Pet Peeve: Renovation vs. Restoration




The other day, I was looking at real estate listings for the Near East Side, and noticed what I think is a very unfortunate trend- that many historic homes in the neighborhoods of Olde Towne East and King-Lincoln are being stripped of all their historic character in favor of a quick flip. These neighborhoods have some of the best historic housing in all of Columbus, even as the neighborhood has seen hundreds of teardowns particularly in the 1960s and 1970s during the Urban Renewal years. For a long time, the NES was being revitalized very slowly, with only piecemeal restorations of individual homes by private owners. This allowed many historic homes to be gradually restored. Here are some examples where I think the historic nature was largely respected:

1049 Franklin Avenue
This home, built in the 1890s, was updated in 2017.

Photo taken in 2010.


The 2010 photo of the 2-unit shows the home mostly intact, with really only some restoration needed, particularly for the porch area. The double porch is most likely not original to the house, which was likely a single-family home at one time.

Photo taken in 2018.


The 2018 shows a mostly unchanged look aside from a much nicer porch with appropriate color schemes and landscaping.
While I don’t have any old interior shots, the updated ones show consideration for the age of the home.



As these pictures show, the home has been updated without losing its character. Original hardwood floors have been restored, woodwork hasn’t all been whitewashed and details like built-ins and stained-glass windows remain intact.

248 South 17th Street
This single-family home from 1894 is another great example of a historic home being updated without extensive change.

Photo taken in 2010.


The 2010 photo shows the house needs some updated curb appeal, but not much else.

Photo taken in 2018.


In 2018, the exterior has only been lightly updated.



Again, the home has clearly been renovated, but it is also crystal clear that it’s a historic home.

So these are a few examples of the good, where the homes were respected for what they are.

Now let’s look at a few examples where the owners attempted to make the homes into something else, with minimal historic elements maintained or where the character of the homes was changed. These examples represent the majority of current renovations.

240 South 18th Street

Photo taken in 2010.


In the 2010 photo of this 1900, 2-unit home, the right unit is boarded up, but otherwise the exterior appears to be in great shape.

Photo taken in 2018.


In 2018, it appears that there has been virtually no change to the exterior.
The same cannot be said for the interior.



The renovation is not necessarily bad, but you get the feeling that the owner thought exposing brick somehow equals an appreciation for character. Instead, because the original floors, woodwork, doors, mantles, etc. have all been replaced, removed or covered up, it comes off less as a historic home, but more of an industrial loft that you might find Downtown. This is typical of the vast majority of renovations in the neighborhood. Historic character is an afterthought.

55 Hoffman Avenue
This early 1900s home has a unique exterior that was changed little between 2010 and 2018, other than receiving a new paint job and landscaping.

Photo taken in 2010.


Photo taken in 2018.




I feel like this renovation is somewhat a transition between the first set of homes and the 240 S. 18th example. The renovation is much more extensive than the first set, but not quite as bad as 240 S. 18th. However, it shows the popular use of whitewashing everything to make the interiors look modern. The historic character that remains is mostly maintained due to the configuration of walls and windows rather than anything specific about decoration or color choices.

The 2 homes above are not the worst, in that they maintain at least some historic elements even if they might have gone a little too far in the modern updating. The next examples are the Frankenstein monsters of the group, where the renovations basically gutted every last historic detail of the interiors, and even significantly altered the exteriors.

422 South Ohio Avenue
This late 1890s home was in very bad condition in 2010, as the photo shows The house had completely lost its original front porch, windows were missing and the home was a candidate for demolition.

Photo taken in 2018.


What?? The new porch looks like something taken from some mountain retreat with its oversized wooden beams. It looks completely inappropriate to the home. Yes, the house needed a new porch, but come on. It’s not only the wrong architecture, the color scheme clashes and comes across as tacky.
The interiors are even worse, in that they do not even try to match the exterior style.



Some rooms are heavily industrial, others are featureless and bland, and then there are others that look like the houses from the 2nd grouping, that maintain some historical elements. Now, given the poor state of this home several years ago, the interiors were probably heavily damaged and it was essentially a blank slate, but this design reeks of someone who didn’t quite know how to create any cohesive look.

505 Linwood Avenue
Now, this is not an old home, as it was built in 2017. So this is not a case of renovation or restoration at all. However, it falls into the Frankenstein category for simply not keeping with the architecture of the neighborhood at all.

Photo taken in 2017.


So what’s the style of this? It has some design elements of historic homes, like the punched out windows, but the exterior once again is designed like some kind of modern cabin. And then you have those ridiculous lion columns.


I honestly don’t hate the interior. It has a quirky, but interesting design. It just doesn’t seem to go with the outer look at all, and the whole thing seems so random.

Luckily, the last 2 examples are not the norm, but the rare exception. Still, the fact that most homes fall into the 2nd category is not encouraging. Many people may find no issue in that group. The renovations aren’t distasteful exactly, but to me, something is being lost in trying to turn these homes into the equivalent of a loft apartment rather than appreciating the elegance that a historic home offers. Once those original details are lost, they’re never coming back.

Completed Project #1- 2011- National Road Condos

The Olde Towne East neighborhood, especially along E. Main Street, has long been in the sights of developers and urban revitalization advocates. Gentrification began in the early 1980s, but for the most part, occurred structure by structure, so it was only very gradually that the area changed. That has changed somewhat in recent years with more investment from larger sources, such as the collaboration between Ohio State and the City to invest millions in infrastructure and housing improvements. Larger-scale developers have also stepped into the game. National Road Condos was one of those types of investments.

Located at 1023-1059 E. Main Street, 4 19th century homes as well as a commercial building were renovated. The 4 homes had been abandoned for decades and the commercial building was mostly empty, save for a small convenience store. After many months of work, all five buildings emerged as updated gems in a neighborhood growing with them. 8 new residential units, all condos, were opened up and the commercial building gained new tenants. While certainly not the largest project completed in the neighborhood, it does represent the potential of the Near East Side neighborhoods and their abundance of great housing stock just waiting for new life.

Project Stats
Began Construction: 2010
End of Construction: 2011
Cost: $3.5 Million
# of Units: 8

Some great before and after photos of the project.

1023-1025 E. Main is the westernmost house.  Here is the BEFORE photo.

1023-1025 E. Main is the westernmost house. Here is the BEFORE photo.


1023-1025 E. Main AFTER

1023-1025 E. Main AFTER


379 S. Ohio Avenue BEFORE.  The easternmost house and in very poor condition.

379 S. Ohio Avenue BEFORE. The easternmost house and in very poor condition.


879 S. Ohio Avenue AFTER.  Huge difference.  Even the lot at Ohio and E. Main has been cleaned up.

879 S. Ohio Avenue AFTER. Huge difference. Even the lot at Ohio and E. Main has been cleaned up.


1051. E. Main Commercial building BEFORE.

1051. E. Main Commercial building BEFORE.


1051 E. Main Commercial building AFTER..

1051 E. Main Commercial building AFTER..