Preservation Durham Awards: 508 Ottawa

Jan. 05, 2013 @ 03:11 PM


Quinn & Galen Williams, with their growing family, really liked the idea of living in a big old house, but the ones that were already done were too expensive or not quite right.  

In contrast,  508 Ottawa was so cheap they could basically buy it outright -- so what if it needed everything?  Launching into the project, they hired Sara Davis Lachenman of Four over One Design and chose Riverbank Construction as contractor, and thought, how hard can it be?

The house has quite a history. It was built as a one-story house around the turn of the 20th century, then had a second story added in 1928 to make it a duplex. It stayed a rental for the next 80 years, until it was a complicated warren of little rooms, with partially boarded windows, layers of drop ceilings and the most depressing shade of beige paint.   Dingy and falling apart, it was put up for sale and sat on the market for years as Cleveland-Holloway started turning around.   Every potential buyer walked through it and left, stumped by how to transform it.

The biggest puzzle was the floor plan. Given that it had never been a single-family, two-story home, the two interior staircases were not original to the home and felt like tunnels.   Not once, but twice, back porches had been added to the rear then enclosed.   Rooms had been turned into kitchens and bathrooms to squeeze more out of the place.  The front porch had two doors, no windows, and an upside-down picket fence installed as a railing.  It was, without a doubt, ugly.

Taking the leap that they could grow to love this place, they put together clues like an original sidelight at the front and unusual framing between the two stories to arrive at a reasonable, livable plan.  During construction, extensive termite damage was discovered -- but so were original beaded board ceilings and lovely wood floors that had been long hidden.  From a gracious stair hall at the front of the house to a breakfast nook mudroom, and sunroom at the rear, the house now works for their whole family.  Galen and Quinn are thrilled with the result and their decision to jump.

Of course, while juggling the renovation project, which was full of questions to answer and decisions to be made, they were also expecting their third child - who was born a month after they moved in.  So much for making it easy!

Preservation Durham is pleased to award them a Neighborhood Conservation Award for all their work to 508 Ottawa.