Restored in Avondale

Home 33A 1925 home is vitally alive again.

Written by Joe O’Donnell

Photography by Chuck St. John

It is coincidental that a modern tool like Zillow displayed on an iPad could lead you back almost 100 years to a brick home in Avondale, sitting vacant for the seven years previous. But there it was, first on the iPad and then in person. My wife found it, and when we walked in, we knew that somehow this could be ours.

Built in 1925, the house (two stories with a full basement) was turned into four apartments sometime in the late 1940s. Originally, it was a single home built for the Hinkle family in the mid-1920s. I went to the library to get some background on the house after we purchased it in March 2014. I found a photo and some ownership documents. In the 1930 census, Victoria Hinkle is listed as living in the house as a widow with four children, two boarders, and two servants.

Home 1As far as we can tell, two other families owned the house after the Hinkles, but the details are murky. When we walked into the house for the first time in the spring of 2014, the main floor was a large apartment entered off the porch through the sunroom. The front door led to a foyer and stairs to two upstairs apartments. We opened that front door and saw a beautiful staircase bathed in light from windows on the landing. You could tell this was a house that was lovely just beneath the surface.

It took about nine months to uncover that loveliness with the help of contractor Mike Holliday of MP&K Construction. The goal was to turn the house back into a single-family home that would have the authentic feel of the original 1920s construction. The electrical, plumbing, and heat and air all had to be replaced, but the walls remained (with the exception of a couple that had to come down to reopen partitioned rooms). The moldings and woodwork were all salvageable with the electrical work pulled through the baseboards to preserve the plaster walls. The two fireplaces were originally coal-burning. They were restored with gas coal fireplaces. The heart pine and oak floors were reworked with tung oil applied for a natural finish.

My wife took heirlooms from the homes of her grandparents and used those antique glass door knobs and light fixtures (even a dough board now placed in a new cabinet) to merge pieces of her family history into this newly restored home.

Home 11That is the beauty, I have found, in restoring a home. Your tastes and personal history become a part of a longer, bigger story of many families and the arc of lives played out inside four walls.

We moved in mid-June 2015. I was walking down the front steps on a Sunday morning when a car with Texas plates pulled up to the curb. The window opened and a man leaned out and asked if these were still apartments. No, I said, we renovated the house and just moved in a few days before. Two brothers were in the car with their wives. One lived in Texas; one in Georgia. But they had spent their early teen years in this house, and their father later created the apartments and sold the building in the 1960s.

We walked through each room and they told stories of how their father had delivered groceries here to Mrs. Hinkle in the 1930s. He had always loved the house and when he grew up and had a family, he bought it. They remembered records in the sunroom and opening the door onto the porch where they danced in stocking feet late into the night.

As they were leaving, one of the brothers teared up and said he had always hoped that someday he could buy this house, that his father had never really wanted to sell it. I now know the feeling.

Gallery: Home Renovation

Gallery: The Finished Home

8 Responses to “Restored in Avondale”

  1. John Takao says:

    I’d like to take a tour of the old house one day.

  2. John Takao says:

    In 1964,the house was purchased from Major Frances Wood. It is ,or was believed that Mr.Wood converted the house to apartments after the War. Mr. Clyde Walker of Walker Reality and Roger W. Long sold he house to a family in 1964. That family owned the house for the past 50 years until it was sold in 2014. Great job on the house!!!

    • Beth says:

      John, I don’t have your phone number or I would arrange to show you the house. We met the sons of Mr. Wood they loved seeing the house. We have loved it from the first minute we saw it and it felt like home from day one. I never plan to leave it!

      • John Takao says:

        I just wanted to ask, where is the spiral staircase located? I see the windows in the background and the corner of the house, I think I know where it’s at, but I’m not too sure.

  3. Tricia Lay says:

    The house looks great — Congrats!

  4. Anna Rosato Brown says:

    I grew up in Forest Park and your home looks real familiar. Great job on the redo. You will love living in that community.

  5. Lynn Neel says:

    Beautiful home. I love what you have done. We are neighbors and have an ole beauty too. Welcome to the best the best neighborhood in Birmingham.

  6. Stuart Oates says:

    I was so pleased to watch the house undergo renovations. When we moved into the neighborhood in 2011, I was hoping that someone would see the potential and invest in bringing the house back. You’re done a wonderful job!

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