Sweat equity April 10 2002

Renovation projects on display in Inman Park Tour of Homes

Located two miles from downtown Atlanta, Inman Park is officially listed on the Register of Historic Places. Unofficially, it is Atlanta's oldest suburb, the first bedroom community to be built outside of downtown. Today it's considered one of Atlanta's oldest gentrified neighborhoods, its gritty city edge replaced with the genteel feel it had more than a century ago.

This month, 15 Inman Park homes will welcome a steady flow of visitors through their doors as residents celebrate the 31st annual Inman Park Festival and Tour of Homes. As you read this, homeowners are frantically trying to complete home improvement projects and major renovations in time for the event. But by April 26, the dust, frustration and unexpected expense will have been replaced by dreams fulfilled.

Just ask tour participants Mary Anne Lahey and Randy Clements. For two years, they looked at nearly every house that came on the market in Inman Park. Admittedly, their requirements — a room big enough to accommodate a pool table and off-street parking, preferably in a garage — were perhaps too modern for the turn-of-the-century neighborhood. They almost were ready to give up when they got the call to look at 70 Waddell St.

From the first walk-through, they knew they had found what they had been looking for. The house has a wide main hallway open from front to back, transoms over the doorways, crown molding and layers of detailed trim around doors and windows. It has the look, personality and feel of an old home, plus the required parking and pool table room, along with an adjoining deck.

The home was built in 1992 by Kathy Day, who lives down the street in another newer home on Waddell Street. Designed by Georgia Tech architecture professor Richard Dagenhart, they were created to harmonize with the adjacent homes in Inman Park.

But sometimes, even new houses need renovating to meet the needs of its owners. Lahey and Clements opened up the kitchen by rotating the breakfast bar and enclosed the back porch to double the size of the family room. They also added a second fireplace in the family room, using a 100-year-old oak mantle from a home in Lakewood.

Architect Dagenhart also has his home at 752 Dixie Ave. on the tour. For 24 years he has worked, rehabbing his four-square with modest Queen Anne aspirations. Its exterior has cedar clapboard on the second story, and he has embellished the inside with wood ceilings and wainscoting. When Dagenhart bought the home in 1977, the front porch was missing and the clapboard was rotting. There were no photographs of the original structure, so he conjectured what the porch would have been like and reproduced it.

Having already renovated one Inman Park home did not deter tour participants Pat and Richard Westrick of 177 Elizabeth St. from buying a second and bigger home to rehab. Pat says contractors are a constant at her home, though their master bath renovation will not be completed in time for the tour.

The Westricks found a photograph of the home's original exterior and from that, they reproduced the front porch using similar columns, balustrades and trefoil trim.

Inside, however, was a mystery. The original staircase was gone so they picked a logical place, ordered a new staircase and created a foyer.

As an expert in the world of home renovations, Pat has one piece of advice for rehabbers: "Live in the house for a while to get the sense of how rooms are used and how you will live there. The project you do first, you inevitably change."

The Inman Park Spring Festival and Tour of Homes takes place April 26-28. Fri. noon-4 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. noon-6 p.m. $12 in advance, $15 at the festival. 770-242-4895 or www.inmanpark.org.??

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