Lessons from the past inform a modern-day
makeover of a former schoolhouse
in an historic district
I wonder what grade Miss Violet Ransome, schoolmistress would give the recently edited façade of her former home and neighborhood schoolhouse. Sometime after the first owner’s departure, stewards of Miss Ransome’s house closed in the front porch to add a couple of small sitting rooms. The resulting recessed front entry did not ring in the warmest of welcomes. And the new rooms’ angled windows fell short of the current owners’ notion of a classic Craftsman house.
For my homework, I studied house designs in the early 20th Century pattern books I keep in my office. Remarkably, one of those books was published by the J.D. Loizeaux Lumber Company, which at one time conducted business less than a mile from this house. Perusing these books, I was reminded of what I had learned in school about Craftsman-, Shingle- and Colonial Revival-Style houses. I applied my lessons to make for a better read to the story of this eclectic house nearly 100 years after it was built.
With the local historic preservation commission’s blessing, I expelled the underachieving bay windows and brought in better-performing box bays that extend the roof plane. Paired French doors on twin second floor balconies provided the design cue for doubled casement windows. A portico of paired posts spanned by a decorative beam ceremoniously marks the front entry. New whitewashed paneling brightens porch walls while built-in benches offer a seat to take recess.
With remedial work, the house now seems as smart as the studied designs of its neighbors. Tell me, Miss Ransome, does my revision of your old house make the grade?