Neil and Patricia Coleman, and John R. AnkromArchitects for the preservation and rehabilitation of the Walke House at 381 Western Avenue in Chillicothe
Rehabilitation of the Walke House has revealed the original beauty and grace of a 200-year old residence. Recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the property is an important reflection of early 19th century Classical Revival-style residential architecture in the Virginia Military District settlement area of Ohio.
After serving as a residence for 100 years, the Walke House was converted to an orphanage and several large additions were built that nearly swallowed up the original house, doubling the overall square footage. In the 1980s, the building became the offices of Ross County Children’s Services, which continued to include some temporary holding space for children.
In 2000, Children’s Services moved out and the property was purchased by Neil and Patricia Coleman. Their original motivation was to find larger office space for their business that would include adequate parking. But when their architect son went through the building and let them know what an early and significant building it was, they expanded their goals to include sensitive rehabilitation and retention of the many beautiful original details that were still intact.
Two of the three large additions were removed as well as many interior partitions and drop ceilings. Plaster was extensively repaired and new mechanicals were added with a careful eye toward minimal visual intrusion. Doors, windows, and trim damaged over two centuries of use were painstakingly restored. One window on the façade was carefully custom-made to match the original with a new hand-tooled stone sill. New operable shutters, matching the originals, were fabricated. A testament to the solid construction of the original building is that the only structural work of note, other than repairs from removing the additions, was the necessity to raise by a few inches the original staircase, which had settled slightly.
Something the new owners were not prepared for as the project took shape was the level of interest by neighbors and area residents, especially many who had lived in the building as children. Many visited during construction to see the building and share their stories, both happy and sad.
Now in use as an office, rehabilitation of the Walke House has given new life to a significant building that dates from the first years that Ohio was a state. The project has reconnected the house and its history to the surrounding neighborhood, to Chillicothe, and to Ohio.
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