GALENA–Terry Cole, president of Renaissance Restoration, Inc., has transformed many homes in Galena over his 40-plus-year career in restoration. Two of his recent projects are located right next to each other on Dodge Street.
The property is owned by Cole’s sister, Theresa, and her husband, Eric. Eric and Theresa also own the house up the hill from his current project and that home was recently on the Tour of Homes.
“They were sitting on their back patio and would look down on that house,” said Terry Cole. “You could hardly see it with all the trees, it was like it was invisible.”
The home, built in the 1840s, has a special connection to Cole as his mother grew up in the current home Theresa lives in, and his mother’s best friend was Shirley Jahncke, who grew up in the house that he is currently working on.
“When we were kids, she was like a second mom to me. There was a special connection to the house,” said Cole.
Cole said the purchase for her sister took some time, but eventually they were able to secure the home.
A phased approach
Cole said the house will be completed in a four or five-year plan.
“Last year, we did phase one and did the exterior,” said Cole. “The first thing Eric did was call my brother Danny to clear all the trees from the front so that you could actually see the house and let some air into it.”
According to Cole, the home had sat vacant for eight years, and before that there was water damage from the roof and water in the basement.
“The home had a lot of water damage,” said Cole.
Phase one was completed last fall.
“Phase two we began this year, which was to finish the rest of the exterior. Last year we basically did the front facing the street,” said Cole. “This year, we did the side and the addition where the kitchen will be. We also did a lot of site work with Mike Sproule.”
Cole said that the project is moving into phase three already and that Eric is having the mechanical installed with the plumbing and heating being worked on as well.
“He also had spray foam insulation put in where the kitchen was and is getting the attic foamed,” said Cole. “They will then decide what project they want to do next. They already have the kitchen designed. I think the next biggest project will be the window restoration, and we will do all that and restore the original window sash.”
Cole said the front windows at the house are unique when it comes to Galena architecture as very few houses in Galena have floor-to-ceiling windows.
“They are pretty unique,” said Cole. “There are only like three houses in Galena that have those type of windows.”
Cole said the building will likely be heated over the winter which will allow Cole’s team to prepare the kitchen for cabinets and appliances.
“Tim Droessler of Droessler Plastering will likely plaster the inside in the spring,” said Cole.
Cole said that Theresa and Eric will also have to decide if they want to have the trim painted or restripped and finished.
“That is something that we can work on over the winter,” said Cole.
The main staircase will also be worked on as the second level railing will need to be replaced.
The balcony on the front will also be fixed along with a custom railing created and installed.
“The last thing will be the patio on the backside which will be patterned concrete as well as getting the driveway completed,” said Cole. “They might also decide on replacing the roof towards the end.”
A handful of challenges
Cole has run into a handful of changes including the small basement. Eric has been helping Cole as the assistant project manager since March, when he moved full-time to Galena due to the pandemic. Prior to that, Theresa and Eric shared their time between San Francisco and Galena.
“Eric dug out the basement by hand with five-gallon buckets,” said Cole. “It is all clay, so you know how heavy that is.”
Cole said his other project was gutting things out and cleaning the mold from the building as well as cleaning the attic where traces of raccoons and squirrels were found.
“Eric had all those good jobs,” said Cole.
Cole said another challenge was with the outside foundation where they had to dig down four to five feet and pointed all the stone which is something they didn’t plan to do originally.
Renaissance Restoration specializes in window restoration and this house allows Cole and his team to work on some of the more unique windows in Galena’s architectural landscape.
“The old windows are a lot better than any new windows that you can buy today,” said Cole.
Cole uses the example of windows he installed when he began 35 to 40 years ago, and he is having to replace those windows again.
“It is all old growth lumber in these older constructed windows,” said Cole. “The lumber they use now isn’t even that old.”
Cole said window restoration begins with taking the window sash out and to the shop as well as all of the glass and window putty.
“We then strip it all down and epoxy repair it with window epoxy. Otherwise, sometimes you have to repair the glass and sometimes you have to rebuild the sash,” said Cole.
In the shop, they strip the windows and get them ready. Once they are repaired, they sand them and prime them and get the glass back in them and then reglaze the sash. They then put one coat of finish on them.
On site, Cole’s team strips the exterior of the brick molding, and the interior is stripped as well.
“Sometimes there are multilayers of paint,” said Cole.
Cole said in restoring the windows of his office on Norris Lane, the window trim had 10 to 12 coats of paint.
“None of it was painted originally. It was all grained to look like oak,” said Cole.
When the sash is restored, Cole and his team will put a new sash cord on them and new hardware, pulls and locks. There is also bronze weather stripping that he puts on his windows.
“Ninety percent of the time, the top sash will fix that so it doesn’t operate, then the bottom sash is weather stripped, so when it is closed it is sealed real tight,” said Cole.
Cole said wood and aluminum custom storm windows are then added.
“The ones down there (on Dodge Street) are unique because they go from just below the ceiling height all the way to the floor,” said Cole.
Cole said even though those windows are rare, the windows aren’t more challenging to restore.
“It is nice to have something a little bit different to restore,” said Cole. “It is just unique because not many houses in town have it.”
A tree turned ornament
One of the unique stories that has come from the restoration of the house includes a stump that wasn’t able to be dug up by machine. Eric was able to dig it out by hand.
“He found this tree root that is probably six-foot by three-foot,” said Cole. “It kind of looked like a sculpture item. I said it looked like a black leopard.”
Cole said that a wooden leg was put on it and the mortar used on the front patio was used to plaster the root and he spray painted it black to look like a leopard.
“It is pretty interesting,” said Cole. “It will be a yard ornament.”
Cole said he hasn’t seen many challenges due to the pandemic and has been able to get all of the material, but sometimes the orders are delayed by a few weeks. The prices have also doubled for some of the materials.
“With the pandemic, everyone is doing home repairs,” said Cole. “We haven’t ran into any problems yet, so we have been pretty lucky with that.”
Cole said that the pandemic is the only thing that might hinder the timeline, but he hopes to have the home completed in the next couple years.