Columbus, Ohio USA
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34th Annual Victorian Village Tour of Homes
Century-old homes present unique challenges
by Pat Lewis

September 2008 Issue

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The home of William H. Fish, built in 1890, located across from Goodale Park at the corner of Buttles and Dennison. Jeff Smith, the current owner, purchased the property in 2005, made extensive renovations, and constructed a carriage house out back to replace the one razed in the ‘50s.

The 34th Annual Victorian Village Tour of Homes and Gardens is rapidly approaching, and community members are scurrying around in preparation for the 1000-plus visitors that come from all over the Midwest. Victorian Village and much of the surrounding area is on the National Register of Historic Places, which means the neighborhood homes are architecturally and/or historically significant. Three homes on this year’s tour fit these qualifications and have presented special challenges during renovation. Jeff Smith’s home at the northwest corner of Buttles and Dennison was built in 1890 for William H. Fish of the Fish Stone Company. Haley Boehning’s home on Park Street built in 1910 is a bit newer than most of the homes in the area and is one of only a few “arts and crafts” style dwellings in the Village. The recently renovated condos on Wilbur – just purchased by Dena Gost and Linda Jakes – were built in 1908 and are celebrating their 100th anniversary on the 2008 tour.

The Fish Stone Company Mansion: Owner of Fish Stone Company builds his private residence of stone

This grand structure was built in 1890 for William H. Fish, his wife, Mary, and their daughter Lucella. Lucella was only a year old when the home was built, and she later attended Hubbard Elementary School, erected in 1894. William Fish was one of the best known businessmen in Franklin County. At age 21, he was admitted as a partner in his father’s stone company – later known as The Fish Stone Company. At the time, the company was the oldest in the building stone industry. It was located on W. Main Street approximately where Waterford and Miranova currently stand. The Fish Stone Company had the latest in stone-cutting equipment, a staff of 200, and won some of the largest contracts in Ohio. In 1928, multiple foreclosures were filed on the home, and it was not lived in again as a single family residence until 2005 when it was purchased and renovated by Jeff Smith.

When Smith purchased the home, he talked with friends Steve Hurtt and Dean Berlon, founders/principals of Urban Order Architecture, a firm specializing in the redesign of older homes and work with numerous projects in the city’s Downtown historic districts. Hurtt said the main issue with Smith’s house, as with many older homes, is removing layers of previous remodeling attempts before getting to the original fabric to work with. A major challenge with this particular home was obtaining the necessary variances to construct a new carriage house on the same spot as the old carriage house which had been razed in the 1950s. The city water department was concerned about the location of water lines and wanted the carriage house built 15 feet closer to the home than the original 1890 version, while the Victorian Village Commission and most city council members were delighted to see the architectural drawings of the new carriage house proposed to be built on the original footprint and appearing very similar to the original. Negotiations ensued and finally another friend and neighbor, Kevin Lykens of Generation Custom Builders, constructed the new carriage house where it originally stood. Smith splurged and built the base of the new carriage house with the same kind of stone used in the original home. While digging in the back yard, an old piece of white Columbus limestone was uncovered. In looking at the 1890 picture of the house, it appeared to be one of the old hitching posts. The bottom was broken and jagged but a stonecutter evened the base. The century-old picture of the home also showed a stone ornament in the corner of the yard – thus the old hitching post found a new use.

William Fish donated the stone and canopy for the pedestrian gate in Goodale Park across the street. The gate was designed by Isabell Terrell who lived on Dennison Avenue next to the Sells Circus Mansion. Faces carved in stone near the top of the gate depict Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” from “As You Like It,” with the eighth carving being Lincoln Goodale. By invitation of the 1899 city council members, pupils attending Hubbard were in charge of the dedication ceremony. Charles Collmer, senator from New York, was the “orator of the day” and little Lucella Fish, by then in sixth grade, donated a seat to be placed near the gate.

Arts and crafts architecture in the heart of Victorian Village

Ketron Custom Builders made Haley Boehning’s dreams a reality
at 853 N. Park St.

Architect Steve Hurtt also worked on Haley Boehning’s home on Park Street. He said working on this existing home was a dream project. According to Hurtt “It is always thrilling to remove previous layers, decades of remodeling jobs, and discover the original fabric of the building hidden underneath … and then create a plan for the new owner that works for them the way they want to use the space.” In the case of Boehning’s home, he was excited about the opportunity to restore parts of the original home, as well as design a two-story, 700 square-foot addition to work with the original structure, as well as create some built-in furniture to blend with the “arts and crafts” heritage of the home. The first-floor addition includes a large chef’s kitchen with a 13-foot soapstone island, a chalkboard-faced French door refrigerator, and a rich wood breakfast nook overlooking the backyard. The second floor above the kitchen is a large master bedroom with lots of built-in storage.

Hurtt said in previous jobs he has uncovered seriously deteriorated structures, outdated mechanical systems or abandoned cisterns where the homeowner wants to build an addition. He said this all adds to the complexity of working in older neighborhoods, and he always makes clients aware before starting their project that these issues may arise and it is a good idea to be prepared with a “contingency budget.”

Travis Ketron of Ketron Custom Builders was the contractor in charge of making Boehning’s dreams and Hurtt’s architectural plans become a reality. He said the biggest challenge was going through two stories of the original building to connect the new addition while making it look as if it was part of the original home.

Another challenge was replacing damaged interior wood trim. Not only were new pieces milled to match the existing, but a color specialist was used to make the 6-month old stain match the 98-year-old stain which had aged over time.

Boehning is so delighted with her new home (especially the large elaborate kitchen “perfect for entertaining crowds”) that she has offered to not only show off her home on the Victorian Village Tour in September but also the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) tour in October.

The Hundred Year Renovation
David Iler purchased the neglected three-unit conversion of the Wilber Avenue double two and a half years ago. This was his first total historical renovation and his first time going before the Victorian Village Commission without being accompanied by an architect. One challenge was working within the commission guidelines, such as making the original basement windows secure without the use of glass block or steel bars. Iler said two of his biggest challenges were “being compelled to tear things apart and knowing when to stop” and making things look as if they haven’t been renovated. Apparently “knowing when to stop” in the basement occurred only after every piece of old mortar had been removed from the basement walls and replaced with new mortar to make them beautiful.

To maximize space and functionality, there is a window in the middle of the bathtub enclosure and the kitchen counters run into windows – but done in a way that turns these challenges into assets. Iler did most of the work himself but did use subcontractors on rare occasions – after painting two windows and realizing he had 34 windows left to paint.

About a year ago, Dena Gost happened to drive by the property and was instantly impressed with the renovation in progress. She and Linda Jakes had lived in the neighborhood for the past 15 years and were looking to buy a double together. After contacting Iler and viewing the property, they decided to jump on this unique opportunity, and each of them purchased a condo. Dena said from the moment she first saw the property she could tell the renovation was being done right. After spending years living in the area, she had seen many homes under renovation and noticed that the craftsmanship in this structure was superior to anything else she had seen. Even though the floor plans of the condos are almost a mirror image, the interiors are very different. Gost and Jakes had contacted David early enough in the renovation process that they could each pick their own finishes, light fixtures, and color palette – thus the interiors are unique.

These three homes, plus six other great homes with fascinating stories to tell are on the 2008 Victorian Village Tour of Homes and Gardens. Also, the stately King Avenue Methodist Church will be open in the afternoon to show off recent renovations. The Preview Tour is Saturday evening, September 20, from 4 to 7 p.m. and includes a reception and dinner in large private homes – all included in your $100 donation to enhance the neighborhood. The Main Tour is Sunday, September 21, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets include transportation on a shuttle that will be circling the tour route throughout the day.

Preview Tour tickets, as well as discounted tickets for the Sunday tour, are available at Advance tickets can also be purchased at Spinelli’s Deli on Neil Avenue and Urban Gardener on High Street. Tickets the day of the tour will be available at Spinelli’s Deli only.

For more information on the Tour visit or call the Victorian Village Society at 614-228-2912.

© 2008 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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