Mike Harris gave the GPAO a tour of the historic home he is restoring at 229 S. High Street. The lodge originally was built in 1841 at 215 S. Prospect Street where the Fiddick Mansion now sits. It was moved to its current location in 1871. Mike has old photos that helped him recreate many of the home's original features that had not survived the marching of time. For instance, the Greek Revival columns in the front of the building had been altered over the years, but he was able to create new ones identical to the original. The first wood shutters were in the basement and were in decent shape. They just needed TLC and are back where they belong! He was also able to make new shiplap that matches the dimensions of the 1841 siding that needed to be replaced. Only one large front porch board was not savable and he rough sawed and painted a replacement board that makes it look like the one first placed. The ceiling of the front porch has the original beautiful teal blue paint that was under many coats of grime. As soon as Mike saw this, he stopped any further work and said that it needs nothing more. It is truly remarkable! He is looking for a perfect chandelier to highlight the entire front porch. He also found the paintings of Oddfellow and Mason symbols on the inside walls. He was able to preserve them and gave them to the local active group. The front door is maiden and has the same door bell that is on the Grant home.
When you enter the vestibule there is a new Armoire being constructed. Lovely historic doors will be added to the finished product. The large original lodge doors that opened to the main lodge meeting room are being restored and will be put back in place. When you enter the main area of the building which will be the kitchen, dining room and sitting area, the two story arched ceiling draws you in. Mike had to remove added ceilings and rebuild the original using the original collar ties as his guide. The first floor holds a nice size bedroom and full bath. The bottom floor was originally accessed from outdoors but a staircase has been built leaving some of the exposed stone foundation. There is also a reclaimed leaded window that makes beautiful, colorful, and joyful prisms on the walls in the sunshine.
The basement area will have a large media room that has an original exposed beam that shows signs of a past fire which will be cleaned up. When complete this space will have ample storage, a furnace room and a half bath. Part of the basement foundation is made up of the stone hillside that was not cut or chiseled, but had to be shored up with new retaining walls.
Foam insulation has been sprayed throughout the building, to make the new restoration energy efficient. The second floor includes an attic bedroom or office with wonderful views of the backyard.
On the outside of the building, the stone foundation was exposed again after being covered by cement for many years. Mike had to chip away and sandblast to bring it back to its original condition. In the back of the home there is a space for a stone patio overlooking a picturesque wooded lot, or possibly a garage. Mike is not building a garage at this time as he doesn't want to cover some interesting features including a beautiful arched door that he built using stone from the property. Another very clever addition to the restoration is the use of an old walnut tree that was leaning and needed to be taken down for safety reasons. Mike had the tree milled and has used much of the wood to replace wood in the home that needed to be replaced due to a fire and warped boards. He was also able to save large slabs with a live edge to make a table.
Mike says that the project is a labor of love and not a money maker on any level. He said he regrets not being able to save the original windows but was able to have new windows of the exact measurements and style. They were more expensive but will also be more energy efficient.
This beautiful old building is lucky to have found such a great craftsman to breathe new life into its old bones. It is bright and beautiful and has a great future. Thanks to Mike and all his talented workers in making this restoration happen for this historic and important old Galena building!