Framing work has resumed on 638 Rutledge Avenue, and I stopped in today to have a look around. It was good to see the progress being made with the stabilization and improvement of this old girl.
The project was initiated a few months ago. The interior finishes, most of which were in very poor condition were removed from the entire structure. It was clear that there was significant structural damage originating from the hole in the roof where the chimney flashing failed. We didn't know widespread it was until the plaster was removed.
The termite damage revealed was pretty extensive. A dozen floor joists in the vicinity of the principal chimney were damaged to the point where they needed replacement. Many of the wall studs in the area and wrapping quite a ways around the structure were damaged as well. In these cases, the salvageable remnants of the original members were retained and sistered to new members.
The most unusual situation was the top plate at the top of each wall level, which was almost completely destroyed. It seems evident that the plates were milled from a material that was less resistant to the termites than the better grade of pine that composed the majority of the framing. They were used as termite highways to zip around the building.
638 Rutledge was built as a single family residence around 1900, a time predating the development of the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood just to the west. It appears on later aerial photograph of Hampton Park and The Citadel from 1938. In this photo, which is looking west over Hampton Park toward the Citadel, Rutledge Avenue forms the eastern edge of the baseball fields, running left to right in the photo. 638 appears as the last residence shown in full to the extreme left on Rutledge Avenue (view of the rear). The rear additional is already evident in the image.
At some point, 638 Rutledge was converted into a duplex with the addition of a second entry door and interior partitions which segregated the stair from the first floor spaces. There was a kitchen and a single bath at each level. This renovation will restore 638 to a single family residence. The partitioning has been removed and the stair, originally open to the first level foyer, will be restored.
The kitchen at the second level has been removed, slated for replacement with a new master bath. The original second level bath has been completely redesigned and will serve the other two second level bedrooms. These two bedrooms will have access to the full second level porch fronting on Rutledge Avenue.
From a space planning perspective, we took our cues from the historic layouts and existing structural organization while creating a space made for 21st century living. The principal first floor living spaces, including living, dining and kitchen spaces, will be continuous and open to each other. These would have been the original dining room and parlor separated by an opening fitted with pocket doors and the corner fireplaces addressing each space.
The pocket doors were removed at some point in the past, and the termites did their best to remove the rest. We felt that it made little sense to reconstruct this non-loading bearing wall which served only to divide the living room from the dining room and kitchen. Today, visual connection between these spaces is generally preferred. So, this wall was eliminated, though the Living Room and Dining Room spaces are given definition by the massive brick chimney and corner fireplaces, which will be retained and exposed.
The fireplaces were constructed with beautifully laid brick which remains in good shape. There is also a great corner detail in the brick--something of a quirk miter--which be serves as a nice feature of this massive anchor to the living spaces.
Other changes to the first level include reconfiguring the bathroom to eliminate a tub which was shoehorned oddly lengthwise beneath the stair while creating a more generous shower.
More significantly, a rear addition which appears to have been made relatively early in the house's life will be transformed into a screened porch. The floor of this addition drops about three inches from the adjoining original floor, so it may have been a porch at one time and hence would be returned to something approximating its original use. The original rafters and the slatted roof deck that they support will be retained, as well as the original ceiling joists. This sheltering structure will be left exposed to provide volume and visual interest to what we believe will be a much-enjoyed space.
At the second level, the original spaces are being left largely intact. The two main second level rooms will serve as bedrooms unadulterated by permanent closets intruding into the volume. Each will retain its original corner fireplace. We are still considering options for finishing these fireplaces and hope to come to the right solution shortly. The master will have use of a large wardrobe space, formerly a nursery contained within an enclosed porch, and a master bath with twin vanities, relocated clawfoot tub, and shower which will wrap an original, minor corner chimney.
The third significant second room will serve as a minor bedroom with a closet added, and the hall will be retained in its original shape.