With regard to preserving historic homes, specifically in Noblesville, local experts offer a range of advice.
Realtor Kurt Meyer, who lives in a house built in the 1870s in downtown Noblesville, consults with clients on what they can do to enhance their home’s value while retaining its history.
“I can think of a time where on 10th Street, I saw an original Victorian-era staircase torn out of a house laying in the side yard waiting for the dumpster,” Meyer said. “I know people pay extra for that detail, and they were taking their trump card and throwing it in the dumpster.”
Meyer said property owners should consider preservation for two reasons.
“One is you can never get it back,” he said. “And two, a lot of people watch too much HGTV and think they can Chip and Joanna Gaines every house. I think you need to have a longer view than whatever is trendy right now.”
WHAT TO PRESERVE
If an owner wants to sell or restore a historic house, Meyer urges them to retain as much of the original architectural detail as possible.
“But the house has to work like a modern house,” Meyer said. “So, bathrooms, kitchens, mechanical systems – if you want top dollars, those all have to function like a brand-new house.”
A common mistake Meyer notices is removing original doors.
“That’s something where you can lose a lot of detail because when you lose a door,” he said. “You lose the ornate hinges, beautiful, ornate doorknobs.”
Meyer said owners should take their time when finding contractors to help with historic restoration.
“There are a lot of contractors out there who know how to buy and attach pre-fab things from Lowes and Home Depot, but are they really carpenters in a way we thought of carpenters 50 years ago?” Meyer said. “Do they really know how to build a staircase or do they preorder it and shove it in a place?”
Peterson Architecture Principal Architect Darren Peterson said when restoring a home, it’s important to establish value.
“What makes a piece historic or non-historic?” said Peterson, who also serves on the Noblesville Common Council. “Being old doesn’t always mean it’s historic.”
Peterson said to be aware of context when making restorations.
“Sometimes they tear the front porch off, but that may have been what made that whole block have historic value,” he said. “Something we talk about on the (downtown Noblesville) square is which of those buildings holds its own value? The courthouse, obviously. But are all of the buildings on the square important as single buildings, or is it because they create the feeling and façade of the square? Can you remove one of those buildings and put something back and have it carry the same historic value?”
In the past, costs associated with high-quality, long-term restorations were enough to make owners tear out historic touches and replace them with modern items. But now, as the cost of materials increases, Peterson said owners realize they can refinish parts of their home and save money versus replacing it with something new.
Meyer said if someone truly wants to preserve history, they should take the time to find the right kind of contractor. He said the search could take up to two years. He recommended MacInnis Construction, based in Noblesville. It is a full-service general contracting and design company specializing in historic restoration and rehabilitation of commercial and residential properties.
Co-owner Heather MacInnis said homeowners should be aware of unforeseen expenses associated with historic restoration. She said kitchen remodels can range from $50,000 to $70,000 and take two months to complete. A complete exterior renovation can range from $100,00 to $150,000 and can take up to 2 1/2 months.
“Always be aware that there will likely be expenses added to the job that are unforeseen at the time the estimate is completed. As much as we’d like to have one, the contractor’s magical crystal ball does not yet exist,” said MacInnis, who owns the company with her husband, Gary. “Historic buildings always come with interesting surprises that only reveal themselves as the project progresses. Personally, we love working on historic homes and businesses for this reason, but the owner needs to be prepared for the extra cost.”
MacInnis suggests budgeting 10 to 20 percent above the estimate to prepare for unforeseen expenses.
Some projects MacInnis Construction has worked on include façade remodels or updates to several downtown Noblesville buildings, such as the Allstate building at 828 Logan St., Texy Mexy at 818 Logan St., Carmack’s Cigar Shop at 822 Logan St., Uptown Café at 809 and 813 Conner St., the Nationwide building at 817 Conner Street and Noblesville Preservation Alliance’s Preservation Hall at 1274 Logan St.
“We’ve also worked on the Historical Society Museum in the Sheriff’s Residence on the square,” MacInnis said. “We’ve done work on over 26 historic homes in Noblesville.”
MacInnis said most people approach the company through word-of-mouth referrals.
“Historic property owners are very sensitive to how their home or business will be remodeled, as they should be,” she said. “They typically don’t want someone they just found through an internet search to work on their home. They know we are familiar with how historic structures are put together and how they should be finished out in a way that is sensitive to their needs without sacrificing the historic authenticity of the home or business. Sometimes those historic details, unfortunately, do get put by the wayside if the customer’s budget or modern codes will not allow for them.”