Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of stories following the restoration of the pre-Civil War Lambrite-Iles-Petersen house at 510 W. 6th St., Davenport, by Dick and Linda Stone of Muscatine.
When the Stones first outlined their restoration plan, they thought they might be finished by now. Although they've missed that goal, the house is finally starting to look like a place where one could actually live.
That certainly wasn't the case in February 2015 when the Stones took possession of the abandoned property on the city's demolition list.
Plaster ceilings were falling, two rooms in the back were unsafe to walk in for fear of breaking through the floors, and everywhere there was stuff, from moldy furniture to a few dead animals. The house also was cold and dark, as it had no heat or electricity and, with the windows boarded up, there was no natural light.
"It kind of makes you wonder why anyone would want to do this, doesn't it?" Dick Stone said last week, leading a tour of the progress.
After 2½ years of work — both hands-on and hired — and a significant financial investment, the place is looking like a potential home. "It's not fast, but it's chugging along," Stone said of the work.
Located in Davenport's historic Gold Coast neighborhood, the home is considered one of the city's most historically significant because of its age, its style of architecture, its architect and the people who lived in it.
Accomplishments during the past year:
• Tower restoration
The home's signature tower, or belvedere, is nearly finished on the outside. It has a new membrane roof and the frames of all 12 windows (three on each side) have been rebuilt.
This was no small task, as the frames have double arched tops, meaning that to recreate those that were rotted, Stone had to glue together individual pieces of wood to create curves.
The frames also have decorative do-dads at the bottom of each arch and under the sills, and many of these, too, had to be remade.
The tower exterior is also painted in the color scheme the Stones have chosen for the house — two shades of gray with a deep red trim. They have determined that gray, simulating the look of stone, was the home's original color.
And there's a bright, shiny finial on top, replacing the tower's original decorative spire that was made of wood and so rotted that it had hardly any definition, Stone said.
• Plaster work
All rooms but the front two parlors and the central stairwell have been replastered.
• Window replacement
Frames for 52 windows have been repaired or rebuilt by Carver Custom Millworks, Milan, and Stone has installed them. These are original windows that rise and lower with a rope and pulley system.
"I've gotten pretty good at those," Stone said of installation. "The whole secret (to getting the windows to work correctly) is getting the weight balanced right."
The windows make a world of difference in the feel of the house.
"Once you open it up, it seems so bright," Stone said of the removal of plywood. "That corner," he said gesturing to the unfinished front parlor, "was the bright spot, but now it's dark (in contrast). It's a lot more cherry."
Eventually all the windows will have storm windows for insulation. This winter, though, the Stones will "have to pay the heating bill."
• Back addition
A two-story, early addition to the house has been rebuilt and has a new roof. Siding is next, a "before winter" task.
The glass of three windows in the addition have been etched with a pattern that replicates the window of the home's front door, providing privacy for what will be bathrooms. (Yes, the carved and beveled glass in the front door amazingly survived intact through all these years.)
• Tax credit approval
The Stones originally estimated restoration at about $350,000 and expected to apply for historic preservation tax credits to help cover some of the cost. Their application has now been approved; the money will be paid out when the project is finished.
• Wood work restoration
Wood trim and doors have been restored. The Stones did the stripping themselves and hired an artisan to reapply a faux grain finish.
"It took quite a while," Stone said of the stripping. "There were eight layers of paint before you got to the original graining."