Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dear Diary, I'm in love...with some houses on the near Northside

A few weeks ago I took a drive through the relatively new redevelop-ment project called Martindale on the Monon. I got excited. So I took another drive through, and then another--with my camera.

There is something going on in that neighborhood that makes my heart go pitter pat. New ultramodern design, blended with old homes getting a facelift, and with a fair number of new decent contemporary-traditional homes is making that a nice place to visit and I just might want to live there. I'm not moving yet, but if I were looking for a new place to settle in Indianapolis, this is where I'd be looking.

The development itself is interesting, with a mix of market-rate and affordable housing, which comes with the possibilities of grant money for rehabs or new builds. The Martindale on the Monon project will sell lots or sell houses built to their specs. These houses are nice.

But the stars of the development are the very modern dwellings and the modern adaptations of some of the older buildings that have begun to dot the streetscape. According to Cindy Higbee at Martindale on the Monon, some of these homes are architect-designed, some are owner-designed. Take a drive down 16th St. and have a gander at the fabulous rehab of what appears to be an old firestation. The design touches that make this a stand out---super cool frosted glass entry doors along with groovy house numbers and a stainless mailbox have converted this abandoned building into a hip new home while maintaining original window and door openings and the building's historic integrity.

Across the street from the rehabbed fire station is one of the 'hood's modern, new homes. A cantilevered second story, shed roof, and a facade wall that has the look of a shogi screen make this house a sexy eyecatcher.

At 16th and Cornell is another modernist-statement residence. This 2-story brick has a center bay that projects above the flat roof and a cantilevered canopy over the entry. And the square, flat-roof garage is almost cooler than the house.

A bit north, Redev Group designed a tall, skinny house with side walls and roof clad in galvanized metal. Huge corner windows must make this home a stunner from the inside as well as the exterior.

Another gem in the neighborhood is the home designed by Mark Beebe at the corner of 19th and Bellefontaine. This small house reminds me of a teak box. Shed roof, boxed entry portal, and even the rear landscape design make it a stunner significant enough to be featured on the 2008 AIA home tour.

The neighbor-hood also features a stellar modernist rehab of the old National Auto Company into the Project School. The inspiring industrial building is a lesson in paying homage to old design with good redesign and reuse.

Martindale on the Monon is still sprinkled with its fair share of rundown, abandoned homes, commercial and industrial spaces. (Note to developers: if you get your hands on that little pagoda former gas station, please don't ruin it! Reuse, reuse, reuse!)

This is a neighbor-hood ripe for the picking and if I were you, I'd go grab a lot or an old rundown building and make something fabulous happen. Your neighbors have already gotten a good start on that!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

blog blahs

I know I've been a tardy poster as of late. Holidays, deadlines, schlepping around the state have kept me busy elsewhere. Look for a new post come late December on a sexy, new redevelopment project. I'm oh so excited about it but need a little time for some research before I publish. But, just know, it's made me excited to be an Indianapolis resident again. And come back and read and see why in a coupla weeks---maybe sooner.

In the meantime, here's my favorite holiday picture. Wishes for Happy Holidays of every persuasion coming your way from cResources.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lessons a House can Teach

This blog isn't devoted to home renovation. But, lately I've spent about a month painting my little Folk Victorian house and have been amazed at what I've learned about my home in the process. Even for a person who makes her living evaluating old buildings, there were lots of clues I missed in reading my own home. So this particular post is about my little house and the changes made to it that I've figured out either quickly or slowly while living here.

My house is in Fountain Square in a neighborhood severed by the construction of I-65/I-70 in the 1960s. My neighborhood has homes constructed from about 1860 to about 1960. My house is one of the older ones, with a construction date I estimate around 1895. The Folk Victorian style (a sort-of poor man's Queen Anne)was popular around that time and I know by looking at old Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of my neighborhood that my house wasn't here in 1887 and was here in 1898, so the approximate date I'd guessed fits the evidence I can find. (Love it when that happens.)

I chose my new paint color because I found this periwinkle color under several layers of pale blue, yellow and white paint on the house. I matched a chip of that old paint with my new paint. Green trim also showed up under the old paint though not exactly this shade of green. Next year I will add a magenta shade to the window sashes and mullions--she will be a real Victorian painted lady.

My house was originally a twin, but is no longer an identical twin, to the house next door. Sometime around 1915 or so one of the owners of my house "modernnized" it with a Craftsman-style brick porch that wraps around two sides of house. In the process the owners removed the original, small porch that once decorated a portion of the northwest facade with turned posts and a spindled frieze board. As a preservationist I seriously covet my neighbor's still-intact fancier porch, but I have to admit that my big shaded porch is one of the best things about living in this house. It's always breezy and pleasant there no matter how hot the summer days become.

At the same time the porch was added my house also got a rear addition, a 10' x 11' room that was built over the old cistern (which is now exposed under that room's floor in the basement). The rusticated concrete block foundation on the addition matches the foundation on the porch (the rest of the house is built on a brick foundation), indicating the two additions were made at the same time. The rear addition has a hipped roof, popular in the Arts and Crafts period when the bungalow was king, further supporting the idea that it dates to about 1915.

Probably at the same time the owners changed up the porch and added the rear room, they also installed some new windows. The facade and some of the northwest side windows of my house are classic bungalow style: wooden, double-hung sashes with three panes on the top and one pane on the bottom. They are also grouped in an Arts- and-Crafts period ribbon placement in a group of three contiguous windows in a row. Each group of three ribbon windows replaced two separate double-hung windows (judging from the sister house next door). What I also learned while painting was that even one of my remaining pairs of original double-hung windows was also altered at the time the new windows were installed. Although they remain in their original configuration of separate one-over-one windows, at least one set was replaced with shorter windows, evidenced by the replaced clapboard siding covering the original openings and a new sill, much smaller than the two original sills still in existance on the other side of the house.

At some much later point, maybe in the 1990s, someone got the bright idea to replace some more windows on the house. I actually believe that "someone" was SEND. Their classic move to pull out original wooden-sash windows and install vinyl was repeated all across my neighborhood, including in my house. So, three of my windows have been replaced at least twice. At least these newest (and no more efficient) windows are at the rear of my house and not very noticeable to a casual observer.

One other thing I learned about my house while painting is that my old steel gutters were mounted on the roof because there isn't enough space between my house and the house next door to allow for gutters to hang below the eaves. I count my old roof-mounted gutters as an asset because they didn't require ugly gutter boards around the roof edge and that means that my exposed rafter tails are all still intact and not cut off like many in my neighborhood. I think my house may not have had any gutters originally. There's no evidence of any other place where they would have been attached. My existing gutters, like my windows and porch, probably date to the Arts and Crafts period around 1915 or so. They are a typical style from that period.

Finally, one thing I had never noticed until I began to hit it while scraping the clapboard was that my house had hardware above the windows that must have held awnings of some sort. The awnings---I'm imagining Cool Vent aluminum slats from the 1940s or so---are long gone. Now, so is most of that leftover hardware, which I removed. The imprints on the wood from the hardware are still visible though, leaving a hint of the past for the next owners to ponder.