Friday, May 15, 2015

Riverton's Little House Keeps Growing

Tarp gone! New roof, new windows, new porch!
For years it was neglected. Collapsed roof, rotting floors, rusting pipes. Families living in homes nestled along the river, passed it on their way into town for an ice cream cone at Nellie Bly's, or a fresh pastry at the Orange Blossom Cafe, without much thought. The decaying structure whose residents consisted of spiders, mice and squirrels, just couldn't demand the attention of those passing by...until now.

505 Main Street is on its way back. Big time! Blue plastic tarp has been replaced by new rafters and roof. New windows and siding surround the exterior while the interior is undergoing a complete overhaul. Wide planked hardwood flooring has taken hold where old linoleum floors have been removed.

Kitchen hardwood floors covered by tarp as drywall goes up!
With a tentative early-June completion goal, there is much more to do. It's still a building with a mission, not a home yet. But thanks to the vision of the new owners, it is well on its way!

On a recent visit, I discovered how easy it was to step into the newly renovated concept and then take the next step into the past. One thing is for sure. If the kitchen is really the heart of a home, this soon to be gem will have a really big heart!

The kitchen will sit center stage with a large island and additional eating area! Stone countertops and stainless steel appliances will add to its upscale function. Overhead beams have been installed to support the newly added master bedroom, en suite and walk-in closet on the upper level, in the rear of the house. Behind the kitchen on the lower level will be a quest bathroom on one side and a laundry room on the other.

A new tub sits in preparation of a full second bath upstairs.
Researching the design of older homes, it seems that two things were kept in mind; construct houses with lots of rooms and doors. The purpose was to provide large families (in the 1800's the average family size was 7), acquire an area of "private" space. And also, since fireplaces were initially the main source of heat, doors of rooms not being used could be closed to provide more warmth to those in use.

But since we have scaled the average family size down to four or five, tops, along with the development of highly efficient HVAC systems, (this unit will be gas with central air) open concept is the desire of today's home buyers! Contractor/owners  Mike Vogal, and Tom and Denise Kilroy, are keeping that in mind.

Through ingenuity and foresight, they have taken a two bedroom, one bath dwelling and turned it into a 2.5 bath, 3-bedroom unit which now also includes that aforementioned master suite and first floor accessed laundry room. They have utilized every inch of space in making this place appealing and relevant to the current real estate market. Listed through Betty Shepard of Berkshire Hathaway Realtors, preparations are underway to bring this house to market. "There has been so much interest in this house. So much interest in this historic town! It is exciting to watch the renovations," said Shepard.
Original floor and woodwork in living room will be stripped and stained. Beautiful!
Renovation might be putting it mildly. If it was applicable, metamorphosis, would better describe the changes being made here! The falling apart, wreck of a house, introduced to you over the winter, will soon be a show piece! And if the timing is right, if the moon and the stars align, a new family will be sitting on the new porch of this beautiful "new" home on the parade route, this Fourth of July! And in this small American town...that's a really big deal! And, as someone who didn't want life to pass by before realizing her dream, sang...

I’m gonna raise the roof
I’m gonna carry on,
Give me an old Trombone
Give me an old baton
Before the Parade passes by”
.....Dolly Levi

This once little house in Riverton, NJ is about to make someone's dreams come true! Don't let it pass by.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Riverton's Little House is Growing!

It seems that Riverton's Little House That Could has a fan base. I have received several emails and texts requesting updates on our favorite renovation project and I can report that the initial progress had been slowed by paperwork and permits. But now, FINALLY, this weather and age beaten house is starting to get a major overhaul!

Fascinating information came forth after our first Facebook posting of this house. There were questions about age and ownership and it became so interesting when people who were familiar with the house started chiming in! We learned from neighboring Cinnaminson resident Matt Gideon that  "It might have been Louis Corners house where fire was stopped. He was a plumber and a member of Independence Hook and Ladder Co of Riverton and Palmyra. I have no idea how far down the block the fire got before being controlled. The home should be about 125 years old as you say. About 2/3 of the block was destroyed by fire late at night January 11, 1890."

Matt continued, "The fire was started by an arsonist who set fire to the stables in the rear of Robert's General Store located at Main and Howard Streets. The fire destroyed the General Store and stables then headed down Main Street. It destroyed the dwelling and barbershop of William Wolfschmidt and then the home of Rebecca Faunce. The fire was finally stopped at Louis Corners home but not before the home was heavily damaged."

Blackened rafters in the attic may support some of what Matt was explaining. As stated before, a major roof collapse from a heavy snow load in the past few years, definitely added to the damaged condition of the roof supports. Then, it became very exciting to hear from John and Mary Hartnett who had some real residential connection to the home.

"We are beyond happy to see that our old home will soon be restored!! My husband moved there in 1957 when he was two. We sold the house in 1989 after our second child was born. We still live in town, so it was hard to see the house in such disrepair." John added, "I have set of plans for a second floor addition. They're for a new master bedroom and bath and to make it a true 3 bedroom house. They were drawn up in 1988". Now, 27 years later, new plans for a master bedroom with an en suite are in the design plans of the current owners! 

So...where do things stand now? Apparently, just kicking into gear!

Kitchen walls have been removed to reveal some of the design plans for that open concept that is so popular! Older homes are divided by so many walls, that it seems builders believed the more rooms they could fit into a house, the better. Not so anymore. We are drawn to the freedom of unrestricted sight! This house will reflect that!

Owner, Tom Kilroy looks on as the back of the house has been removed in preparation to install new support for that master suite and bath.

More tarp! With the top of the house removed, Heavy blue plastic sheeting protects the exposed support rafters! 

So good! Still waiting for PSE&G to connect electric to the house has meant that recharging tool batteries for owner/contractor Mike Vogal has been a little bit of a challenge. But that should change soon! Sawing, drilling, hammering, and full blown renovation will soon take course once there is electricity, so stay along for the ride! Updates will be posted when changes are made. And this little house, in the  little town of Riverton, will become a home...a decent size home at that, very soon! 

Photos by Denise Kilroy


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Riverton's Little House That Could!

The 4th of July parade will pass right by this porch!
There was a time when the scent of an Easter ham wafted through the rooms on a spring Sunday afternoon. A time when family gathered around the Thanksgiving table and kids in pajamas excitingly rambled down the wooden stairs on Christmas morning.

There was a time when this 125 year old house was so much more the decaying structure it has become was a home. A place where this historic township's 4th of July parade marched passed every summer while the family sat on the porch waving small American flags.

And now, thanks to the vision of three local residents, it will once again regain its purpose. And if truth be told, Facebook had more than a little bit to do with this. But, let me go back a few weeks. My friend Lynnie was looking to downsize while hopefully staying in her hometown of Riverton. She enlisted the help of my sister, Betty Ann Shepard, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway, with a passion for older homes.

If buying as is, be careful getting out of the tub!
It should be noted that this small town was listed in Travel Magazine a few years back, as "One of the Best Small Towns to Celebrate the Fourth of July in". And it truly is. This lovely enclave of mostly Victorian style homes sits proudly along the Delaware River where it once served as a vacation destination for the Philadelphia wealthy and elite.

Now, more often than not, houses are passed down through generations without ever hitting the real estate market. And it takes a little perseverance to find what you're looking for in Riverton.

So early one February Saturday, the three of us, along with our friend Sandy, spent the afternoon roaming the town for that perfect possibility, when Betty suggested we stop at 505 Main Street to see a house that had just come on the market two days earlier at well below market valvue! But once we pulled onto the ice covered back drive, the reason(s) were apparent before we even got out of the car.

First, and most obvious, was the blue tarp that covered what use to be a roof. We learned latter that a few years back, a heavy snow load had crashed through the weather battered shingles causing major destruction inside. We got out of the car to peek through the windows and were surprised to find that the interior walls were stripped to the studs by water from the collapse that damaged the drywall.

This railing may be the only thing kept in this "gut job"
Broken pipes, knob and tube wiring, and tiles lifted from age and melting snow were strewn around the pitted and collapsing floor boards.
A radiator expansion tank...what could this be turned into?
Yellowed by age, wallpaper with dated patterns still hung in some of the closets. An odd site was to see a tub precariously hovering over some rotting second story floor boards. Not sure what happened to the sink or toilet. It became obvious that this place needed so much more than a renovation, it needed a resurrection!

So, there it sat, a mere skeleton of its former self, seemingly crying out for love. And I loved it. It was so beaten down. A completely depressed appearance. When the winter wind lifted the tarp, the rustling sounds were like labored breathing. I took some pictures, and then, as I often do, posted the them on Facebook and joked around about buying and rescuing it with my drill and some paint. This, of course was a ridiculous notion, but several friends jumped on the fantasy bandwagon and offered donations. It was a fun afternoon of "what ifs". Then, I got a text.

"Jo Ann, what is your sister's cell number?" from my real life and Facebook friend, Denise Kilroy who had been quietly watching the social media version of Rehab Addict. And that text threw a life raft around that house. I didn't know it at the time, but Denise, her husband Tom and contractor Mike Vogal, were forming an LLC to rescue, renovate and flip older abused housing. They made that call to Betty, and the rescue mission was on!

New owners, much to discuss!
It will take much vision and skill to turn this dilapidated building back into a home, but listening to Denise, Tom and Mike on a recent visit, it quickly became apparent that this group has abundance. Mike, who has worked on many older homes in Burlington County, will remove the studs separating small rooms, install beams where necessary, changing the flow to the ever popular open concept.

A master bedroom with an en suite will be added and the kitchen will become some lucky cook's culinary dream. Updating will also mean that radiators will be removed and a new HVAC system installed. Up in the corner of a room (that had no floor) I spotted an old radiator expansion tank that just cries out to be re-purposed by someone with a eye for design!

As the dialog about the possibilities swirled around me, all I could do was look around at the broken floors, rotting window sills, missing dry walls, and think "where do they even start?" But the important part is that they know that answer. And once all permits are secured. This resurrection will begin!

And we can't let that happen without following the progress. With that in mind, a new blog, created by Betty and myself (with the blessing of the new 505 Main Street, LLC owners) will follow the journey of turning Riverton's little house that could, into the little house that is...a home once again.

Soon, a link to the new renovation blog, "505 Main Street" will be posted on Kitchen Clatter, Facebook and Twitter. Stay with us for a true renovation fascination! Follow the soul of this house being brought back to life. And that can only happen when this gate swings open to welcome a new family!

Photos by Jo Ann Phelps