house will be “in good shape by Halloween,” and wonders if she will invest in buying candy to hand out to the more than 2,000 trick-or-treaters that annually crowd Main Street on October 31.

From a spot on the lawn in the backyard and in the shade of mature trees, she said, “It’s remarkably quiet.” Inside the house will be even quieter once new windows are installed, she said. Offering other details she had learning since beginning the project, she said she had spoken with an architect who told her old growth wood had been used in its architecture, which is harder and more dense than wood used from new growth lumber.

Her overall feeling toward the renovations is that “it has to be done right.” It is structurally “not bad,” and a look at her website will reveal “what we did and what we found” as contractors began repairs, replacements, and renovations. As the project moves ahead, she said, “To make it modern would be off.” Already she has been shopping for plumbing fixtures for example, and shakes her head at so many of the choices saying, “No, no, and no, that won’t be right.”

The 54MainStreet.com site includes spaces where readers are welcome to leave their comments and thoughts about the ongoing restoration project.

The most recent updates to the website from June 26, 30, and July 1 offer hints at the ongoing work.

June 26: “Very busy week. We worked on planning an egress window for the attic — not so easy with the roof lines. Thank goodness the building inspector [John Poeltl] is so helpful. Plumbing in the [second] floor bathroom has made real progress and we have started laying out the bathroom on the third floor.”

June 30: “Today — the basement. French drains around the perimeter and two sump pumps — then a new concrete floor. Should be high and dry forever.”

July 1: “The new column is up — what a difference.” As Ms Thompson had said recently, one of the front porch columns did not match — a small detail that did not go unnoticed. Also listed on the website are the contractors at work on the property, including construction, electric, chimney services, plumbing, glass, and more.

The 2,000-square-foot house sits on .48-acre and has been listed on real estate sites as a single-family home.

More stories like this: 54 Main Street, Diane Thompson, restoration
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