Historic Craftsman Porch Restoration


Our house has a peculiar combination of architectural styles. It was mostly a basic cottage, originally, built around 1929 (1937 tax photo above). But when it was moved to this site, I added a taller second story, which made it look more like a Farmhouse-style house. Yet tacked onto the front of it is¬†a decidedly Craftsman porch overhang, even though there isn’t much else Craftsman about the house.

Here is a picture of how the house looked in town in 2006, before it was moved onto the farm:


You can see that someone added vertical support posts and a side railing, which was not original, or natural-looking at all. You can also see that the house was sporting vinyl siding and aluminum trim, something which¬†I don’t enjoy. So, soon after the house was in my possession for the price of $1 (it was slated for demolition and auctioned off), I ripped off the siding with relish. But, what I found underneath was a dismaying hack job, the vinyl siding installers had ripped off a lot of architectural trim to make their installation job easier. The poor porch overhang was missing some pieces:


I have been puzzling over what went there for a long time- three years in fact. I could see some shadows in the paint, where extra trim work once sat. But, I could not quite¬†wrap my mind around how the overhang was boxed-in and trimmed-out. It just had too many elevations and hints of things that were there, but fit together in such a unique way, it wasn’t obvious to me how to recreate them.

When the house was re-roofed, the porch could not be, because it was waiting for me to fix the fascia and install drip edges. So, all this time, it has been covered in tacky tar paper stapled over the edge of the fascia, and it’s had these gaping cavities, where birds have been nesting! This sight of this every day when I pull up has been nagging me:


I have been keeping my eyes peeled all this time for another house with a similar overhang, which would give me a clue on how this one went together.¬†I’m not very good at visualizing physical construction, I like to have an example to duplicate. Despite looking in old downtown Seattle, Everett,¬†Marysville and Snohomish,¬†I have never spotted a front porch quite like this one. The most common style in these Craftsman porches was to make a¬†little “mini roof” that came forward on each side.¬†But, there wasn’t room here for that, and the shadows in the paint did not match up to that idea. Many houses also have gutters that wrap around the front, but there wasn’t room for those either. The front wasn’t simply boxed-in, as you can see the diagonal¬†fascia¬†boards on the front were cut higher than the side fascia boards- so something went in between there.

This house had two “twins” in town- houses with the same floor plan and very similar features. I suspect they were built by the same carpenter in the same time frame, but they all had small variations. The first house was two doors down from this one (and ended up getting demolished, after I salvaged all of its floors and doors), but it was plainer, inside and out. Its porch lacked the Craftsman flair that¬†mine had, so could not give me ideas on the trim, it was just boxed-in plainly. (Note the Craftsman architectural columns were not original: they were wedged in there on top of 2x4s, because they weren’t even the right height…).


The other “twin” house is more similar to¬†ours, but its porch overhand is still slightly different and plainer.¬†Note the similar curve-top door, however.¬†This poor house had an interesting fate. It was morphed together with a very grand craftsman behind it, and a ’60’s style commercial building next door, and then a second story was added onto this section¬†in the shape of a cube. The three distinct buildings are now one blob, that for years served as¬†a funeral home. I wish I could capture on film how bizarre it looks, but there is no way to get it in one frame! You have to drive around the block to see all four sides of the structure, since its three components all have fronts facing different streets. It is extremely peculiar!


There was one house that gave me some ideas, though the porch still isn’t too similar to ours. This is the Avenue D Gallery in Snohomish, a very lovely home and art gallery. What I find a little bothersome about this design is that some of the side detail are flat pieces exposed to the rain, which must surely be a challenge to keep from rotting, in our climate.


So, there we have it. Lacking guidance and examples, I have been procrastinating on this project for a long time. A recent wind storm that ripped off the tar paper was the last straw!¬†I finally tackled it last weekend and figured it out. Below is a second tax photo I found in the County Assessor’s archives (a good place to look if you are researching the history of a house). This picture was taken in 1973. Blowing it up very large on my computer, I could get a hint of some blocky trim that went in between the lower, side¬†fascia and the rake fascia. It ran along the sides, around the front, and then, did something I could not make out in the photos. But, I knew from shadows in the paint that it stopped just short of intersecting with the curved interior ceiling of the overhang.


Here is what I came up with, I think this is pretty close to the original. Thank goodness the photo doesn’t show that I made a few small mistakes, but hopefully other people won’t notice, even though they jump right out at me! Ugh, I should have tidied up the UPS delivery boxes and painting stuff before I took the picture, oh well… One thing I’m glad about is that I was able to overcome the problem that the Avenue D Gallery house has: I was able to extend the roofing out over the edge of the trim, so there won’t be standing water on those horizontal flat spots.


And here is what it looks like from the side. Yahoo, no more tar paper!! Eventually, we plan to paint the house trim a different color, probably forest green, with maybe a red door. Right now the entire house is a monochrome historical white. But, there is more vinyl-siding-hack repair work to do before trim painting is practical: all of the windows are missing a strip of detail trim around their edges. That is yet another reproduction quest I have to address! Someday!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *