William H. Wells House
"Selected for a Bricks and Mortar Preservation Award because of the accurate architectural detail, and the use of both original and carefully matched material, in replacing an ordinary back porch attached to their 1912 Colonial Revival house with a breakfast room that reflects the style and proportions of the house."
Owner: Gary Varney and Wendy Wallace
Architect: Jeffrey C. Beitel, AIA
August 25, 2011
William H. Wells built this stone, Colonial Revival house in 1912. Mr. Wells was a well-known cattle dealer who also dealt in lumber from his drove yard on East Gay Street. He was married to Amanda Griffith and they raised two children on the corner of Union and Wayne Streets before they built this house on North Matlack Street. William died in 1917 at the age of 74. His descendents lived in the house until 1922. Mr. Varney and his wife Wendy purchased the house in 1999. In the intervening 77 years the house had five other owners.
Throughout the 20th century the floor plans of the house remained relatively unchanged with only minor alterations to the kitchen and bathrooms. The only significant alterations were a screen porch added to the rear elevation and a powder room and desk area added to the rear of the stair hall. The Varney’s commissioned the design of a new kitchen, breakfast room, powder room and rear entry mudroom area in 2007. The biggest design challenge in the floor plan was providing an adequate connection to the breakfast room through the 20” thick stone rear wall while preserving the stair to the basement and the back stair to the second floor directly above it.
The design needed to open up the plan to allow for proper circulation in these very high traffic areas in a way that preserved the detailing and flow of spaces consistent with the intact original floor-plan. A large Palladian window was incorporated in the design of the breakfast room in order to take advantage of the view to the backyard swimming pool. This window, framed by an arched ceiling in the interior, serves as a major element for the design of the historically appropriate elevations of the addition. Stone was harvested from the demolition of the existing wall. Additional stone required for the foundation base was salvaged from the demolition of a large mill building in Downingtown of the same age, which matched perfectly. The stone was pointed with a grapevine joint to match the existing pointing. Special attention was also given to appropriate trims and roof edge details. A fanciful oval “curiosity” window was incorporated in the powder room.
The whole addition was topped off with a prefinished standing seam metal roof in an appropriate red color matching the existing painted metal roofs and gutters of the main house. Snow cleats were also installed along the roof edges of the addition for a functional historical detail.