Sunday, February 11

Stick-Style


This house was once a graceful Stick-Style duplex when it was built ca. 1885. It stands around the corner from where I live. “Stick-style” refers to a style that was popular during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Its name derives from the fact that it incorporates decorative vertical and horizontal elements—“sticks”—into the exterior, mimicking the house’s frame. The result is a more refined version of the half-timbered effect usually associated with Elizabethan and Tudor architecture.

The house is pretty much a wreck now. It was inhabited for the past few decades by an old woman who had neither the resources nor the inclination to care for her property. That she let her home fall into such disrepair would have been more tolerable were she a sweet old lady, but she wasn’t. She was a battle-axe who liked to know everyone else’s business, frequently said insulting things about gay people and people of color, and was in the habit of throwing her garbage on neighboring lawns. I caught her in the act once.

When she finally sold the house about six months ago, I heard from neighbors who attended the open house that she lived in utter squalor. I could not bring myself to brave the interior. They also said that she had like a gazillion cats. I suspect that Neretta was born in her basement. In spite of the fact that she was pretty much a hag, I felt bad for her. She was a widow with limited resources, and the family members that lived with her were pretty dysfunctional.

The house sold for over $500K, a sad testimony to an inflated real estate market. Worse still is that after paying such an exorbitant price, the new owners proceeded to begin their half-assed renovations without pulling any permits whatsoever. The city quickly shut them down, but not before the jackasses had ripped off the front porch, which—even though it had fallen into disrepair—was quite lovely with fluted Doric columns. Now it’s gone, and in its place is an ill-suited, poorly designed, and shabbily constructed deck.

Whenever that happens in my neighborhood, I always console myself by saying that when the right owners finally come along, porches are pretty easy to restore, especially with the internet making businesses that sell historically appropriate millwork easy to find. Joe and I did a huge job on our porch last year. We found a local millwork supplier who was able to reproduce exact replicas of the porch’s turned balusters to replace those that were missing or damaged.

When the new owners resumed work about a month ago, they began ripping off the asbestos shingles, revealing the original clapboards and shingle-work along with the house’s Stick-Style features. I always knew it had been built as a Stick-Style because I have an old postcard showing my street back in its heyday. In the photo, the original Stick-Style details are clearly visible on this house, as well as on the house next door.

I have no idea what their intentions are. Will they leave it exposed and restore it? Will they cover it over again in vinyl siding? If they do, I hope that they at least leave the original details in situ so that they’re waiting underneath for the next owner, who will perhaps be someone who understands that period details are what make these houses special.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Charles Swift said...

Depressing, especially the part about the guys starting to do work without building permits. They should be required to replace what they took down. What neighborhood is this in?

7:46 PM  
Blogger Lyss said...

I am always sad to ehar about bad renovation jobs, esp when they end up as McMansions or with bad vinyl siding. I hope they don't replace the stick style goodness with vinyl.

10:06 PM  

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