A year ago we wrote in this space about the Kuno Struck mansion, a stone-and-brick home built in the Jacobean Revival style of architecture, the type you might expect to find in Europe but not central Davenport.
Built during 1910-11, the home retained its grand central staircase, fireplaces, stained glass windows and other features that ranked it among the "Magnificent Mansions of the Quad-Cities," according to a 1958 series in a predecessor to this newspaper.
But the roof leaked, interior plaster was crumbled and small trees were growing in the gutters. Vacant and for sale, the home's future was in doubt.
Then, enter Randy and Mary McDonald. The couple already was living in a historic home in Davenport's McClellan Heights, but decided to give the "cool looking house" across the street from the Putnam Museum a visit, Mary McDonald said. They assessed what it would need and made an offer.
"We love old houses because they have such character and there are so many stories," Mary said.
"Our goal is to have the house be here 100 years from now," Randy McDonald added. "This home deserved to be restored."
Despite being retirement age and Mary's full-time work operating the Stardust, an events center in downtown Davenport, the McDonalds closed on the house in November and, after a winter hiatus, got going full-bore in spring. They moved in during June, even though the home wasn't ready, and four months later, work is ongoing.
In addition to all the invisible work that already has been accomplished — new mechanical systems, a new roof and gutter system and tree removal — a walk-through reveals a different interior space from a year ago.
The kitchen is all-new
Most changed is the kitchen, which was, as Mary said, a "confusing space" in that it had been modernized, leaving little clue as to what it might have looked like originally.
When the house was built, kitchens were not the showplaces they are now. Completely utilitarian, they were mainly for "the help" and, by today's standards, small.
By the time the McDonalds saw it, the space was outfitted with modern wood cabinets, laminate countertops and a pressed tin backsplash, but the layout didn't make much sense.
Then Marion Meginnis, 3rd ward alderwoman and historic preservationist, put them in touch with Dave Cordes, another preservationist, who had access to the home's original blueprints.
The drawings by Walter Kruse and Rudolph J. Clausen showed built-in cabinets in the kitchen's recessed spaces and a work table — a version of today's island — in the middle.
Following the architects' intent, the McDonalds' had the kitchen gutted and new white cabinets installed along the walls and in the recessed areas, including an area that was a butler's pantry. A black stainless steel refrigerator, oven and microwave were tucked in between cabinets and an island with a four-burner gas cooktop was built in the middle.
"It makes sense now," Mary said of the kitchen. It's still relatively small, but very functional.
Foyer, hall, living room take on new life
You have free articles remaining.
The home's foyer and hallway — the showy areas one sees entering the home — now contain area rugs and accessories, and work is proceeding to restore the decorative ceiling paint. In some cases, this work includes restoring the plaster as well.
But one of the first things a visitor might notice is that, standing in a corner of the hall, is a ... red, 1973 Honda motorcycle. This is a vehicle Randy had purchased for Mary to use, but when it proved undependable, they had it made into a table by installing a glass top. Cuts allow the bike's rear-view mirrors to stick up through the glass.
The motorcycle table is one of many examples of the McDonalds' sense of humor and fun. While respecting the home's character, they don't feel constrained to accessorize to the early 1900s time period.
Hence you'll find groupings of vintage cameras, one of many items they collect, and a completely modern crystal chandelier in the solarium, an item Mary calls a "bit of glam."
Major work in the living room has included restoration of the wood, bringing out its original sheen, and new paint — Caribbean blue on the ceiling and a lighter Tiffany blue on the bottom. "I wanted bold, but I didn't want bold on the walls," Mary said.
There's also a new mahogany floor to match the extensive woodwork — paneling and cabinets — on the walls. It replaces a lighter oak that was a non-original installation.
Hanging atop the stone fireplace with hand-chiseled oak leaves is an ornately framed reproduction of a painting by Kuno Struck.
The Davenport businessman who built the home enjoyed painting as a hobby and is credited with several hundred landscapes.
The McDonalds were told he did not display his work in his home because he considered that pretentious, but they thought it fitting to have at least one of his pictures in a prominent place.
Fun accessories lend element of surprise
Changes in the solarium also include new paint — amber/orange on the ceiling, matching one of the colors in the stained glass windows, and a light sage green on the bottom. Again, repair was part of the prep work. "When it rained outside, it rained inside in here," Randy said.
And in this room too, they've accessorized with eclectic pieces they love: An old marching drum with a glass top serving as a coffee table and a turntable for playing vinyl records.
The dining room with its show-stopping honeycombed ceiling and floor-to-ceiling wood fireplace is the least changed of the showy rooms, although the oak floor has been refinished and the room is once again set for dinner.
A plus in restoring the house was that the downstairs was virtually untouched from when it was built, Randy said. "It would have been easy to turn into a triplex or even a sixplex," he said. "Thank goodness it wasn't."
The home currently is zoned multi-family, a zoning that likely occurred when Marycrest College owned the property; the McDonalds intend to have it down-zoned back to single-family.
Another plus is that the home was structurally solid, with steel I-beams on every floor.