Through overgrown shrubs and brush, Richard Stone could see the outline of what was once a beautiful Italianate-style house with a tower on top. Walking through Davenport's historic Gold Coast neighborhood during a home tour in September, Stone remarked to his wife, Linda, that there didn't seem to be anyone taking care of the property behind the brush.
Stone later learned that the city of Davenport was buying the abandoned house through condemnation proceedings and would put out "requests for proposals" from people interested in rehabilitating it and making it their home.
The Stones, of Muscatine, have always been interested in old homes, so they submitted a proposal — the only one, as it turned out. On Friday they became the owners of the Lambrite-Iles-Petersen house at 510 W. 6th St.
The building is considered one of the most significant in the historic Gold Coast neighborhood because of its association with prominent citizens, its architectural style and the architect who designed it.
The Stones paid $38,000, which allows the city to recoup the cost of acquisition and initial clean-up.
The couple expects to spend an additional $310,000 restoring the home to its 1850-1860 appearance by September 2017. And although they've only seen the inside once, the Stones believe they have the experience and knowledge to see the project through.
Stone recently retired as the engineering manager for H.J. Heinz Co. in Muscatine, a job that included the management of capital and maintenance projects in addition to engineering. In that capacity, he worked with regulatory organizations, contractors, equipment vendors, and local, state and federal governments.
Before that, he worked for Nestlé, Gerber and the state of Minnesota in the engineering or research fields. He has a master's degree in engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
His previous building work has included doing more than 80 percent of the labor in constructing a three-bedroom house in Michigan, the rehabilitation of a flood-damaged home in Illinois and the restoration and conversion back to single-family use of an 1890s Victorian home in Waverly, Iowa, that had been made into three apartments.
"I have always had an interest in historical buildings and (have been) an advocate for restoration rather than tearing them down or letting them deteriorate," he said in his written proposal to the city.
First on Stone's "to-do" list now that he has possession of the house is to complete an application for state historic tax credits to help pay for the rehabilitation project. Once that is submitted, he hopes for approval in 30-60 days so he can begin the actual work by early summer.
If his project is turned down for credits, Stone said he would "try to work through it." That is, rejection would not be a deal-breaker. But, he added, "the people I have talked to seem pretty confident that my proposal will be adequate and it will not be a big issue to get it approved."
Other tasks on the schedule before actual construction begins: Finish the interior clean-up, select an architect to do drawings, develop a plan for bathrooms, a laundry and the plumbing, go before the city's Historic Preservation Commission for any changes, develop drawings for electrical and natural gas service, and develop plans for roof replacement.
In the short term the Stones will finish interior clean-up and make some temporary roof repairs so the house does not sustain any more water damage.
One of the first actual construction tasks likely will be removal of sunrooms and closed-porch additions, opening the house to how it originally looked when the stair steps from 6th Street went all the way up the bluff to the front door of the house.
Before next winter, the Stones hope to have the building sealed with a new roof and restored windows and doors, along with having it served by new mechanical systems.
In addition to the home's outside appearance, other features that appealed to the couple are "pretty much the same ones that strike everybody," Stone said.
"The belvedere (tower), the grand staircase, the spiral staircase to the belvedere. That (the spiral staircase) is very unique — I've never seen anything like it in any other house. And the paintings on the stairway (wall). The fact that the house is as old as it is and still has those features intact."
Gold Coast neighbors couldn't be happier about the Stones' purchase.
The neighbors had tried unsuccessfully for years to work with the former owner to fix up the property, and most recently they had formed an organization called Friends of 510 to try to stabilize and market it.
"It is everything we could have hoped for," member Jack Haberman said of the Stones' proposal.