Every House Has a Story

March 1, 2008 | By More

Story by Dianne Edwards

If every house has a story, what would a 1920’s Tudor-style home say? 

Pointing to the dining room that homeowner Suzanne Alford- Hodges shares with her husband R.E. Hodges, she recalled stories heard about their historical Russellville home. The Hodges home is believed to have been built about 1928 and is located at 408 South Commerce.

“Attorney Doc Irwin learned to play poker in there. Another friend heard a new four-letter word during a childhood slumber party she attended in this house. As R.E. says, ‘every house has a story,’” says Suzanne.

After the couple married six years ago, they began looking for a home in the historical area. “The neighbors probably thought I was a stalker, I drove through so many times!” Suzanne laughed.

When Suzanne first toured the home, she was immediately drawn in by the arched doorways and French doors leading into the dining room. The Hodges bought the house in 2003 and moved into the home that August.

“My favorite place in our home is the enclosed front porch,” admits Suzanne. “As soon as it’s warm enough, we live out there. We spend the entire summer there. If I would have had my way, we’d have started the remodeling process out there.”

But practicality won out and the couple began their remodeling project in the kitchen. Previous owners had installed the typical 1960s décor. Out came the dark cabinets and shag carpet. R.E. and Suzanne replaced a small, single kitchen window with several leaded-glass windows painted a bright white.

The windows had been salvaged from another home that had been “sadly demolished” to make way for the expansion of a neighborhood church. In addition to the kitchen windows, other salvaged doors were bought and used in the renovation.
“When we moved in, the only leaded glass in the home was found in the front door,” recalled the homeowner. “So we were especially glad to find the windows.”

A set of cabinets were another salvaged find. With the help of a carpenter and a little ingenuity, the cabinets were reduced in width and placed below upper cabinets to create additional storage for their collectibles.

Brown and black vinyl tile that the couple personally installed in a diagonal across the kitchen foyer, stressed them immensely, explained Suzanne. Now able to laugh about it, she admits she and R.E. didn’t speak for four days. The end result is beautiful and mimics flooring that Suzanne had seen in design magazines.

When they bought their historic home, the couple envisioned several garden spots. Future renovation will include exterior maintenance and will require the acquisition of red brick to match.

The floor plan featured two-bedrooms and one bathroom – which still boasts the home’s original “throne.” White octagonal ceramic tile, also native to the home, lines the floor of the guest bathroom. A modern-day mirror, flanked by reproduction-style light fixtures, reflect the room’s natural light.

Though the plaster walls were wall-paper free, the ceiling of the living room was not. “That’s gotta go,” insisted a contractor, one of three used throughout the project.

The living room is painted a warm greenish-gold. Suzanne loves the color but can’t immediately recall the name, “but I’d paint a room this color in any home I’d live in,” she testifies.

A testimony to their love of color, a brightly-colored, sofa-size painting by local artist Sarah Keathley hangs above the fireplace. The mantle is original but the fireplace, which had been closed off at one time, now houses gas logs. Another colorful piece, a floor rug purchased in Santa Fe, occupies a spot in the sitting room.

With more than a hundred framed photos and original artwork to display, holes must be drilled in the plaster to avoid cracking the original surface. R.E. did all the interior painting, because “he’s neater than I am and because I was suffering with carpal tunnel syndrome,” recalled Suzanne.

An antique doll dress made by Suzanne’s grandmother is framed and hung in the hallway. The dress replicates one made for and worn by the young homeowner.

“My grandmother made me a dress and then made one for my doll,” she recalled.

Original artwork fills the walls of the home. There one finds the work of local artists Doyle Young, Fred Shepard, Sue Tucker, Paula Steel, Peter Goff and Hannah Glover. Though she loves them all, Suzanne admits her favorite is a penciled self-portrait by her then-young daughter, Polly Ratliff,

Though a few of the antique pieces found in their home are new finds, most are gifts from family and friends. Suzanne’s love of antiques was nurtured by the surroundings in her childhood home in Cleveland, Miss., where her father owned an antique and used furniture store. One such piece, a burled walnut secretary now refinished and standing in the dining room, was found by her father on a porch filled with roosting chickens. It now houses collectible books and family photos.

An attic renovation and an expansion to the rear of the home bumped the home’s existing 1,700 sq. ft. footprint by an additional 700 sq. ft. The rear expansion provides access to the master bedroom and offers the family an entrance to a new master bath with shower, dressing area and a walk-in closet containing a washer and dryer. An antique dressing table sits underneath a narrow, salvaged glass window, installed high and horizontal to illuminate while insuring privacy.

The couple opened up the attic, removing a “huge” fan and creating a third bedroom for overnight guests. The guests may include Suzanne’s daughters, Polly and Rebecca, and R.E.’s daughters, Holly and Amy, and their families. The room is cozy and provides ample sleeping quarters with two full-size antique bed frames and a twin bed nestled just inside the doorway.

Stained wooden stairs lead to the upstairs addition. When funds waned, a contractor suggested the painted rebar that graces the railing. That uniqueness is just one of many quaint features found throughout.

When the couple is not busy with work – she owns The Frame Shop and Gallery in historic downtown Russellville, he is director of grants and contracts for the Area Agency on Aging – the pair is actively involved in the Old Town Historic Neighborhood Association. R.E. serves as the current president of the organization which focuses on restoration and preservation of some of the area’s oldest homes.

Concerns about the transition of property from private ownership to commercial purchase, along with the demolition of the 100-plus year old Patrick Home at 405 S. Commerce, prompted the group to unify five years ago.

The Hodgeses, along with more than 50 interested households and community members, desire to preserve existing historic homes in the area and to prevent the loss of others. They are especially interested in the recent proposal to have Russellville designated as a local historic district.

Said district can only be created by a local ordinance passed by the local governing body. Arkansas cities and counties are authorized by the Arkansas Historic Districts Act to enact local laws for the “preservation and protection of buildings, sites, places and districts of historic interest,” according to literature provided by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Membership in the Old Town Neighborhood is open to anyone interested in the preservation and restoration of the area’s heritage. For more information contact R.E. Hodges at (479) 970-1615 .

 

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