Monday, July 23, 2012

A grand fixer-upper; Chariton updates

Davenport's H.H. Andressen House

Having exhausted myself Saturday morning helping supervise younger and stronger backs as they evacuated the Stephens House attic of stuff ranging from a casket carrier to a printing press, I frittered away the afternoon looking online at vintage Iowa houses, including this one with promise but in need of a massive cash infusion.

We're getting ready to supplement attic insulation in the Stephens House --- which is why most of what had been stashed up there over the years has by now moved to the basement and elsewhere.

Anyhow, Davenport's H.H. Andressen house was a favorite of the day --- it can be yours for a mere $29,900 with potential preservation tax credits and other incentives available. There are catches, however, According to the Zillow listing, the building has no working electric, plumbing or heat and needs a new roof --- and that's just to start.

It's been mentioned earlier on a favorite blog, Old House Dreams, and a comment there from someone who  considered buying it reports his discovery that the cost of stabilizing the structure would range from $175-$200,000 and the pricetag for dealing with the interior easily could consume another $200,000 or more. Plus the neighborhood, although historic, still is a little rocky in places. So a brave rehabber with buckets of cash is needed. I hope one turns up.

It's an interesting house, in part because there seems to be some confusion about when it was built by Andressen (also frequently spelled Andresen), a native of Germany and principal in the German Savings Bank who arrived first in Davenport during 1855 and died there in 1906. It's located in the Gold Coast-Hamburg Historic District, favored by affluent German merchants during the latter half of the 19th century, overlooking downtown Davenport and the Mississippi from the north.

The style is Richardson Romanesque, but the build date --- given as 1870 in city assessment records --- seems off by about 20 years. There was no such thing as Richardson Romanesque in 1870. If you want to see similar brickwork and terra cotta detail, look at the Eikenberry-Crozier building on the southeast corner of the Chariton square, built in 1894. The Andressen house appears in its current shape on the 1892 Sanborn Fire Map and I'm guessing that at least the impressive main front was fairly new in that year. There may be an earlier house buried in the lower wing to the rear, which could account for the 1870 date.

Once the Andressens moved out, the house was coverted into 12 apartments and eventually allowed to deteriorate into its current state, reflecting the decline of its urban neighborhood.

Main stair (left) ascends from first to third floors; stairway at right leads up to the basement of the rear wing.

 The house also is interesting because it is built into the hill, giving the somewhat misleading appearance of a three-story structure from Sixth Street. In reality, there were only two public rooms on the first floor at the front of the house, a library and parlor divided by a foyer with a grand stairway that winds to the third floor ascending from the rear. The remainder of the lower level is basement, dug into the hill. The second floor contains a mix of bedrooms and public rooms, including the dining room, as well as kitchen and pantry. More bedrooms are located on the third floor front with attics and servants rooms behind.

The home is being marketed, among others, by the Gateway Development Group, which has an interesting Web site here. Be sure to hit the "Projects" and "Neighborhood Homes" buttons to see more houses in the Hamburg District, including preservation success stories and information about other old houses in need of a helping hand. The photos here were lifted from the Zillow listing and the Gateway Web site. A page devoted entirely to the Andressen house is here.


I also found the Zillow listing for Chariton's Storie house, a good example of Second Empire styling (or at least it was). The listing gives a build date of 1900 for the house but it actually was built during 1877-78 by a pioneering family of druggists and physicians. The price is right now: $49,000 --- compared to $185,000 when I first wrote about it during 2005 (the photo here dates from that entry).

Although apparently in good shape, the poor old thing lost its coherence during an unfortunate attempt some years ago to turn it into an upscale bed and breakfast --- a project whose time had not come. The extensive porches are not original, but were added during that project. There is a lovely staircase (not photographed)and some remaining original detail, but the interiors are not inspiring. In the right hands, however, it still is a building with a good deal of promise.

Finally, here's the listing for the Stuart House on South Grand (above), which didn't sell at auction a couple of weeks ago --- probably because the reserve was in the neighborhood of $100,000. It's now priced at $99,500, which is optimistic for an old house here. There are a few interior photos, but not especially flattering ones. I'm never quite sure why some Realtors rely on the power of prayer rather than professional photography when attempting to market online.

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