by Sharon Kenny
* This article grew out of conversations Sharon Kenny, of Mt. Airy, had with her friends and neighbors who are interested in the homes and architecture in the Northwest. Kenny is a painter who also works independently as a marketing consultant. She studied interior design and history of architecture at Moore College of Art and Design. Ian Toner, an architect mentioned in this article, is a friend and client of hers.
Sometimes a confluence of place and people with vision can make a world of difference. With homes and neighborhoods, this can be especially true. Take Mt. Airy, for example. I visit people’s houses all the time and live in one that was built in the late 1880s. These old homes in the Northwest can be quite extravagant in scale and detail. Restoring or renovating them can take a slew of resources, vision and patience. This is why I consider myself lucky to bear witness to some careful renovation work being done presently at 6678 Lincoln Drive.
When it was built, this 1904 home had a period-appropriate layout and many beautiful details: Tiffany glass windows, a lovely wrap-around porch and a large entry hall with a fireplace. You can tell that the builder took great care in how visitors experienced his space. When I walked into the foyer over the winter months and when work was really just beginning, I imagined walking into a dinner party seeing friends laughing by the fireplace and couples sitting in the deep set windows.
Over time, however, age took its toll, and eventually, this extraordinary home went the way of some Mt. Airy properties. A home that was very special ended up being a dilapidated boarding house. The front porch’s bannister was collapsing, and overgrown ivy covered the windows. Most people must have passed by this home without much notice or, like me, sat at the light at McCallum judging whoever was responsible for its downfall.
Two years ago, a company called Red Oak Builders bought it for $210,000 from a holding company in Georgia with the intention to restore, renovate and sell it. It has been vacant since then. They hired local architect Ian Toner for architectural and design services. They got their permit at the beginning of March and started construction in mid-March. It took about two months to complete. The house will be going up for sale at the end of the month. They won’t set a sale price until then.
The love that Ian Toner and Red Oak hold for homes in the Northwest area is clear, but finding a good renovation opportunity on just the right block is a rarity. This property, however, had it all. Location, many original design elements, 3,972 square feet, six bedrooms, one office/den and two baths, so many hard decisions had to be made. What were they going to cut, and what could be saved? In the end, their restoration and renovation vision contained thoughtful modernization while attempting to keep as many of the original details as possible.
The roof got completely redone, and they refinished the stairs. Many other details came along for the ride, too. The team restored all of the original woodwork, and the Tiffany windows were restored, refinished, and reglazed. The fact that they were able to keep all of the old glass is, to me, nothing short of a miracle. Italian marble was installed in the bathrooms. The design team’s approach was to research the home’s original architectural elements to see what worked together.
With that knowledge and some upgrades the look and layout began to flow naturally from one room to the next. One particular Herculean effort took what was once the third floor’s eight-foot ceiling and extended it skyward. Toner and Red Oak used the house’s high roof pitch as an opportunity to push the ceiling up and expose the brickwork in order to add depth and dimension. This space is now a master bedroom suite, which created much more light in the room and celebrated the home’s soaring spirit.
I have to say, after seeing this home’s loving transformation, this gives me hope for some of the forgotten properties peppered in and around Mt. Airy. As I walk these blocks after dinner, it’s easy to see through some of the large windows along Lincoln Drive. One home might have a warm glow of a light from a side study, or another will showcase a painting above its mantel. Other homes, however, still sit in complete darkness with only a memory of what they once were.
I think that both Ian Toner and Robert Medina, project manager for Red Oak Development Group, deserve public credit for their beautiful work that was quite sensitive to the original architecture. Many other properties in the Northwest have been long ignored and are also in desperate need of a facelift.
For more information, visit studiospeaks.com/author/sharonlkenny/.