They are neither independently wealthy nor sponsored by royalty (as far as we know). They’ve renovated old houses before, and saw Hohenadel House as an exciting challenge, their biggest home project yet.
That’s what they liked about the house: the challenge. The history. The satisfaction of restoring a faded architectural beauty — giving it new life as a family home.
Who Does This?!
An old, neglected eyesore of a property. Crumbling walls, rusted fencing. Weeds, peeling paint, chipping stucco — visible cracks! Everything needs updating: heat, air, electric, plumbing, windows, roof… And a million little interior details! The retaining wall holding the yard up seems to be giving. The carriage house in back is practically falling down.
What kind of people can look past all these giant red flags, to the charms of owning a historic home? Who can even imagine that home, when facing down such a monumental restoration? The echo of almost every contractor we’ve chatted up about the place: Tear it down.
Cold! And so short-sighted. A fresh start might seem like a good idea, but that’s an enormous waste of building materials, not to mention energy. Most preservation groups tout statistics showing the cost to rehab an old building is often less than replacing it (not to mention quicker, with far less carbon footprint).
Plus, older homes help neighborhoods retain their local color, they preserve a specific sense of place and time. Promoting cultural sustainability is especially important as globalization homogenizes more and more of our world every day. Preserving a community’s historic character doesn’t just build pride — it builds equity! Studies show homes in historic areas appreciate faster than similar properties in non-historic areas, plus face less market volatility.
Finally, there’s another way historic preservation pays off: heritage tourism. People will travel for an “authentic” cultural experience like sipping wine on a cobblestone street or shopping in an old neighborhood with cool architecture, and real people living in it.
Since moving in, Sean & Felicite have been inundated with neighbors, locals & passers-by who’ve admired the house all these years, and are delighted by restoration efforts. Seems Hohenadel House has gathered quite a fan club, the old girl.
Just How Old Are We Talking?
So old, no one’s really sure when it went up, exactly. Blueprints, schmueprints. What would you even do with them, register them at City Hall?
Ha! City Hall was just a twinkle in John McArthur Jr’s eye back then — wouldn’t be designed until 1870, not finished until 1901. By this time, the Hohenadel place had been through a slew of owners, starting with Charles Abbot: Civil War vet, Falls of Schuylkill Baptist pastor, and long-term member of the Philadelphia Board of Education.
That last part seems especially fitting, because education plays a huuuuuuge part in this family’s life. Go figure — the kinda people who’ll throw themselves into historic restorations turn out to have a bit of “trail-blazer” in ’em. Felicite‘s blog illuminates her forward-thinking views on how education needs to change, as our society moves from “Industrial Modern” to “Artistic Social”:
“Our world is shifting. We must embrace the global economy and recognize that we will no longer prosper as cogs in manufacturing machines. The US industrial revolution is over, and we can sit around and resent those countries experiencing theirs (and taking those loathsome cog jobs), or we can find what we are meant to do in our own time and space and create new dreams. We are built as humans to stand out, not fit in.”
Standby, too, while we work on adding some of daughter Soleil‘s lovely artwork to our pages, plus more behind-the-scenes coverage as progress on Hohenadel House continues.