Once ‘ragtag’ and ‘eerie,’ Old Town house wins an award

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD
The house had been a one-story dwelling measuring 1,202 square feet. The owners built a two-story addition and put in a basement, increasing the overall square footage by 1,657. Jay Hamburger/Park Record

Jonathan DeGray recalls an "eerie" scene a few years ago inside a house at 929 Park Ave., a structure that was originally put up in 1904.

City Hall had condemned the house seven or eight years ago, DeGray, an architect, said. Someone last lived there a decade or so ago.

The California owners wanted to restore the property. It underwent a significant renovation in 2012 and 2013. It was a similar project as others in Old Town over the past 20 years, as property owners recognized the value of renovating and expanding beaten-down houses from the silver-mining era.

"I think it’s a great opportunity to restore it and save a bit of Park City’s history," DeGray said.

The Utah Heritage Foundation recently feted the project with a Heritage Award, an annual honor that recognizes work that fosters a sense of history and demonstrates preservation. Between 10 and 18 projects statewide are recognized annually, according to the organization. The project at 929 Park Ave. had previously been recognized by City Hall.

The work at the site started in early 2012 and was finished in the spring of 2013. The house, a one-story dwelling measuring 1,202 square feet, was restored. The owners also built a two-story addition and put in a basement, spreading through another 1,657 square feet.

The house has suffered damage over the years. DeGray said the roof on the rear of the house had fallen in, leading to water damage. The last tenants had left some of their items behind. It was a "ragtag" house before the work started, DeGray said.

He said he designed a redo of the house that would ensure the addition would work well at the site. The streetscape was important, leading him to step the addition back to ensure it is less visible. He wanted it to "blend" with the surroundings.

"The big thing is not to get carried away with the addition," DeGray said.

The Utah Heritage Foundation deemed the work a success as it honored the project. The organization honored the work in May. DeGray said the owner, the contractor and himself are "ecstatic" with the Utah Heritage Foundation honor.

Kirk Huffaker, the executive director of the Utah Heritage Foundation, said the project was "ambitious." He said other renovations of historic houses in Old Town have upset the streetscape, something that is not recommended when a historic property is renovated. The project at 929 Park Ave. did not, he said, calling the preservation efforts "unique."

"It’s almost unrecognizable," he said about the addition.

In a January nominating letter, City Hall’s preservation planner, Anya Grahn, wrote about the streetscape. She said recognized the general contractor, Joe Witt, as well.

"It is not often that an architect proposes a design so in keeping with the look and feel of the historic district," Grahn wrote, adding that the addition is designed "so that it is almost entirely shielded from the street by the historic structure."

The owner planned to demolish the house four years before the work, the letter said. An accompanying statement indicated the Park City Building Department issued a de facto demolition notice on May 15, 2009 "due to its severe deterioration and dilapidated state."

"The property was overgrown with trees, and boarded windows and structural roof failures on the house added to the overall rundown condition of the site," the statement said.

The statement, meanwhile, said the general contractor researched the history of the building and worked with staffers while determining "which materials could be salvaged and preserved." The statement’s closing sentences summarized City Hall’s impressions.

"In addition to saving a threatened and mothballed historic structure, this restoration set a standard of quality in restoration projects within Park City. The design team worked very closely with staff to salvage any historic material that remained, accurately reconstruct missing historic elements, and ensure the best preservation practices were utilized," it said. "Moreover, the design is a great example of how a rear addition can be accommodated to provide modern living conveniences without compromising the integrity of the historic house."

Winning history

The Utah Heritage Foundation regularly honors Park City projects with its Heritage Award.

The executive director says one Park City project is honored every three years, on average. The renovation of a house at 929 Park Ave. was the only local winner in 2014.

Park City projects that have been honored in the past include:

  • High West Distillery & Saloon
  • Silver Star
  • St. Mary’s Catholic Church
  • Park City Museum
  • Washington School House Hotel

    Hal Compton and Tina Lewis, two longtime Park City preservation activists, have also been honored.

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