Historic remodeling and preservation case study: The Beery House
By John Kirchner
February 9, 2011
“We had to push the house back together. But now, I get to live on the land that I have farmed since 1971, in a home I remember visiting almost every day as a child.”
–Elaine Beery, Owner
The question with historic remodeling is often how the original architectural style can be preserved. However, when Elaine Beery decided to renovate a house that had been in her family for generations, the question was more along the lines of: Would the house itself survive? “The home was built in 1857,” said Beery, “and it was bought by my great-grandparents in 1903. The last family member moved out in 2006 — and we really saw it deteriorate without anyone living there.”
Beery and her husband, Lance Beery, decided to explore the possibilities of renovating the house, and found herself faced with a foundation that had a single shot at supporting the house for future generations. “If we failed with the foundation, we knew we would have to quit — so it was where we started.” A tornado lifted the east portion of the house off the front foundation, most likely in the late 1800s. A cabling system had to be created to pull and secure the house onto a new foundation — but there was just one opportunity to make the shift. Fortunately, the effort was successful, and the Beerys were able to continue with their dream of restoring the family home.
Upon that foundation, a 150-year-old treasure was slowly restored to its original state. Rather than applying for historic register status, the Beerys decided to focus on creating a renovated home that would be warm and welcoming, while still retaining the beautiful details. The large double-hung windows had a unique shape — the top sash were round tops on the outside, but squared-off on the interior — plus the exterior casing had a classic headpiece that many window manufacturers simply couldn’t match. In order to match the trim profile for the outside, the headpiece was removed and sent to Marvin Signature Services. Marvin was able to replicate it with clad exterior.
In addition to choosing a low-maintenance extruded aluminum exterior, Beery also selected Ultimate Arch Top French doors. “I’m so glad we went with the full glass in our upstairs door — the light comes all the way down the stairway and into the downstairs hall.” Marvin crafted the door so precisely to the original dimensions that the Beerys were able to use the original curved wood trim from the exterior as the interior trim in the finished space. “You really can get a sense of the farm, looking out these windows,” said Beery. “The house was so ramshackle when we started, and now everything blends together so much better. From the outside, the appearance is almost exactly the same as what I remember.”
- Classic 1857 Illinois farmhouse, owned by the same family for over a century.
- Given the age of the house, no two window openings were exactly the same — so every opening was measured up to five times to ensure each window would be a perfect fit.
- Extension jambs shipped loose to allow specific sizing to openings that had shifted over the decades.
- Casing detail included clad flat casing at the jambs and a 3-piece radius flat casing with a custom profile cope at the head that returns back to the wall. The casing was designed to match the original window profile.
- Double hungs with cherry interiors were chosen to match the office’s cherry wood furnishings, made from trees cleared 40 years ago from the farm’s property.