House a true labor of love


Derik Vanderford|The Union Daily Times Mary Vickery, left, sits with her daughter Cathy Bradshaw, right, in the courtyard of Mary’s newly remodeled and preserved property on Douglas Heights in Union.

Derik Vanderford|The Union Daily Times The Vickerys’ home at 104 Douglas Heights has undergone three years of remodeling.

Derik Vanderford|The Union Daily Times A dumbwaiter in back of the house will allow for more convenience when carrying lots of items such as groceries.

Derik Vanderford|The Union Daily Times Some of the home’s original beams were reused as counter tops.

Derik Vanderford|The Union Daily Times A deck was built onto the back of the home on Douglas Heights in Union.

UNION — A mother and daughter have brought a century-old historic home back to life with a remodel design that preserves history and modernizes the home.

George and Mary Vickery moved into a home on Douglas Heights, Union, in 1967. Mary said the house was one of the only available houses in town at the time, and it was in desperate need of repair. They rented the house at first, with money being taken out of the rent for repairs. George — who worked at Liberty Life in Union and was an active Boy Scout leader — worked on the house until he fell ill. George was ill for a period of 12 years, and the integrity of the house declined. Eventually, the side of the house fell in, and later, so did the front of the house. Chimneys collapsed, which caused beams that were resting on the bricks to sink. Whole floors fell in, and doors were unable to close. Most of the house either cracked, broke or shifted. The dirt and sky were both visible from inside the house.

Most of the damage occurred five years ago, around the same time George passed away. Around three years ago, Mary (then living in Columbia) decided to make huge changes to the home, and her daughter, Cathy Bradshaw, had the vision.

“This gave us an opportunity to rethink the entire layout,” Cathy said.

Because the home is registered as a historic home, the design of the outside of the house had to remain, but Mary and Cathy decided to completely gut the inside, while preserving materials from the home.

Cathy originally drew her vision for the house on a paper towel, rearranging the interior design to make more sense. For the past three years, remodeling of the property has taken place. The project is now finished, and Mary plans to move back into the house.

When Mary and Cathy decided to restore the home, they called Audie Epps of Quality Builders in Union to serve as the contractor.

“Audie Epps has been terrific,” Cathy said. “He was the contractor; I was the designer; and Mom was the final approval.”

Cathy gave Epps the design she drew, along with a model of a dumbwaiter she built from Popsicle sticks. Cathy said the dumbwaiter would allow her mother to load groceries onto it, press a button, and send them upstairs to the house.

The home received a complete makeover on the inside. An old bedroom was turned into a kitchen. The back porch was transformed into a bedroom and bathroom. A cement fireplace which had crumbled was rebuilt out of sheet rock and concrete. The porch which had rotted was rebuilt from concrete. An upstairs closet — originally the only closet in the house — was turned into a sitting area, which includes attic space and a walk-through between two bedrooms (the childhood rooms of Cathy and her brother Dan). New wiring, plumbing, windows, floors and a heating and cooling system were installed.

Outside the house, a deck was built, including handicap steps for easy climbing. Beside the deck, four large, rotten oak trees were removed from the property. After the trees were taken out, Cathy — a plant-lover — decided to turn the area into a courtyard.

“That area was unused and unraked for 40 years,” Cathy said. “It was nothing three years ago.”

A holly tree which was original to the house remains in the courtyard, along with fountains built by brick mason Michael Kershaw, who also built a fire place in the back yard.

Although the house has been remodeled, many of the original materials were preserved.

“We didn’t completely rebuild,” Cathy said. “We re-purposed old materials. We updated the home but maintained the historic value.”

An original beam is still visible in the house, and several of the other original beams were used in other areas. Some were used to make counter tops over the washer, dryer and sink in the new laundry room. The original wood floors were used to make items such as a dining table, benches and a display of rolling pins that have been passed down through the family. The basket in the outside dumbwaiter was built by George years ago. An upstairs bathroom has the home’s original claw-foot tub, which has been updated with glass tiles. The room also has a chandelier, which George and Mary received when they married in 1950. One bedroom contains a bedroom suite that Mary’s mother received when she was married. The home’s original stairs and banisters are still in place.

”You can bring an old house back to life and use it to fit a current lifestyle,” Cathy said.

Mary and Cathy are thrilled their three-year project is finally finished. Some of the setbacks along the way included a total of three roofs in a three-year period due to hail and wind damage.

”It has been a true labor of love,” Cathy said.

Cathy said some people are scared to buy old homes. She said while the endeavor is not the most inexpensive, the sky is the limit on what can be done.To celebrate the conclusion of the project, Mary and Cathy will invite friends and family to the house for a cookout June 28.

”Family and friends can come and see what we’ve been working on for three years,” Mary said, adding that the gathering will also be a thank-you to neighbors who put up with the noise of building and trucks during the project.

A frame displays four photos of the house spanning from 1961-2015, illustrating the progress made. Mary said guests will be asked to sign the white matte around the photos.

“You can look at something like that,” Cathy said, pointing to the first photo, “and can’t imagine it could be something like this.”

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