Saturday, November 23, 2013

Restoring 1000 Hanover in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Located on a quiet corner lot in the popular North Shore area of Chattanooga is a charming home whose history has been one of happiness and family harmony. Built in 1922, it had been the home of Helen Hubbuch for 46 years, where she and her husband Carl raised their five children. The 3,700 sq. ft. home had been neglected for many years leading up to Mrs. Hubbuch's death in March of 2001. Deborah and I were fortunate enough to be able to purchase the home in September of that year from Helen and Carl's five children.

1000 Hanover Street in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Once we decided on making Chattanooga our new home, the Hanover house was the second one we previewed. Our realtor, Bill Holmes, had selected it based on our price and desire for an older home with loads of character. At first glance, it was a little scary. Dark mildew covered all exterior walls and much of the paint was peeling. There were several cracked and missing windows. But the home was obviously built extremely well and had so much personality that the problems we saw seemed less overwhelming. We did not know it at the time, but we had just found our dream home.

Inside, all the downstairs floors were carpeted. The kitchen and breakfast rooms had aged vinyl. There were noticeable watermarks on many of the ceilings and walls indicating that there had been water problems in the past. The pedestal sinks in two of the baths had been removed and replaced with cheap fabricated cabinets and sinks. The beautiful cherry staircase had been enclosed with a door separating the upper floor from the downstairs. Aluminum windows had replaced two of the largest windows in an upstairs bedroom.

We could tell that there had been renovations in the past. The downstairs had partially upgraded wiring, copper pipes had replaced the original, and many of the plaster walls had been repaired. Also, a fairly new furnace, central air, and hot water heater had already been installed in the home.

To our surprise, when we attempted to insure the home, we found that we would not be able get insurance unless the wiring was totally updated. Much of the downstairs had been rewired but there remained much of the original knob-and-tube wiring throughout the home.

Later, after we had purchased the home, we discovered many other problems we would have to address. At the closing we met the wonderful Hubbuch family. We found that George Hubbuch had engineered most of the repairs and renovations made to the home over the years. He visited us the day after closing and shared colorful memories of growing up in the house. He was a valuable source of information about the history of the house. He pointed out construction features, past modifications and existing problems of which we were unaware. He also gave us many original plumbing and lighting fixtures that had been replaced over the years.

Never having tackled a renovation project before, we felt totally unqualified with no idea as to how to begin. Fortunately, our Realtor, Bill Holmes, came to the rescue. He was very experienced in restoring older homes and was himself with his lovely wife Kathy, at that time, restoring their own beautiful Victorian in the Historic Fort Wood district of Chattanooga. Also, to help us understand what we were getting into and what could be accomplished, he introduced us to several people who restored older homes for a living. Geoff and Amanda Tarr had moved from Atlanta and chosen Chattanooga as their home because of the abundance of beautiful older homes that were available at very reasonable prices. They were investing in the Fort Wood district and the up and coming Highland Park area. Amanda's parents, Pete and Diane, had also moved to capitalize on the affordable housing and wonderful Chattanooga life style.

Geoff and Amanda welcomed us with open arms. They were wonderful. They showed us their mission style home, which they were in the process of renovating. In addition to their investments in Chattanooga, they were also involved in renovation in the Grant Park and Kirkwood areas of Atlanta. Amanda worked as an international flight attendant while Geoff did restorations full time. Both were involved in a side business selling corn dogs and lemonade at the abundant festivals in and around Chattanooga.

The Tarr's introduced us to Amanda's oldest and closest friend, Jo Beth Kavanaugh, who had taken that leap of faith and purchased a run down home in the Highland Park area. Where Geoff and Amanda's home was in the early stages of renovation, Jo Beth's was done and done beautifully. After seeing her home and viewing the pictures of the house as it was when she purchased it, we realized that she had totally saved the home. It was beautiful, spacious, functional, and it had personality. That, seeing her home, more than anything reinforced our desire to have an older home, with personality.

The Sunday morning after the annual Micro Brewery Beer Festival, they all descended on our future home to be. Deborah was still apprehensive about the condition of the house. From the moment they entered the house they loved it. Compared to what they typically found when selecting a house for restoration, our Hanover house was in great condition. Not only did they give us insight into the condition of the house but they also offered ideas for correcting problems. They shared the names of excellent contractors they had used who were dependable, affordable and who could fix the problems. Later we would find that their recommendations were the most valuable help of all.

A major problem for us was going to be the coordination of all the contractors working on the house. Originally we had lined up multiple crews to accomplish the various task required the get the home in shape. There were the electricians who would totally rewire the house. There was the heat and air contractors who would install a new heat and air heat pump unit in the attic to service the upstairs. There were plumbers to correct any water and drainage issues. There was the contractor to repair all external problems. There were painters to re-glaze external windows and prime and paint the entire exterior of the house. And there was the flooring contractor to sand and refinish the hardwood floors. At the center of all this kaotic activity was the need for us to actually move into the house.

We worked out a project plan that required that we spend 3 weeks living out of a local Residence Inn. During that time we planned to overlap all the work crews in order have the house ready for us to move in. Exterior jobs were not as critical in this plan but we still wanted them finished as soon as possible. A critical task that had to be accomplished during that time was the finishing of the floors. It required 3 days were no one could be in the house. We set about coordinating with all the contractors. This required that they all be available during those weeks and that they be committed to getting their task completed on schedule. It looked good on paper.

We actually followed our plan fairly well. It did change but only to tackle additional task we had not originally planned on. There were two rooms upstairs where the plaster had collapsed that needed to be sheetrocked. It also became clear that it would be far easier to paint the interior prior to moving furniture into the house. We got additional bids on this work and decided to tackle this task prior to moving in. This delayed our move but did not prevent us from setting up residence in the house, without furniture. Deborah and I decided to live out of three rooms, the kitchen, bathroom and breakfast area (make shift bedroom with air mattress). Looking back on it, we are glad we made these decisions.

The Hubbuch's purchased the home in 1955, from the Fletcher family, and at that time the staircase leading to the upper rooms had already been enclosed. We knew immediately that removing the wall and door would open up the area. To us, this was the most dramatic change we would make to the interior of the home. We were so anxious to remove the wall. When it was finally removed, we discovered the decorative finials tucked carefully in the framework above the door in case the door was removed in the future. The craftsman who constructed the wall went to extreme measures so as not to harm the beautiful cherry wood banister and oak stairsteps. With the staircase once again open, the whole house started to feel like it was finally one home again.
Carl and Helen Hubbuck

Downstairs Hallway and Stairs

Enclosed Stairway
We were told that John Fletcher, a prominent attorney in Chattanooga, was the second owner of 1000 Hanover. He purchased the home within a couple of years of being built, from Lucias Blair. It is our understanding that the outside porch steps were added during the Fletcher ownership. These steps allowed entry to the second level from outside. We also believe that during this time, the Hallway staircase was enclosed with sheetrock and a locking door added to the foot of the staircase, restricting entry to the lower level from upstairs.
Rewiring and many other renovations was done by Higdon Electric. We got several estimates for rewiring the house. Included in the rewiring, we wanted to have multiple phone lines and cable entertainment run throughout the house. Jo Beth had recommended Bud Higdon and had told us that he was more expensive but he did not balk at every little change. He built some degree of change into his price.

The estimate for rewiring was around $8,000. This seemed like a very good price to us. The other estimates were in the same neighborhood but they did not include repairing the holes make by the electricians. Also, we did not have personal recommendations for the other companies.

Bud Higdon visited us the day after closing. He wanted us to understand that the job he was about to begin might look worst before it got better. His experience told him that we had little idea that the rewiring required him and his crew to break through the plaster walls and ceiling in order to get the wires run.

His crew descended on us, in force, two days later. It was obvious that his employees were motivated, that they enjoyed their jobs, and that they respected Bud. They were extremely professional, including us in any decision affecting the appearance of the home. I was, as horrible as it sounds, out of town during most of the renovation. This left everything on Deborah's shoulders. Bud and his crew, Richard and Hank, quickly became her guardians which I will always remember and appreciate. They really looked out for her.

When everything was completed, Bud had totally rewired the electricity, phones and cable. There was an abundance of outlets throughout the home. They had professionally patched all the holes they had made as well as any that were already existing. His crew also hung all the light fixtures and added needed lighting to the extremely dark basement. We did exceed the budget in a couple of areas. I had them run the surround sound wiring for me which was not included in the original estimate and I did not expect it to be.

Years later when we decided to sale the property, a live knob and tube line was found beneath the house. It had been missed during our original renovation. We contacted Bud and he immediately came and corrected the problem at no charge to us. This was ten years after the original work. We worked with Bud on several other projects during our time in Chattanooga. Bud is one of the best contractors I have ever had the honor of working with.

JoBeth Kavanaugh recommended Joel Germany for redoing the hardwood floors. He met us at the house prior to closing and gave us an estimate that included totally sanding the floors, replacing the plywood patch in the dinning room with matching oak, patching were needed, and putting on 3 applications of polyurethane using a satin finish. Joel's estimate for doing the floors was right on what we had budgeted. It did require that Deborah and I remove the carpet and prepare the floors by removing all the carpet staples. This saved us over $400.

The floors looked rough but Joel told us they were in great shape. He could patch the area in the dinning room so it would look nearly identical to the original hardwoods. He could also be working on the floors while the other contractors were busy doing their jobs. He estimated it would take 2 weeks. The last 3 days required that no one be allowed on the floors while they applied the finishing coats.

Joel was true to his word. The floors tuned out beautifully. His crew worked hard and were pleasant to deal with. We also decided to let Joel refinish the outside stairs leading to the porch. We thought a natural finish on the pine steps would enhance the overall look of the porch and lighten what was a dark and uninviting part of the house.

Plumbing was the hardest of all areas to obtain solid recommendations from others who had, and were, restoring old houses. Based on a good recommendation from Jo Beth Kavanaugh, again, we asked Jeff Kenney to give us an estimate. Jeff is a hard worker all the way round. He was not much into to discussing or speculating about what needed to be done. He let us know right away that he charged the same for working as he did for talking. This was refreshing and we chose to let him work. We had believed that the plumbing expenses would be extremely high. We were pleasantly surprised. Jeff was able to replace all three toilets, remove the new fabricated sink and cabinets, reinstall the pedestal sinks with new hardware, and correct all leaks for less than $2,000. Not only was he very affordable, he was also very easy to work with and extremely professional.

Pictures of Home following Renovation


First Level

This spacious Living Room is divided into separate conversation areas and features original tiger oak flooring and a beautiful fireplace

Large Dining Room features a built-in cherry china cabinet and a wall of triple windows that look out on a private courtyard

This unique kitchen was designed both for cooking and entertaining.  It features a Subzero refrigerator and an inset dual fuel Wolf range with griddle surrounded by a heart of pine mantle and cabinetry.  A beautiful Brazilian mahogany island and soapstone countertops provide ample preparation surface. The two built-in butler pantries provide abundant storage. 
The breakfast room that opens to the kitchen provides a comfortable spot to watch the morning news and for entertaining
Gentle breezes enhance this airy Sun Room that features original trim framing three full walls of screened windows
The spacious master bedroom provides a cozy sitting area and fireplace that features an inset entertainment center.  The room also features a window seat under a set of triple windows and an exterior door to the side porch.

In town living at its best just sitting in the glider and enjoying a cup of coffee reading the morning paper or sitting with friends in the afternoon

French doors lead from the master bedroom into this luxuriant master bath that features a 6 foot clawfoot tub and natural stone shower


  1. It looks like lots of hard work went into renovating your new house, but the end result really looks great! It was really nice of your realtor to help with the renovation as well. I remember having to spend weeks trying to do some minor renovation in our kitchen, so I eventually decided to hire someone who knows what he's doing.

    Jana Mendoza @ RobinsonTeam

  2. It was definitely hard work for a couple who had never done this kind of thing before. How are things in Chattanooga? We are on the west coast and enjoying the great weather here in Monterey, CA.

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  4. Wow - what a fantastic job on renovation! The end result looks a lot different than the first pictures.

  5. Hi Randy, It was a great experience thanks to the really professional contractors we had. We only had one that we had to let go and one of the other ones picked up the slack on the external repairs and painting. I probably would not want to go through it again however. We did a couple of other renovation projects in Chattanooga while we were there.