5.19.2010

History Lessons, Restoration Style

It occurred to me that I have neglected something big ... the history of this little-old-house. From the limited information that is available here is what I have been able to pull together.


Above is a 1953 photo of the back of the house. in this view you can clearly see the Craftsman influence of the neighborhood, but its the front of the house that lays claim to being categorized Shingle-style.

Built by the Shively family as a summer home around 1900 in the prestigious retreat area off the Grand Boulevard, the house is in the late Shingle-style. Wealthy residents of fashionable Old Louisville summered in the area near the new Olmstead-designed Iroquois Park to escape the heat of the city. The house became the full-time residence of the Shively's in 1909 -- they previously maintained a high-style Victorian residence on Breckenridge Avenue, downtown.

The exact build date of the house is unknown because of a fire in the city records office. There are dates written inside the house (on electrical certificates and on a cabinet drawer from 1908 and 1903, respectively) and the house is listed in old directories as the primary residence in 1909.

Joshua C. was a descendant of Christian Shively who settled the Falls of the Ohio, now Louisville, in 1780. He and his wife (?) had two sons, Leslie C. and (?). Leslie, 1911-2005, was a veteran of World War II and after retiring from University of Louisville Alumni Department, spent much of his time restoring horse-drawn vehicles and railway cars. While living here, Leslie spent a great deal of time at Douglas Park, the horse race track at the end of the block that was a major competitor with Churchill Downs, and whose entrance pillars still stand near the street. I do not know information about his brother, but believe his name was Thomas and he was the older brother.

The Shively family lived here until 1946. From both the obvious alterations in woodwork and plaster and some shadows of what was there, there was a significant renovation made to the house interior before 1952. We know they were done before this date because of pictorial evidence. A new pink bathroom was installed (the sink dates specifically to 1948) which is still in place in its entirety. According to an older handyman who did some roof repairs for us, beams were added to the parlor ceiling and an odd "window" was installed in the stairway wall before 1952. The baseboards were all changed (except for a few on the stairs and one hallway that were probably too difficult to alter). After that all of the wood-trimmed doorways that did not have doors in them were stripped of their wood trim and made into curved arches. We know the order of these 2 renovations since the baseboard at the foot of the doorways, where the plinth block would have been, is pieced, and there are still shadows of the wood trim and plastering marks on the walls around the arches. Another significant alteration done before 1952 was the addition of a door to the bottom of the stairway to the third floor. I assume this was to prevent heat from rising into the third floor, which is still unheated space.

It is my presumption that these alterations were done either 1.) to modernize the house before selling in 1946 (the arched doorways seem very 1920's to me) or 2.) they were done to personalize the house by the new owners in 1946-1952.


In the photo above you can clearly see the pieced baseboards where the door trim was removed to make smooth curved arches.

Two significant alterations to the house from the 1952-1960 period are the removal of the back stairs to add a powder room, (this was just confirmed this past week by a former resident who said her father removed the stairs to add the powder room for her grandmother who could no longer get up the stairs to the only bathroom on the second floor) and closing in the front porch to make an additional bedroom for her (there were, after all, 8 people here from 1952-1960) and the subsequent removal of that room to return the porch after 1960.

Based on photos we have of the interior from 1952-1960, few alterations were done to the interior after 1960 beyond paint and some ceiling re-plastering.

It is our plan to remove the curved arched doorways and replace the wood trim in the parlor and dinging rooms, and to remove the wall and window in the stairway and open it back up. We debate about returning the back stairs, but having a second bathroom always seems to win out. other curved arches will probably remain for now.

In about 1960 a wooden deck was added to the back of the house and in about 1964 the wood siding and shake shingles that define the Shingle-style of this house were wrapped in white and mint-green vinyl. At that time the windows in the house were still the original wooden ones. The most recent previous owners removed the wonderful old wooden windows and installed vinyl throughout the house, except the basement.

Our plans for the exterior include releasing the house of its vinyl siding prison and reinstalling some wooden windows (mainly to the facade).




One intriguing mystery is that of the front parlor window. In circa 1956 photos, the front wall of the parlor is perfectly smooth in the space where there is now a window. This window fits the fenestration of the facade perfectly and seems to be an original feature, however, residents from the '50's say there never was a window in that location. It remains a head-scratcher and I bet that only pulling it out, or tearing up the wall will reveal the truth to whether that window was 1.) original, removed and reinstalled, or 2.) simply added after 1960.

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