History in the remaking
By Stacee Sledge
Whatcom Magazine, October 2008

At 104, this Eldridge home reveals new charms

In 2004, Hart and Denise Hodges purchased a part of Bellingham history, the Hamilton House on Eldridge Avenue. Perched high above Bellingham Bay, the home was built 100 years earlier for businessman T.S. Hamilton. He also built downtown's triangle-shaped Hamilton Building to house his successful furniture company. It was known as Bellingham's first skyscraper...all six stories of it.

Hamilton's home was constructed in what the couple believe is Richardsonian Shingle style, which shares elements of Victorian and Craftsman architecture.

Approaching the charming entry porch, complete with plaque reading "Hamilton Home built 1904" below one of two leaded glass windows the hug the red front door, it feels quite private, even on the somewhat busy street. Tall well-manicured hedges shield the house from passing traffic.

Today, after extensive remodeling by the Hodges, its façade is a deep navy blue with white trim and stone detailing that used to be hidden under fake brick and aluminum siding from a previous owner’s modernizing efforts.

Four years ago, Hart and Denise, both in their 40s, hired Domistyle Design’s Jan Hayes and A-1 Builders to create a new water-facing dormer on the second floor. But most of the transformation of this remarkable beauty has been at their hands.

The Hodges are seasoned remodelers. Having taken on two renovations in Portland, Ore., two in Anchorage, Alaska., and another just down the street from their current historic home, they both know their way around a hammer and level.

Hart started work in January 2004 while A-1 Builders completed its construction during the spring. Aside from hiring Hulford Electric and Favinger Plumbing, a few moonlighters to help hang sheetrock, and one person to help finish it, the rest was up to the Hodges. “We moved in early August 2004 and are still working,” says Hart.

Seamless changes
The couple wanted to maintain the historic feel of the spectacular home. “In the front rooms we just took down the plaster and painted,” says Denise. “We also took up the carpet and refinished the floors.”

Substantial white trim and moldings line the walls throughout the two-story home. “Some moldings are old and have been moved,” says Denise. “Others are new.” The couple respected the bones of the home and worked hard to make their changes and additions seamless.

Denise, an ophthalmologist, has a strong eye for color, evident as you walk in to a large square foyer that offers glimpses into the piano room, living room and dining room, all washed in deep jewel tones. Original pocket doors can close off these areas, as well as the connecting hallway, which runs the width of the house past a guest bedroom, office, half-bath and laundry room, ending in a cozy family room off the kitchen.

The kitchen and great room needed the biggest makeover on the ground floor. The new galley kitchen is a far cry from the cramped original. Gone are the brick countertops, replaced with sleek granite. A new bank of window panes — replacing just one small window — lets in light and glorious bay views.

Open at one end of the kitchen is a new family room, formerly a closed-off bedroom, which shares the kitchen’s warm gold wall color. One wall features built-in bookshelves below the window, flanking a fireplace surrounded by the same earth-toned tiles from the kitchen. The mantle is topped with a dentil-detail molding.

On the second floor, a previously dead space at the top of the staircase became a spacious bathroom, now shared by the couple’s two daughters. “The hall was seven feet wide with more than 10 feet going nowhere but to a window. It was enough space for a nice bathroom,” says Hart. He learned that the original house didn’t have plumbing upstairs.

The new bay-facing dormer also meant a third upstairs bedroom for daughter Mia, 11. Its slanted ceiling and porthole window add charm to the new space.

Beyond shag carpet
The one room in the house that didn’t see major change belongs to Cam, 6. “That was the one room we did precious little in,” says Hart. “I changed the window and we had to skim it because the plaster was so cracked. But that was it.”

The upstairs master bedroom also underwent a dramatic metamorphosis. Before the Hodges worked their magic, a large tub rested on a shag carpet-covered platform overlooking the bay view in a turret. Now it’s a comfortable, stylish seating and media space just steps from the couple’s sleeping space.

Many serial remodelers complete a project and immediately set sights on the next diamond in the rough. Are Hart and Denise already thinking of their next renovation?

“I’d move on,” says Hart without hesitation.

Denise jumps to correct him, and they both laugh: “We’re here for a little bit,” she says.

Whether this talented restoration team takes off in two years or 10, they’ve added to the history of the home in ways that will be appreciated for generations to come.

Stacee Sledge is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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