Fifteen years ago Kathy and Mark Serago moved into the 1909 Queen Anne Victorian at 700 W. Locust St., with the goal of returning it to its original grandeur. With that goal accomplished, they will open their home to visitors Sunday, May 19, from 1 to 4 p.m.
The Historic House Tour is sponsored by the Southside Neighborhood Organization in observation of National Historic Preservation Month. There will also be eight historic Tree Streets houses on a self-guided walking tour, but the Serago’s home is the only one that will be open to the public.
All three floors of the five-bedroom Serago home will be open for the tour. The first and second floors are completely renovated, and the third floor gives an idea of what the Serago’s started with.
The 4,500-square-foot-house was built by Joshua W. Ring, the first president of Model Mills. In 1909, it cost $12,000 to build.
When the Seragos bought the house, the interior was white. The original woodwork and all the walls and ceilings had been painted in 1957 in what they imagine was an effort to brighten things up.
The scraping of the paint began, revealing “tiger oak” columns and quarter-sawn oak flooring and trim. On the first floor, only one layer of wallpaper had to be peeled off. Upstairs, however, there were “at least 40 layers of wallpaper,” Kathy said.
Using Old House Journal and Old House Interiors magazines as their guides, the couple set about renovating their house, doing everything themselves except the electrical and plumbing.
The ornate ceiling above the first-floor sitting room? Kathy did that with Bradbury & Bradbury silk-screened wallpaper made since the 1800s. She carefully cut out strips and pieced them together “like a puzzle” to create the intricate design. It looks as if it were hand painted.
The point of the tour isn’t just to encourage appreciation of historic homes, but to share renovations ideas, tricks and tips, Kathy said. “We want to show what we’ve done and how you can do it.”
She also wants to show how things can be done inexpensively. Kathy made the copper range hood in the kitchen for $300 using sheet metal, upholstery nails and thin copper veneer. “You put it on with Contact cement just like you’re laminating it,” she said.
In the midst of their renovation, they uncovered a fireplace in the music room. “Mark took a sledgehammer to the wall and broke into it and found a fire box,” Kathy said. By using new and salvaged materials, the couple has refurbished the fireplace so that it complements the house’s original interior.
Likewise an ice window was uncovered and restored. In the days before refrigeration, blocks of ice were delivered to the house through a window that was covered up at some point. The exterior window is still in place. Again, the sledgehammer revealed its interior twin.
The Seragos will be on hand with “before” photos to answer visitors’ questions. They admit “most people think we’re crazy” for doing the work they have done. But, Kathy said, “when you finish a room and look at it, it feels good to think, ‘gosh, I did that.’ ”
The day of the tour, light refreshments will be served on the porch, where a historic display by Ken Harrison will be on exhibit.
For more information and a map, visit www.treestreets.us.
There is no charge for the tour.