Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 7-4-15

The biggest neighborhood sensation this week was not construction but destruction. On Tuesday, June 30, about 2 p.m. (while I was at the library watching Cool Hand Luke and totally unaware what was going on outside), a freak windstorm with winds reported up to 50 mph knocked down a tree at 59 N. Summit, demolishing a portion of the house (but not the new construction). As can be seen in the photos below, it was a very large tree, and the roots seemed to have rotted, making it literally a pushover.

By 3:30 p.m., when I came on the scene on my way home from the library, quite a crowd had gathered, and the owner of Chris Francis Tree Service soon arrived to assess the situation. His crew worked all the next day, entirely blocking Atkinson Avenue and making Summit Street virtually impassable, and of course there were rubberneckers for that as well. The photos below show some of the remains, as well as damage to the house.

The damaged portion of the house is now covered by a blue tarp—a not uncommon sight in these parts after hurricanes but fairly rare for the past few years.

204 N. Bayview

Put a fork in this one! As of July 3, the front landscaping had been completed, and the house appeared occupied, and on July 4, the carport and driveway were filling up with guests.

Although the back shows no landscaping, a fence has been built along the alley. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but the reason for the plywood over the door opening of the outbuilding is now revealed: the door had apparently been removed to subdue its bright yellow color with “antiquing.”

308 N. Bayview

Windows have been installed in the side rooms of the carport, and installation of siding has begun.

Brick masons have been at work, completing the paving of the veranda (except for mortar) and bricking the fireplace surround, but already their earlier work is in need of repair.

Air conditioning compressors have been installed, and the smaller one was running when I visited, even though the window units and several box fans (to help paint dry) were also still in operation.

I think the molding around these arched doorways is new; I think I would have noticed it before (in one photo I haven’t posted, parts of it were on the floor in this alcove).

Inside, the most notable progress is in painting; just imagine that almost everything that hadn’t been painted has now been at least primed. For example, the master bedroom is a gallery of painted doors.

These salvaged doors now look as good as new.

I have no explanation for the white paint smudges on the previously painted taupe walls of both back bedrooms.

The vanity has been placed in the hall bathroom.

From this delivery, it is obvious that all the bathrooms will soon be getting fixtures.

351 N. Summit

Although there has been no real change here, I did run into the builder, Vance McCown, earlier in the week, and he gave me a tour and some explanations. Although his company primarily builds large commercial and institutional buildings, I learned that he is building this house, designed by his architect son, Robert McCown, as his personal residence. He explained that construction had been delayed somewhat by his losing (or perhaps firing) his framing contractor and also by receiving structural timbers that were shorter than ordered, so that some accommodations had had to be made.

I had buttonholed him to ask him where the stairs were going to be, and he showed me. The downstairs will have three rooms, all with exposed structural beams. This is the living room.

This photo, taken from the back of the kitchen, shows the breakfast area at the front (opening onto a patio) and, on the left, the dining room.

In this photo, showing the back of the kitchen, the entrance to the stairwell is on the right, and the stairs make a right angle turn. Tucked under the stairs (in traditional fashion) is a small powder room. To the left is a walk-in pantry. At the far left, just out of the picture, is an outside entrance leading to the garage.

Upstairs, in addition to the master suite, there will be a second bedroom and (if I remember correctly) a small sitting area. We talked a lot about the site preparation. Vance emphasized that despite derision of the site as “the pyramid” (a term I hadn’t heard used), the grading was necessary (as we have seen) to bring the site level with the street. He offered as comparison the house at the corner of Fels Avenue and S. Summit Street, which has also been raised with a retaining wall, the difference being that the wall is in front of the house.

He also pointed out all the drainage improvements that have been made, in consultation with the City, and said that his neighbor to the north is actually quite pleased with the development for two reasons. Previously, storm runoff from the lot ran right into his garage; now it has been diverted to avoid his lot entirely. Moreover, once construction is complete, Vance intends to build a privacy fence at the back of his lot, allowing the neighbor to remove his fence, which is several feet inside his lot line, thereby gaining several feet of usable space beside his garage. Vance also assured me that his house will not block sunlight from his neighbor’s house.

I commented that his son’s website was somewhat minimal and said I wished all architects would post more “work in progress” photos. He said this was an issue of time and money but pointed out that a camera has been mounted on the utility pole at the corner of the lot to take time-lapse photos that will ultimately provide a video of the project from start to finish.

111 Magnolia Avenue

Progress here is entirely on the “garage.” Inside the main house, there is no perceptible change: the jacket, cooler, and other personal items have not moved for months.

The outbuilding, however, has been partially clapboarded and painted, and a breezeway has been built connecting it to the house.

Inside, stairs have been built, providing access to the second floor.

At the top of the stairs, a landing/seating area opens (via two doors) onto the upstairs porch, which faces east.

At the front, facing west, is a large room—bedroom or office—with what appear to be storage areas.

In the center, on either side of a passageway, there are a closet and what I am speculating will be a bathroom.

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