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Returning home — Avenues residents lovingly restore 1912 house to its original luster

Published: Tuesday, April 15 2008 12:38 a.m. MDT

The way the kitchen looked when they purchased the house. (David S. Richardson) The way the kitchen looked when they purchased the house. (David S. Richardson)
David Richardson and his wife, Amy Wadsworth, and their 8-year-old, John, live in an old home with a new kitchen. Earlier in their married life, when they had a houseful of children, Richardson and Wadsworth were thankful that someone had added on to the 1912 home, building bedrooms under the attic dormers.
But now the older kids are grown and gone. For the most part, the family only uses the 1,500 square feet of the main floor. They live almost entirely in the original home; a living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms and one bath — with a claw-foot tub.
Richardson wonders why any family of three would ever need more space than this. He and his kin couldn't be more comfortable in their Craftsman-style bungalow. An architect, construction company owner and preservation specialist, Richardson has done much of the restoration himself.
David Richardson and Amy Wadsworth remodeled their kitchen in 1999. They uncovered a window and made a pass-through cabinet to allow more light. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) David Richardson and Amy Wadsworth remodeled their kitchen in 1999. They uncovered a window and made a pass-through cabinet to allow more light. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)
This weekend a thousand visitors will walk through the Richardsons' home as part of the Utah Heritage Foundation's 37th annual Historic Homes Tour. The tour promises a stroll through 100 years of Avenues history, featuring homes in a variety of styles by some of Utah's most prominent architects. The oldest home on the nine-home tour is a 1865 Gothic cottage. The newest is a 1948 Modern.
Wadsworth bought their home in 1985, while Richardson was on a business trip. At $110,000 it was in their price range, he recalls.
About a week before it went on the market, probably at the advice of the Realtor, he imagines, the previous owners put several coats of white enamel paint on the coffered ceilings. "They even painted the oak floors," he says.
David Richardson in his kitchen. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) David Richardson in his kitchen. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)
One of Richardson's first tasks as a homeowner was to strip the wood on the living room ceilings. As he worked on the wood, paint thinner splashed on the gray fireplace and he discovered beautiful green tile underneath that paint.
The doors and windows are original to the house, Richardson is pleased to report. He thinks one of the worst things remodelers can do is to remove the original windows.
When they purchased the house, however, the front door was missing its central glass pane. Some time ago the window had apparently been broken and replaced with plywood. Richardson commissioned Beehive Glass to construct a new, beveled pane.
The home is part of the Cobble Knoll development, planned and executed by Frank Whitney. Richardson explains that running water didn't come to the Avenues until 1907 or 1908, so their house had to have been among the first to be built with plumbing included.
The Richardson/Wadsworth home on A Street in the Avenues. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) The Richardson/Wadsworth home on A Street in the Avenues. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)
Since they moved in 16 years ago, they've redone the bathroom twice and the kitchen once. They took the kitchen down to the bare studs, uncovering a window in the process. They also opened up an interior wall, making what had been a linen closet in the hall into a glass-fronted pass-through cupboard. As a result, their new kitchen is much lighter than the original one would have been.
As part of the remodel, Richardson had kitchen moldings milled to match the wood in the dining room. The new tile floor in the kitchen, by American Olean, is almost an exact match of the original tile floor in the bathroom. That tile was uncovered under several layers of tile and linoleum.
There is more to be done on this house, Richardson notes. The entryway ceiling still needs to be stripped, for one thing.
But Richardson believes his next project will be to remove the stair railing and balustrade. He wants to replace them with something more appropriate, something in the Craftsman style. The stairs were added at the point in history when the bedrooms were added to the attic. Before that, attic access was through a fold-down stairway above the kitchen.
Though they were glad for the extra bedrooms when they bought the house, Richardson imagines the original owners would have been fine with putting all their children in bunk beds in the one bedroom where his son now sleeps. After all, he says, it is a large bedroom.
And as for the babies in the family, he knows where they slept — in a nursery off the master bedroom. Richardson and his wife use the nursery as a walk-in closet.
But he knows it was a nursery originally. It was designed to hold not one, but two, cribs, he explains. Just because it was 1,500 square feet doesn't mean his home couldn't have held a large family, quite comfortably, back in 1912. Then, as now, he says, "This is a good place to bring up children."

If you go ...

What: Historic Homes Tour
Where: Tour headquarters are at Ensign Stake Center, 135 A St.
When: Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
How much: $20
Phone: 533-0858
Web: www.utahheritagefoundation.org


E-mail: susan@desnews.com

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