Hatton House Diaries

One day, we decided to buy a 125 year old Victorian House in Des Moines, Iowa…….

Historic Des Moines Alert! Tell St Augustin’s Church 100 Year Old Homes Are Important August 21, 2013

I saw a post in Des Moines Rehabber’s Facebook Group and wanted to share with you here. Reposted from Steve Wilke-Shapiro with permission. Steve is working on setting up standards in Des Moines so that there will be an approval process before historic buildings are destroyed, but that process is not yet in place. Please consider contacting your city council member about these homes:

From Steve: I have it on good authority that St. Augustin’s intends to pursue demolition of the two 100-year-old homes it owns adjacent to its parking lot on Grand. These buildings are listed as contributing structures in a National Register Historic District. A serious potential buyer is working to evaluate moving the structures, and the church is required by agreement with the City to facilitate this resolution… they have been actively avoiding complying with that agreement, going so far as to file a lawsuit against the City.

If you have an interest in historic preservation, I encourage you to communicate to your council representatives and encourage them to delay issuing a demolition permit until one of three things has occurred: the potential buyer has completed evaluation of relocation, a redevelopment plan has been approved, or two months has passed.

The key is to ask for a “cooling off” period. We only get one shot to save these historic buildings – when they are gone, they are gone. St. Augustin’s has not communicated a plan other than to tear them down, so it is clear that there is not an immediate need. A period of two more months would not adversely affect the Church, except that they want what they want.

This is an emergency… the Council meeting is Monday, August 26th. The more people who communicate by then, the better chance of averting a complete loss of these historic homes.

Excerpted from the Greenwood Plat District Nomination Form:
4005 Grand Avenue: (Contributing, 1908)
This is a two-story hip roof Classical Revival style house plan. The house fronts south on Grand Avenue but it has a double façade, with semi-circular roofed dormers fronting to the south and east. A frame wrap-around porch covers the south half of the east façade and the west part of the south façade. The main chimney with corbelled cap is located on the east end of the main roof ridge. A secondary chimney, equal in scale but unadorned, is on a rear wing. There is no garage but there is a porte cochere to the west of the house.

4011 Grand Avenue: (Contributing, 1909)
This is a two-story Classical Revival style hip roof house plan. The building massing is complicated. The core rectangle is elaborated with a three-sided full-height bay at the east (right) side of the façade, while a shallow wing on the rear of the east wall also features a full-height three-sided bay projection. Hip roof dormers are placed above each of these bay projections. The architects were Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen – a well respected historical Des Moines firm.


Guest Working at a River Bend Neighborhood House – Ceiling Demo April 9, 2012

Filed under: Remodeling and Design Projects — hattonhousedsm @ 7:37 am
Tags: , , ,

Kitchen Ceiling Before

I had been pestering one of the contractors in the neighborhood to let me help in one of his houses in exchange for advising and helping me with the Hatton House. I figured that I may not really know what I’m doing in remodeling, but I am good at following directions, and if someone could tell me what to do, I’d be able to do it pretty easily. So I could just do some unskilled job somewhere else in exchange for some skilled advice here. After several pestering him several time, he said “Well, I have to tear down a kitchen ceiling, you want to do that?”

I realize this was a trick question. Apparently no one WANTS to tear down a ceiling. But for me, this was the best news ever! I can’t possibly screw up destroying something! No leveling, measuring, detailing….just tear it down! Can do! I wish I had a photo of how I showed up: open toed shoes, safety glasses (but not goggles), no gloves, short sleeves, no breathing mask, I was an accident waiting to happen. I got my hair covered and a white mask and went to town.

Let’s be clear: “plaster” in old homes is a lot closer to concrete than the plaster I’ve used in craft projects. It comes down in huge, unpredictable chunks, and you had better not be in the way when they fall. It took me a while to figure it out, but soon (after going home for work gloves) I was prying down strips of lath, grabbing it with one hand while the other hand tapped a hammer against it to knock out all the concrete-like chunks down that strip. Sometimes, whole chunks of ceiling would crash down, sometimes it was just dust. Sometimes there would be black dust in the ceiling, sometimes 1930s newspapers that were shredded with age. One particularly unfortunate strip pulled down heaps of sawdust.

The whole ceiling came down in an afternoon. As you can see, it was one of the dirtiest jobs I’ve ever done, but the satisfaction was pretty intense. I’m really glad that demolition work isn’t my full time job, but every once in a while, it’s nice to tear something apart! If you want to see what I looked like after this job, you’ll find a photo here. 

Kitchen Ceiling After