Restoration of Queen Anne home wins 2006 Old House Rehab

Restoration of Queen Anne home wins 2006 Old House Rehab

Not long after Brian and Diane Stewart began construction on their dream house at 607 Fletcher Ave. during the summer of 2004, their builder walked off the job. Diane was pregnant at the time, but Brian tackled the challenge of being his own general contractor in order to realize their plans for a home in historic Fletcher Place, where the two married in a neighborhood church and Diane's father grew up.

Two years later, he's sure it was the right decision. Brian and Diane not only own the home of their dreams, but they also recently won the Angie's List Old House Rehab Award — one of five preservation awards presented annually by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana — for rescuing the dilapidated house next door.

"I got exactly the house I wanted and was able to duplicate that experience [at 605 Fletcher Ave.]," Brian says.

The Stewarts' seven-month restoration project brought the Ansel B. Denton House, an 1873 Queen Anne, back to life. When they bought the place in March 2005, it was cut up into four apartment units and had been vacant for a good three or four years.

"It was just an eyesore, but I could feel the potential it had," Brian says. "A tree was actually growing into the front of the house."

As if deteriorated floorboards, broken windows, a collapsing roof, missing plaster and a hodge-podge floor plan weren't enough, they also had to battle more than 100 years of "updates" and repairs that weren't in keeping with the home's original Queen Anne design.

"We essentially rebuilt the home from top to bottom and front to back," Brian says. "We kept what we could, but so much of it was rotted, including the original shake roof that was beneath four layers of shingles."

Because the Stewarts had no old photos to consult and aren't historians by trade, they relied on their imaginations and Steve Logan, a local historical architect, for help with the layout and structural issues. They also worked closely with Meg Purnsley of the Indiana Historic Preservation Commission.

"With a project like this one, you have to get everything approved by the IHPC," Brian says.

In addition, B.W. Shield, a contractor with an extensive background in IT, offered his expertise in old-house restoration. "Queen Anne houses always have a strong measure of detail," Shield says. "This project was one of my favorites and ranks near the top in difficulty and reward."

Thanks to Diane's finishing touches, the Stewarts completed the 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, four-bathroom home in January 2006. The exterior boasts many original elements, including "fish scale" shingles in the gable, beaded decking on the front and side porches, and ornate window surrounds.

Inside, a double-faced fireplace, oak floors, a custom staircase, high ceilings, granite countertops, paneled fir doors with high-end hardware, and crown trim work created by a family-owned shop in Madison, Ind., all accent the new open floor plan. Shield networked the entire house for Internet access and a sound system.

To be considered for the Angie's List honor, the Stewarts' restoration had to meet the HLFI's criteria regarding the building's age and the project's completion date, as well as the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation.

The upscale home with views of the downtown skyline is on the market for $529,000.

"At this point, we really don't stand to make money on the project," Brian says. "But that's OK. We did this to put a nice home next to our own but mostly to help revitalize the neighborhood one home at a time."

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