Why I love historic homes. . .

Touring a Historic Tudor Home

A few days ago I delivered a house portrait II had just finished to Linda and Jim, the owners of a charming brick Tudor cottage in the Heritage Hill neighborhood of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Heritage Hill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its abundance of large Victorian houses.  My clients were most gracious and asked if I would like the “grand tour” of their home. “Well of course!” I replied.

The experience reminded me just why I love historic homes so much. As I have always said, architecture is about people, and every home with history has a story. The moment I entered their Tudor abode I could sense almost a 100 years of memories  embedded in its walls. I thought of the thousands of trips men, women and children had made up and down the elegant staircase and the craftsmanship that went into creating this sturdy home.

The Tudor was built in 1924 and it has been on the famous Heritage Hill House Tour twice in the last few decades. I snapped a few photos along the way that I wanted to share. Not only because the home was quite lovely both inside and out, but  it serves as a classic example of blending old-world charm with updated features – such as in the kitchen and bathrooms — making it a very practical and enjoyable space to live in.

Before the tour began I had Jim grab this photo to record the moment as I officially delivered the painting to Linda.

Here is a photo of how the home looked in years gone by.

An old photo of the Tudor home

As you can see the home has not changed that much in recent decades.

My pen and watercolor house portrait of the home

It is not known who the architect was that designed this home, but one thing is for sure, he or she was ahead of their time. The home is laid out in a spacious and open floor plan, with sliding wooden doors separating the main rooms if desired.  It was carefully designed to include ample windows in every part of the home, making it light and airy. It also has cleverly planned indoor/outdoor space

The living room which adjoins the dining room with the solarium on the left


Wonderful tile fireplace in the living room

One of my favorite rooms in the entire house is the solarium that extends along the side of the living room. As you can see below, It is wall to wall windows . The wooden shelf with the plants below left covers a massive old fashioned heater that keeps the room toasty despite bitter cold Michigan winters. I could just picture myself sitting in this room with a good book,   watching the snow flurries dancing outside the windows.

The solarium with wall to wall windows

In the lobby, as one enters the house through the main door, the old telephone booth is still in tact.

Old telephone booth in the lobby

Still in the lobby area and to the right of the telephone booth, a nondescript door can be seen.  It looks like it should be a closet. In fact a narrow flight of wooden stairs leads down from the door into the basement.  To the right of this door and also in the lobby area, is another side entrance to the house.  How intriguing I thought.

Linda explained that the home was built in Prohibition times, and the side door was the discreet entrance to the home.  At the end of the stairway to the basement are two storage areas and beyond that is a large sprawling room which served as the “party room.”   Today it is a well lived in rumpus room where the grandkids hang out when they come over to stay.

Stairs leading down to the basement to storage rooms and a party room … used in Prohibition times

Behind the house a path wanders through a tranquil Japanese garden that Jim created. One can hear the soft gurgling of water that wends its way down a rocky slope into a small pond.  The ideal place to enjoy a peaceful morning coffee before launching into the day ahead.

The Japanese garden and sitting area behind the house

Around the other side of the house, tucked into a sheltered corner, Linda showed me her “secret garden”

The secret garden on the other side of the house

There were many other rooms that peaked my interest.  The open kitchen, Jim’s book-lined study, Linda’s light filled office  and even a large upper deck that looked out onto the Japanese garden.

As with any of these older home, over the years that Linda and Jim has lived here, they have carried out dozens of major and minor upgrade and maintenance projects to keep the home looking beautiful and true to its original design.

As I have found on my travels to all 50 states across the USA, it is the homeowner who is the main hero of historic preservation in this country. Without their dedication and labors of love, we would only have a fraction of the historic homes we enjoy today.

Thank you Linda and Jim for being historic preservation heros!

Cheers,  Leisa