Couple restoring Observatory Hill home use social media to showcase project
Photo by Neil Strebig
A view of a bedroom, complete with fireplace and stained glass, at 345 Waldorf St. in Observatory Hill.
By Neil Strebig
Sawdust kicks up from creaking floorboards, floating in the sunlight, quietly disappearing into the transcendent colors of a vibrantly hand-crafted stained glass window that silently rests above a 19th century fireplace. Bay windows aid the double fluted stained glass, illuminating the living room of the mansion at 345 Waldorf Street.
“There’s so much character on Waldorf Street. [The neighboring homes] are all different and have a majestic look about them,” co-owner Rick Astle said of the Observatory Hill street.
The exposed brick – a Victorian staple – precisely laid in each corner of the living room is a trademark of century-old craftsmanship. Even amidst the dusty noise of workers and movers, one can easily spot the breathtaking detail in the house’s wood work. Astle is quick to point out that some workings throughout the house “have never been painted” in nearly 100 years.
One can easily understand what Astle and his partner Tim Denham saw when the couple first visited the property four months ago.
“There are so many things about this house that are so unique that we hadn’t seen [before],” Astle said. “In this area you can’t beat the prices, the house you’re going to get, the history you’re going to get, things you don’t see driving down the street, it is so unique.”
Astle and Denham, owners of Denham and Co. Salon in Market Square, purchased the property last September for a mere $60,000. Both knew they had stumbled upon a hidden gem immediately after seeing the house.
“I think it is grand,” Denham said. “To drive down this street and have these houses set away from the street and have this much space between them. And it is so close to the city.”
Denham plans to put approximately $200,000 into restoring the house. Compared to the Lawrenceville row house they are currently staying in, the couple saw this location as prime real estate.
The couple has four dogs between them and was adamant about how much the expanded living quarters means to them and their pets.
“I honestly just wanted a home, not necessarily with more rooms, but each one of my rooms to have more floor space,” Denham said.
The exuberant pair started a Facebook page, which now has just under 300 followers, to chronicle the transition into their new home. The page captures all the beautiful details of the historic house, recalling the luxurious past of the hme and the grandeur of Waldorf Street’s history from century old photographs to recently captured ones highlighting the many hidden gems the couple have discovered. Both feel that the history of their soon-to-be permanent residency is “very important.”
“There’s so much character [on Waldorft Street],” Astle said. “[Neighboring homes are] all different and have a majestic look about them.”
The largest “wow” factor to Astle is also his favorite portion of the house, the back patio; where one can see nearly two miles across Observatory Hill and Perrysville Avenue, with I-79 as a backdrop.
While the back patio possesses a jaw-dropping view, one of the most eclectic things about the house might be the root cellar or a “basement inside a basement,” according to Denham.
The cellar was part of the original foundation which was built in the 1890s, and stored two grand pianos other than providing food storage.
The most recent owner used the basement to store a tremendously impressive collection of old Cadillac parts, which Denham proudly showcased on the Facebook page.
As mesmerizing as the history may be, both owners admit the root cellar has been the biggest problem in refurbishing.
In Denham’s words, their biggest concern to date is, “How are we going to cover that up in a cost efficient way?”
The two may have their hands full in the basement, but they are making sure they give back to the local community, which has been extremely encouraging throughout the couple’s journey from Lawrenceville to the Northside.
“It is a lot of home,” Astle said. “We will always live here. We might do a light [bed & breakfast], but we will always live here.”
To see the recent renovations and progress visit the Facebook page.