Meridian Street homeowners win 2011 Angie’s List Rehab Award
by Nick McLain
When Rob and Jennifer Sloan purchased their Tudor Revival-style home in 2008, it contained holes in the ceiling, crumbling plaster, substantial water damage, no heat or air conditioning and an extremely overgrown landscape.
“It was basically uninhabitable,” Rob says of the abandoned 1922 estate, located at 4936 N. Meridian St. in the North Meridian Street Historic District in Indianapolis. “It had been vacant for more than 25 years. The house still had TV guides from 1970 on the coffee table. The curtains had disintegrated. The landscape was completely wild."
The Sloans lived across the street from the unkempt property at the time, and were about to begin renovation on that home, when Rob decided to buy the estate. “I used to sneak over and look in the windows,” he says. “I fell in love with the house. I saw its potential.”
His already-hired general contractor, Rob Bennett of highly rated Bly Bennett Inc., says Sloan’s abrupt change of plans took him by surprise. “Rob told me, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news,’” Bennett says. “The bad news: We’re not doing the project on our house. But we bought the house across the street.’ I was thrilled.”
Bennett and more than 15 subcontractors spent the next 18 months restoring the nearly 13,000-square-foot, three-story home to its 1920s splendor. Their efforts, along with the Sloans’ determination to restore the original landscape designed by renowned Chicago landscape architect Jens Jensen, garnered this year’s Angie’s List Old House Rehab Award on July 28 as part of Indiana Landmarks’ Central Indiana Preservation Awards.
“The Sloans have done an excellent job with this rehabilitation,” says Mark Dollase of Indiana Landmarks. “Anybody who takes a property like that, turns it around and does such a beautiful job, we feel that needs to be recognized.”
Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks agrees: “Seeing owners like these invest the time and resources needed to make these classic homes beautiful again really exemplifies what this award is all about.”
Sloan says Bennett and his subcontractors restored every single window and the original walnut hardwood and marble tile floors, completely rewired the home and installed new plumbing and HVAC systems. The contractors also replaced the slate roof and patches of wood stucco, and gave the brick a face-lift. “Nothing was untouched in this renovation,” Sloan says.
A history buff, Sloan says his research on the property led him to Jensen’s original landscape blueprints for the 2-acre lot. Jensen designed the landscape in 1922 for his friend, Dr. Goethe Link, a local surgeon and the home’s original owner. His landscapes are known for their prairie style with native plantings and natural-looking water features. Determined to restore it, Sloan hired local horticulturist Trenda Trusty to help find native plants, including gray dogwoods, sumac, witch hazel, redbud and highbush cranberry. “My hat goes off to Rob,” Trusty says. “It was a huge undertaking. It’s great to be able to restore an absolute treasure like this.”
Improving the landscape also involved removing about 70 full-grown trees to allow sun to reach the new plantings, Sloan says. It required a certificate of appropriateness from the Meridian Street Preservation Commission, which he obtained in May 2008. Robert H. Wilch, commission chairman at the time, says no one objected at the public hearing but he heard grumblings before the hearing. “Once they learned what was being done, people were fine with it,” he says.
Sloan says it’s most gratifying to add to an esteemed neighborhood. “People for a long time were leaving for Carmel or newer neighborhoods, but you can’t really produce this in those places,” he says. “You can try, but it’s not the real thing with the history and uniqueness.”
Couple hires contractors off the List
Rob and Jennifer Sloan hired several local companies to assist them in their 18-month renovation. Those rated on Angie's List include:
- Roby’s Plumbing Inc., Brad Roby, owner; a 10-time Super Service Award winner
- Brian Dickey Electric, Brian Dickey, owner
- The Great Indoors Wood Floors Inc., Brian Depp, owner; 2010 Super Service Award winner
- Architectural Restoration Inc. Michael Usher, owner
- Stewart Roofing, Jim Stewart, owner
- Rod’s Quality Concrete Inc., Rod Vore, owner; 2010 Super Service Award winner
- Kemna Restoration & Construction Inc., Jerry Kemna, owner
Other 2011 Landmark Awards
Indiana Landmarks also chose the Basile Opera Center at 4011 N. Pennsylvania St. for its Adaptive Re-use Award. The building, formerly home to Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, is owned by Angie’s List CEO William Oesterle, who leases the space to the Indianapolis Opera.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway on West 16th Street received the Continued Use Award; the historic Charles S. McBride House, 1516 N. Delaware St., garnered the Sensitive Rehab Award; and the Howard School in Boone County received the Outstanding Restoration Award.
Old House Rehab Award celebrates 10th anniversary
Here’s a look at previous winners:
2010 — Recker House, 59 N. Hawthorne Lane, Irvington
Brian and Emily Mack restored a 1909 bungalow constructed from blueprints designed by celebrated Arts and Crafts furniture maker Gustav Stickley, the inventor of the Craftsman style.
2009 — 3303 N. Pennsylvania St., Meridian Park
Mark Webb and Lee Smith restored this Arts and Crafts home, built circa 1910, by adding a two-car garage, dual porches, a 22-by-20 master bedroom and a basement wine cellar.
2008 — Wilkinson House, 3444 N. Washington Blvd., Mapleton-Fall Creek
To restore this 1917 house, Jackie Nytes, a city councilwoman, and Michael O’Brien exposed servants’ stairs, kitchen and pantry by removing walls and expanding doorways for an open floor plan.
2007 — Louis C. Huesmann House, 3148 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Mapleton-Fall Creek
David and Angela Colby resurrected this 1896 mansion, originally the home of Central Supply founder Louis C. Huesmann, by expanding the kitchen, creating a new master bathroom, and restoring the woodwork, plaster walls and ceilings.
2006 — Ansel B. Denton House, 605 Fletcher Ave., Fletcher Place
Brian and Diane Stewart rebuilt this 1873 Queen Anne from the ground up, including restoring fish scale gable shingles and adding a new staircase. They also replaced deteriorated floorboards, broken windows, a collapsing roof and missing plaster.
2005 — Saenger Chor Building, 1238 N. Park Ave., Old Northside
Real estate agent Joe Everhart and his partner, Ken Ramsay, spent two years renovating this 1873 Italianate mansion, including building new stairwells, erecting new walls and opening up once-enclosed spacious porches.
2004 — Latt-Oberreich House, 1930 N. Alabama St., Herron-Morton Place
Carole and Gary Swift rehabilitated this 6,000-square-foot house, built in 1898, by removing aluminum siding and restoring the original custom-made wood shingles and siding.
2003 — 828 Middle Drive, Woodruff Place
William and Kirsten VantWoud’s renovations to their 1901 Colonial Revival took more than a year and included restoring original oak and beechwood trim obscured by decades of paint.
2002 — 921 Camp St., Ransom Place
Rebecca Mullin’s restoration of this early 1900s shotgun cottage included rescuing a termite-ravaged foundation, restoring an original wood exterior and recreating a cathedral ceiling. Mullin also tore down the front porch’s 1950s-era remodel and restored it with beautiful railings, new paint and intricate corbels.