Mansion restoration earns historic preservation honor
by Eric Hartz
When David and Angela Colby moved to Indianapolis in 2004 and began looking for a home, they thought they knew what they wanted — a traditional house near a lake, creek or golf course. But after months of fruitless searching, the Colbys decided to take a different approach.
"We spent some time looking at houses that contractors had bought and fixed up," Angela says. "David had the idea that if we bought an old house, we could do it our way."
That idea became a reality — and last month the Colbys' historic home at 3148 N. Pennsylvania Ave. was named the winner of the 2007 Angie's List Old House Rehab Award, an annual honor presented by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana to a homeowner who restores a house while following preservation guidelines.
"We're always pleased to be a part of the Old House Rehab Award because restoration and revitalization projects speak to our core mission," Angie Hicks says. "Well-maintained structures address quality of life and quality of place issues that make houses homes."
The 6,800-square-foot, four-bedroom mansion was originally the home of early 20th-century city leader and Central Supply founder Louis C. Huesmann. The building, designed by renowned architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, became a boarding house after Huesmann's death and eventually fell into disrepair.
"It was very important to me to take the house back to its original grandeur while updating it with modern conveniences," Angela says.
The Colbys enlisted architect Bill Tabberson of Harwood+Tabberson Architects and contractor John Barrett of BLS Construction to help them realize their vision.
"We tried to imagine how Howard Van Doren Shaw would have proceeded, and the spirit of those conversations drove the project," Tabberson says.
The original house had quarters for three servants, and that extra space allowed the interior renovation to proceed without altering the home's exterior. The contractors gutted the servant's quarters — a kitchen and laundry room on the main floor and bedrooms on the second — expanding the kitchen on the main level and creating a master bathroom with a walk-in closet and sitting room on the second.
Throughout the rest of the house, the original woodwork, plaster walls and ceilings were restored to their original appearance.
"Angie's List promotes high standards in home improvement and restoration, a goal shared by Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana," says Mark Dollase, vice president of the foundation's preservation services. "Angela and David Colby held themselves and their contractors and craftsmen to the highest standards in returning the Huesmann House to its 1906 glory. The result shows their commitment to doing it right."