Nancy Metzger and I (Judith Capen) gave a Preservation Café talk a number of years ago titled Reversing Remuddlings. Nancy referenced the house she and her husband, Norman Metzger, bought in 1996 at 638 E Street, SE. They bought it for its stunning garden; not its yellow, aluminum-siding–clad façade. They knew what the house looked like from the 1960s to when they bought it, but not prior to that.
The house’s side profile and attached neighbor made me think the house, when built, was likely what I call vernacular Georgian Revival: built toward the end of one of the regular periods of enthusiasm for the Georgian style. However, as very modest worker housing, the only real characteristic it shared with more elevated versions of the style was its massing. Illustrations
When Nancy and Norman stripped the aluminum siding, finally gritting their teeth, knowing the project could entail so much more, they discovered ghosts of some very Italian (or Italianate) window hoods and surrounds, not unlike the door hood that had survived the application of the aluminum siding. They also found some quite-stunning, reeded-cypress siding and some curious wood shakes.
When Nancy found the 1940s John Wymer photograph of her block she was able to see what looked like the shakes above the (added) porch roof.
With the physical evidence and permit records Nancy found, we created an evolution of the front façade of their house, including its restoration to much the same face the house presented to the street from 1887 to the 1920s.
We think this project of documenting the stylistic evolution of one of our Capitol Hill contributing buildings is interesting by itself, but also as an example of a remuddle reversal. It also shows the how our buildings have changed in our living Historic District. – contributed by Judith Capen