Minglewood Homes revitalizes a historic home in Chatham’s Old Village
There’s an inherent charm to an older, historic house—the past is ever present. You can imagine all of the life that’s been lived in a house built 100, 200 years ago, and all of the different people that once called that house home. Every room, every wall, every piece of flooring tells a story—the story of what that house was, and what it is today.
Timothy Smith, owner of Minglewood Homes, appreciates that history he sees in the older Cape houses his firm renovates. “That’s what makes Cape Cod so unique,” he says of these homes. One such home the firm recently restored is a property in the National Historic Register, located at 61 School Street in Chatham’s Old Village. Built circa 1858, the house was first owned by James Olsen and his wife, Emily, who were keepers of the town’s almshouse.
In 2015, two cousins inherited ownership after years of having the property in their family. The men approached Minglewood Homes to restore the dilapidated, overgrown property, consisting of a two-story main house, a guest cottage and a detached garage. Frankly, Smith says, “It was in deplorable condition. The house was very run down, with little maintenance done on it for 75 years or so. There wasn’t even a working kitchen anymore.”
As work began on the project, distance proved to be too great a burden for the two men—one lives in Florida, the other in Texas—so Minglewood purchased the property from them and moved forward with renovations. In restoring the main house, remodeling the guesthouse, and repurposing the garage, Smith and his team at Minglewood gave these living spaces new life, providing all the comforts of modern living while maintaining the property’s historic integrity.
“This house has been here for 200 years—we want to ensure it is here for another 200,” Smith says.
Starting with the main house, Minglewood worked from the bottom up. With the structure practically sitting in the dirt, the team lifted the house and installed a full-poured foundation, using brick as the face. Moving inside, Smith and company discovered horsehair plaster and no insulation behind the walls. “It’s a messy job, but we had to gut the interior of the house out,” Smith says, noting that sheetrock and blueboard plaster were installed along with spray foam insulation. Modern plumbing, heating and electrical systems were also installed. On the first floor, they were able to save original wood beams and the center chimney—a focal point of the home—but the historic wainscoting and much of the wide, southern-yellow-style pine flooring was unsalvageable.
Nonetheless, Smith and his team replaced the old flooring with matching pine and had the trim remanufactured to replicate the original—a three-part beaded wainscot running horizontal and painted in a muted blue-gray. “It’s a little unusual to do gray trim with white walls,” says the project’s interior designer, Susan Hamilton, “but it makes the house feel more historic and warmer, and it highlights the wainscoting, especially in the living room area.” Additionally, all of the old windows were replaced with historic six-over-six grill patterned windows.
Opening up the house’s floor plan and reorganizing its layout not only added square footage but also improved usability. Originally, the front door bump out was sealed off and used as a laundry room. Smith says this setup made no sense, so they recreated the space to be a true front entry, featuring built-in storage benches on either side. The entry flows into the open dining room and sitting area, which includes the fireplace. “Even in a small area, you can create this great room kind of feel,” Smith says. To the right of the dining room is the living room, a space originally used as a bedroom. Smith says the original wood beams in the room were exposed to help create that cozy, older-home feel. Behind the living room is where the master suite is, which was previously where the kitchen was. The sitting area leads into the new kitchen—previously the old living room—complete with stainless steel appliances, white quartz countertops, and pewter-hued custom cabinets by Crown Woodworking of Chatham.
Off of the kitchen, a remodeled staircase leads up to a space previously used as a rental unit. The living area nook and two bedrooms were updated, the kitchenette was removed, and a spacious full bath was added. While most of the flooring on the first floor is new, the pine flooring upstairs is all original. Back downstairs, a screened-in porch was removed and replaced with a 300-square-foot addition, consisiting of the rear of the kitchen, a half bath and laundry. The new addition leads out to the new mahogany wraparound deck and a brick patio, providing ample outdoor entertaining space.
The patio seamlessly segues into the one-bedroom, one-bath guest cottage. An interior wall comprised of whitewashed shingles is original to the cottage; the shingling was simply updated. The low ceiling was vaulted, and wood beams were added to mimic the original beams found in the living room ceiling. The kitchenette and bathroom were revamped, and plumbing, electrical and insulation were brought up to code.
At the back of the property sits what was once a one-car garage adjacent to the main house. Already in good shape structurally, the garage was moved behind the house and onto a new poured foundation. White barn doors and a cupola were added, and the structure is now used for storage. The homeowner says it will eventually be used as a kids play area, and might one day be converted into a pool house should they install a pool.
These possibilities for the future were certainly a draw for the husband-and-wife homeowners, who live full time in Atlanta with their two children, when they purchased the property last September. With the 2,300-square-foot main house plus the guest cottage, the homeowner says the property is ideal for hosting visiting relatives. “All of our family lives in the Northeast, and when we come up to the Cape that’s when we see our families,” she says, “so we’re really looking forward to spending time with them when we’re there.”
The couple was also drawn to the open layout and classic coastal style of the house, which came fully furnished. “We loved the idea of having the charatcer of an older home but having everything renovated to a high standard that suited our style. Everything’s brand new, but it still feels like it’s an older, historic house,” the homeowner says. “We like the layout and the way the kitchen is open to the sitting area—we spent a lot of time in there over the holidays, between the kitchen and sitting in front of the fire.”
As a new family now makes memories at 61 School Street, Smith is proud that he and his team were able to revitalize the property. “It’s definitely gratifying,” he says. “We’ve saved something and created out of it a home for generations to come.”