Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Burned-out house restored to historic splendor

reprinted from www.thetennessean.com, article by Angela Patterson

Couple, former owner take structural shell and renovate 1304 McKennie to earn preservation awards

Just two and a half years ago, the Four Square-style home at 1304 McKennie was a burned-out shell, suffering from fire damage and subsequent neglect.

Now, thanks to Jewel and Jim Dedmon and Charlie Crawford, the turn-of-the-century home received a second chance. Crawford assisted the home's new owners in giving the 3,800-square foot, three-story home a complete overhaul, creating a space that retains the home's historic appeal while adding in modern touches.

Their renovation has received restoration and preservation awards from their neighborhood association, the Tennessee Preservation Trust, and most recently, the Metro Historical Commission.

The Tennessee Preservation Trust awarded the home not only because of the spectacular renovation process, but also because of the example they've set.

"Houses like this — structurally sound and a good opportunity for rehabilitation —are often not chosen for rehabilitation because they seem too daunting, when in essence they are houses that offer a solid shell from which to start," said Dan Brown, executive director of the Trust. "This project is an excellent example of how to take a structure that is often avoided and to rehab the project with sensitivity towards its architectural type and style and historic setting."

Fire took out layers
The Dedmons had started to outgrow the home they'd lived in on Holly Street for 13 years. So they decided to start a search for new home, quickly running into several bad remodels. During the course of their home search, Jim ran into Crawford, who owned the home, but didn't have the money to do all the renovations. Thinking they might be interested, he pointed the couple toward 1304 McKennie.

"(Jim) loved it, so he brought me over, thinking I'd say no," Jewel said. "But when I saw it, I said 'Oh my god, we could have the best parties here'. We could both picture as it is now." And to see it that way took some imagination on their part. When they saw the home in the winter of 2005, it'd been badly damaged by fire. Walls were charred, siding was singed and the floors were incinerated. They talked about it at length, and finally decided to purchase the home in January 2006.

"The home was still structurally sound," Jewel said. Drywall and "a layer of wood paneling had been added over the years, and it actually saved the original structure from damage. We call it the 'cleansing fire,' because it got the home back to its original state."

Stolen fixtures were repurchased
After 17 months, the home's renovation was finally complete. The entryway holds the main staircase, dividing the house in two. On the left side of the first floor is an informal living room and breakfast room. A formal living room and dining room fills the right side. The mantle in the informal room was the only one of six mantles in the home that was beyond repair and had to be replaced.

Many of the fixtures and features in the home were purchased at Preservation Station. "After the fire, anything of value quickly went missing," Jewel said. "But Charlie knew who took most of the things, so he went to the places they might be and negotiated to get them back, such as the three sets of pocket doors (on the first floor.)"

The couple wanted to keep the original flow of the home, so they only made one addition, which includes a large kitchen. Since they love to cook and entertain, a massive island with a bar attached anchors the kitchen, allowing guests to sit and chat while the couple cooks. They also designed the cabinets, creating full extension drawers that offer easy access to pots, pans and bowls.

The addition also provided room for a large pantry, a small wine cellar and a half bath. The original half bath was a small cubby underneath the staircase, but the Dedmons transformed the space into a wet bar.

The second floor originally had five bedrooms, but the frail walls of the east side's bedrooms came down to create a master suite, leaving two bedrooms on the west side for guests. A door at the end of the hallway leads to the second-floor veranda. The third floor is a finished attic that houses Jewel's home office.

Scarlett Miles of the Historical Commission says that saving these kinds of homes means saving the historic fabric and institutional knowledge of the area.

"Not only will this preservation project serve as an inspiration for the Nashville community, but it will also challenge individuals and neighborhoods across the state to think creatively and act determinedly about saving endangered buildings in their own communities," Miles said.

"The success of the McKennie project encourages all of us to think differently — outside of the box, if you will — about buildings that appear run-down or in disrepair."