To me it is all about the process, but nothing compares to the completion of an arduous project. The Franklin House proved to be one of those projects that became its own entity. It was the will of the structure that became the control of the project and we were the catalyst for the design and reconstruction. How do you put into words the feeling of accomplishment, failures, and successes of the true change that took place on a thirty eight foot by one hundred and thirty seven foot parcel? It has been such an amazing experience. It would be too easy to take all of the credit, but in reality the transformation is attributed to the microclimate of the community. Olde Towne East is an amazing place with awesome residents and an appreciation for American residential architecture. A wide variety of subcultures inhabit an even wider variety of architectural style. I cannot say enough positive things about the community!
There were several times throughout the process when one could think that the project would consume those involved and cripple production. For example when you could see from the second level into the basement during demo…
Or when we had to rip the front façade off completely due to the amount of rotten wood and scabbed repairs….
Or when replacing the main load bearing beam on an extremely windy day. The same day a building under renovation came down on the corner of Oak and Ohio….
Reframing a one hundred and thirty two year old house is no small task. But it was a learning experience that I will never forget. Once the house was structurally sound the new floor plan shined through after several unexpected turns. After all new utility systems were strategically installed, and passed inspection, all new windows were installed, the house was insulated, and the drywall was installed. The exterior of the house was an interesting challenge. To keep the original aesthetic alive we tried to preserve the historic look using modern materials. I am all for the preservation of historic architecture when it is possible, though I am more interested in sustainability. I think the design of the front porch and use of materials accomplished an overall appearance that nods to the vernacular.
It was very important for me to reclaim and reuse as much of the original parts of the house, like all the interior doors and transom windows, newel posts on the staircase, lath on the kitchen island, and the serpent cresting on the ridge of the roof. Also the installation of new period correct materials, like the interior trim, as well as modern materials to create a seamless blend of the old and new was very important to the overall composition. Natural materials mixed with handmade materials is also very important to the composition. From the hickory hardwood floors transitioning to the porcelain tile in the wet functional areas, to the exposed brick chimneys to the concrete countertops, there is a real feeling comfort in continuity of materiality.
One of the most important aspects of the new floor plan design is the circulation pattern. There are several stories being told as one travels through and experiences the space. Set up for entertainment on the first level one can imagine how different events throughout the year, daily functions, and individual growth might be affected because of the open relationship between the programmatic elements. The arrangement and openness of staircase leading to the second floor creates a definite separation between the public and private spaces of the house all the while keeping the experience fluid. Natural light at either end of the second level corridor draws you in and comforts a forlorn feeling as one navigates the spaces. The second set of stairs gives a feeling of excitement and mystery as one travels to the third level. Architecture should always be about the experience and the way spaces are set up for us to live.
It was a personal goal of mine to make sure that the house had the possibility of sustaining another one hundred and thirty years. I am happy to say that with the proper maintenance this structure will outlive all of us. I have learned much more than I could have ever thought that I would have at the beginning, and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to be a small part of rebuilding this historic district. Even though we have seen the process of rebuilding “The Franklin House” through to fruition, the house will never be finished. It is now taking on a new life with its new owners!
There were a lot people involved in this project that deserve many thanks, and you know who you are, Thank you and God bless you!