We have been residents of downtown Columbus for over 40 years, and as professional curators have been involved in large-scale urban rehabilitation projects including the Statehouse, the Ohio Supreme Court, the Tower LeVeque, the Cincinnatian Hotel and Cleveland’s Tower City.
But we also like small communities, especially those with a historic character, Granville for example. This village in Licking County has a traditional downtown business district, two historic inns, an architecturally significant building stock and the atmosphere of an old New England town.
In the fall of 1988, Nancy’s brother and his wife were looking for a property in Granville and asked us if we might be interested in an old stable behind a house they were considering. We had talked about finding a weekend near Columbus. So, with our 10 day old son, we went to Granville, took a look at the stable and said, âOh, yeah, we do. “
Soon after, the sale ended and we shared the stable with about an acre of land. It was not upscale architecture which suited us fine. We wanted to remake it as a relaxed, comfortable and informal second home. Nancy’s parents, who would partner with us and share the stable once it’s over, agreed, so we got down to business.
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Vision is required
Dating from the mid-1940s, our new acquisition had a 13-by-50 foot concrete block first floor. The building design included four horse stalls on the dirt floor and their original Dutch doors.
The upper story was a timber frame hay loft with large doors at each end. An overhang, which extended through the stalls, created a sheltered open space below, also with a dirt floor. Access to the hayloft was by an interior ladder, and the end walls and each stall had a square window. As a final touch, on the ridge of the roof was a cupola surmounted by a weather vane in the silhouette of a horse.
The Conservatives always want to breathe new life into an old building, but feasibility matters too. This neglected stable seemed quite achievable. His deterioration was not too serious. He needed paint, a new roof, insulation, and replacement of rotten wood. To make a house out of it, you obviously needed more: electricity, heat, water and sewage. Of course, there were also bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen.
We wanted the original character of the stable to remain, so we kept the four stall doors and left floor joists and roof rafters visible. We enlarged some windows and made two of them into doors, and we kept the doors to the hayloft.
In the overhanging area and in the stalls, we installed a concrete base with a tiled floor. Eighteen insulated window units, purchased on sale, helped enclose the overhanging open area to create a 50-foot-long solar porch.
In the hayloft we have built two large bedrooms with small but full bathrooms and knee storage space. Finally, a mat was added. Downstairs, we accented the stall doors with dark green paint and repainted all exterior surfaces to their original white.
We used as little drywall as possible, mainly in the walls of the downstairs toilets and shower rooms, a combined living and dining area, a small bedroom in one of the stalls, as well as the two bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor.
Part of the floor of the hayloft was cut to form a large central staircase with an upward view of the underside of the roof and its dome. Because we originally planned the project as a summer getaway, the heat only came from the baseboard resistance units.
A large fan that escaped through the dome at the top of the building brought in cool air most summer nights. The addition of a screened porch on the north side, as well as a swimming pool and an open terrace in the old stable paddock completed the project.
The furniture is what you would call eclectic, accumulated over time. The sofas come from an apartment we used to own; the tables and chairs come from Nancy’s parents as well as an aunt and uncle. Nancy’s brass bed from her childhood graces a room, and Jeff’s family’s wooden furniture includes a desk on casters.
Works of art include paintings by Rendville Art Works, railroad and steamboat menus from Jeff’s collection, and paintings by various friends, including an original edition of Aminah Robinson on fabric. A weather vane in the stairwell came from Jeff’s father’s childhood home in Connecticut, and we purchased a Peruvian rug from an artists’ program at the Presbyterian Church on Broad Street.
With all the work finally done, we spent our first night in our new getaway on our son’s first birthday, and over the following summers we had many happy stays in Granville.
In 2009, however, it was time to update both the floor plan and the finishes. Nancy’s mom used a wheelchair, so we installed hardwood floors in place of tile, built an accessible bathroom on the east end of the first floor, and expanded the bedroom on the west end. These changes made the combined middle room, kitchen and living space smaller but better in proportion, with room for a long sideboard with storage underneath which proved to be ideal for serving meals when we entertained. friends. We have also abandoned baseboard heating in favor of a heat pump and an electric furnace so that we can also have air conditioning.
Updates continued. In 2017, we built a pavilion roof over the bridge to make it more useful on sunny days. Then in 2019, with years of entertainment under our belt, we decided we needed more living and dining space. The natural light in the enclosed overhanging area was nice, but it was a long, narrow space of limited use, and in the winter it was dark and gloomy. The answer was an addition. We removed three of the four window units on the south side and built a 500 square foot wing with a shed roof, using barn siding inside and out.
A large four-part window was installed in the dining room and six smaller square windows were added to provide additional natural light. A wood stove in one corner provides additional heat. Our carpenter built a unique painted barn siding dining table set on metal legs manufactured by Fortin Ironworks in Columbus.
This recent work, completed in the summer of 2020 despite COVID-19 concerns, has transformed what was a summer house in a formerly dilapidated barn into a comfortable four-season retreat just 35 minutes from the center. -City of Columbus. We are now spending more time there than ever.
This story is from the December 2021 issue of Columbus monthly.