Remodelers bring Old Northside home back to its former glory
by Barbara E. Cohen
Joe Everhart and his partner, Ken Ramsay, have renovated 20 old houses in various states of disrepair during the last 20 years, but nothing prepared them for reconstructing, renovating and restoring the historic Saenger Chor Building at 1238 N. Park Ave. in the Old Northside neighborhood of Indianapolis.
The property is thought to have once been owned by the Butler family because of its legal description: Butler's College Corner. Built in the 1873 by Anthony Gertner, a tailor, the Italianate manse was the residence of John Dalrymple, president of the Indiana Saddlery Company, from 1904 to 1927. After Dalrymple's death, the Sahara Grotto social club converted the mansion for its use, subsequently selling it to the Seanger Chor, a German men's choral club.
A few years ago, the Saenger Chor decided to downsize, opening the door for Everhart and Ramsay to get involved.
About 12 years ago, Everhart, a real estate agent, became Indianapolis' first member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's historic real estate program, a network of firms specializing in historic homes in Marion County, about 12 years ago. He fell in love with the 8,800-square-foot Saenger Chor Building and bought it without considering the work involved in transforming the 17-room structure back to a single-family residence.
It's a renovation that has taken two years to complete. It was extensive and involved erecting walls to create a bingo parlor on the first floor as well as restoring a partially intact dining room and porches that had been closed in.
It also included updating the kitchen appliances, which are now hidden behind cabinetry in keeping with the style of the house, and even reconstructing stairwells to the upper floors. "I quit counting how many Dumpsters we used to haul away construction debris," says Everhart. "I didn't want to know."
On the ground floor, Everhart and Ramsay had to figure out the original room configuration by pulling up the vinyl flooring and looking for clues. Then they had to decide if the layout of rooms would work for today's lifestyle.
Finally, they had to reconstruct the architectural details, such as Greek columns in the archways, to recapture the house's original style. The good news was that the removal of the staircases to the second floor in or about 1927 preserved many architectural details on the second and third floors — including hard-to-replace hardware and doors.
Thanks to Everhart and Ramsey's close attention to preservation guidelines and historical detail, the Saenger Chor Building was recently named winner of the Angie's List Old House Rehab Award, one of several honors the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana (HLFI) will present in May, National Preservation Month.
"Joe and Ken did a stunning job of recreating elements from before the conversion," says Todd Ravesloot, community preservation specialist for the HLFI. "They retained the German club's basement bar and kept in tact other features to respect the home's history."
With the building now on the market at an asking price of $1.775 million, it seems the remodelers' work is finally paying off.
"An old house will deal you a bunch of surprises even if you think you have a formula for restoration work," says Everhart. "After 20 houses, it is great for this to be the one we're recognized for."