Historic Greenwood, Ind., house gets modern makeover

Historic Greenwood, Ind., house gets modern makeover

Where many saw a dilapidated and decayed old farmhouse on South Nay Road in Greenwood, Angie's List members Jay and Tamra Kress saw a diamond in the rough.

Built in the 1860s, the simple nine-acre homestead in a rural area east of Interstate 65 showed its age: crumbling portions of a hand-laid brick foundation, a missing front porch addition and a blackened interior from a fire.

"The house was clearly not habitable," says Wayne Olander, owner of highly rated Arteffects Architectural Interiors, the Indianapolis company hired by the couple to redesign the house, but keep its historic character.

The project's cost - nearly $220,000 (just slightly less than its purchase price) - didn't deter the Kresses either. They remained resolute in their desire to preserve the farmhouse's vernacular while adding modern convenience.

"To build a structure of that quality today would be way more in cost," Jay says, adding that the home also included a stable for Tamra's horses and it's located near his family business.

The home's original floor plan started with two bedrooms upstairs accessible via a central staircase and two rooms downstairs. Over the decades, homeowners had added three poorly built rooms.

After demolishing the additions, Greg King of King's General Contracting in Pittsboro, Ind., removed the original structure's plaster walls and antiquated interior by hand. The work included removing original nails from hand-hewn lumber planks, most likely sourced from the farm's original acreage.

"My first thought when I saw the house was 'Wow!'" King says, adding that a new home built to today's standards would have been less costly. "With the considerable expense with that type of demolition, you'd almost be better starting from scratch."

Using Olander's plans, King built a new two-story addition and reconfigured the home's layout to add more space for a master bedroom suite and guest bedroom, which included lengthening the staircase. He also installed oak flooring and hickory kitchen cabinets, both hardwood species indigenous to Indiana, along with all new plumbing and electrical wiring.

The Kresses' biggest challenge came with its most modern amenities. "My biggest objective was to make sure I had the most efficient systems possible," Jay says, so he added a high-efficiency cooling system and copious amounts of energy-efficient sprayed foam insulation. This led to an R19 insulation rating, which is similar to a new highly efficient home.

The home's in-floor radiant heating system, which required a concrete flooring overlay, proved to be the crowning touch. Tom Schubert, a structural engineer with highly rated Triad Associates in Indianapolis, says reconfiguring the home's load-bearing characteristics to include modern items such as the heated floor system proved complex, but rewarding. "They wanted to preserve the historic nature of the house and they did a remarkable job at it," Schubert says.

The Kresses also preserved history by keeping the original fireplace and including new period-style windows and doors that fit in the existing casements. The effort took more than a year to complete. "I always wanted to do a project like this and I'm glad I did it," Jay says.

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