MOUNT VERNON — On Dec. 16, 2008, a fire consumed the entire second floor and seriously damaged the first floor of the Young House, an 1840s Greek Revival home at 112 E. Gambier St. The builder, Mr. Young, was a jeweler and distributor of gold jewelry.
The fire was an event that could have been disastrous for the Gambier Street Historic District, but Wayne Gottke, the son-in-law of Gordon DeHaan, who has owned the building since 1996, decided to restore it to its original form. In appreciation of this decision and effort, the Knox County Renaissance Foundation has chosen the family for the 2010 Award for Outstanding Architectural Restoration or Contribution to the Community.
KCRF is instituting this award to bring a greater awareness to the community of the importance to decide to restore rather than to tear down buildings with architectural or historic merit. Too often in the past the “bottom line” leaves out the impact of mediocre new buildings being erected in sensitive areas.
Gottke was given the final say on what to do with the building, and said that for him, there was no question that the only thing to do was to bring it back and improve it as well. There were a few layout changes in the five apartments to improve the traffic flow, but other than updating all of the mechanicals and drywall, the building is essentially the same. All of the fireplaces are original and many of the doors and window frames on the first floor were saved and redone. Capitol Reconstruction in Lewis Center did the work in 13 months.
Wayne acknowledges the community for its patience with the work, noise, and other inconveniences experienced during the construction, and said he appreciates all of the offers of support he received. According to Gottke, people stopped by during the renovation and spoke of their connection to the building, which was turned into apartments in the 1940s.
One couple who had never been in Mount Vernon and was on a search for the building, told Gottke the story of their grandfather, attorney Horace Greer, who owned the building from the 1890s to 1922. He had lost correspondence from U.S. presidents in a previous fire in the rear of the east wing. Evidence of that fire was uncovered during the reconstruction.
Area resident Rita Durbin stopped by with a picture of the building she took in 1951, on the last day of winter when there was a snow storm. At the time, she was renting one of the apartments from a Mrs. Barr.
During the reconstruction the history of eight changes to the building was uncovered. There is evidence of a two-story brick structure being incorporated into the main building on the east side. The east wing was added in the 1850s, the west wing in the 1890s. Window hinges in the west wing are stamped with the date 1898.
KCRF will be presenting Gottke and the family with the award at the City Council meeting Monday at 7:30 p.m.