Construction is under way to restore the historic Gustav Stickley House on Columbus Avenue in Syracuse.
A Restoration Kickoff Event, co-sponsored by the University Neighborhood Preservation Association (UNPA) and the Gustav Stickley House Foundation Inc. (GSHF) was held Thursday, August 17.
The event took place on the sidewalk in front of the house, 438 Columbus Ave., as construction workers were already beginning repairs to the roof and siding.
“This represents a tremendously important moment in the history of the Stickley house and the effort to restore the house,” said Elizabeth Crawford, senior designer and project manager at Crawford & Stearns, Architects and Preservation Planners, PLLC, architects for the project.
“This is a really special day, a day I personally have been waiting two and a half decades for,” said David Rudd, president of the Gustav Stickley House Foundation, owner of Dalton’s Decorative Arts, Syracuse, and a nationally recognized expert on Gustav Stickley furniture and the Arts & Crafts Movement.
Among those attending the event was a very special guest, Gustav Stickley III, Stickley’s grandson, who toured the home and shared his memories of his famous grandfather.
“It’s a very warm, gratifying feeling to see the recognition he is receiving for his work,” said Stickley, age 85. “I wish so much he could be enjoying it today. He earned it.”
The event included the unveiling of the new exterior rendering of the home’s exterior as it was when Gustav Stickley resided there. The rendering was prepared by Joseph C. Falco of Environmental Design and Research of Syracuse, working together with Crawford & Stearns, which prepared the plans and drawings for the restoration.
Joseph Falco is also a neighbor of the Gustav Stickley house.
“The Stickley House strengthens my pride for my block and the larger Wescott neighborhood,” said Falco. “I’m excited to finally see the old house restored so it can tell the story of the Arts & Crafts Movement here in Syracuse. Having the opportunity to illustrate the house and lend my craft as an artist is part of what the Arts & Crafts movement is about. It gives me much pride and I’m very thankful.”
Phase I of the project, restoration of the exterior, began the week of August 14. The first phase includes repairs to the siding and trim; window restoration; a new roof; asbestos abatement, reconstruction of the original front porch and completion of a historically accurate paint scheme that was determined by analysis of paint layers on the house. Exterior work is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
The exterior work is being undertaken by CNY Builder Services, LLC, of Lafayette, which was awarded the construction contract for the project.
Major funding for the exterior restoration was provided by two New York State grants, along with funding from local foundations including the CNY Community Foundation, the Gustav Stickley House Foundation, as well as the Arts & Crafts Society of Central New York.
Attending the event to show the state’s support for the project were Assemblywoman Pamela J. Hunter, 128th district, and Patricia O’Reilly, senior community developer at New York State Homes and Community Renewal.
The renovation of the Gustav Stickley House, which has fallen into disrepair over the years, is “an example of what we need to be doing to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods, “said Hunter. “This is going to be amazing, something that is going to be brought back to life. When you come back to the house, you will see it as it was.”
Representing Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner was Kate Auwaerter, preservation planner with the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency and staff to the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board. “This is truly a terrific day to see the progress already started,” she said.
Khristopher A. Dodson, UNPA president, announced a $7,500 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors. Those funds will be used to help support the preparation of the Historic Structure Report which will document the historic interior of the house as It was designed by Gustav Stickley in 1902.
”UNPA is proud to be taking on this initiative,” said Dodson. “At the heart of UNPA’s mission is the preservation of the qualities that make the university neighborhood exceptional. The Gustav Stickley House project is just one example of how UNPA’s work strengthens our neighborhood and its assets.”
In a written statement read at the event, Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said, “Organizations like UNPA help to ensure that communities and towns all across America retain their unique sense of place. We are honored to provide a grant to the Gustav Stickley House which will use the funds to preserve an important piece of our shared national heritage.”
Also attending the event were David Michel, UNPA board member and Stickley project coordinator, Joe Nicoletti, Syracuse city councilor-at-large and Greg Tripoli, director of the Onondaga Historical Association and GSHF board members.
Neighbors of the house and other supporters of the project were also there to celebrate the start of renovation work. Doug Reicher was there because of his special connection to the house. His great-grandfather, Isaac Fleischman, president of Fleischman Furniture, bought the house from Gustav Stickley in 1911 and sold it back to Stickley’s daughter Barbara and her husband in 1919.
Stickley, one of the leading furniture designers and major proponent of the American Arts & Crafts Movement in the early 1900s, lived in the house from 1900 to 1905 and then returned there to live with his daughter’s family from 1919 until his passing in 1942.
Shortly after Stickley first moved into the Queen Ann style house with his wife and children, a fire on Christmas Eve 1901 caused significant damage to the home. Stickley redesigned and reconfigured the home with a new Craftsman interior, the first of its kind in the nation.
The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated Protected Site under the City of Syracuse local preservation law. The first floor of the house remains relatively intact as designed by Gustav Stickley.
Funding for Phase I of the project – the exterior restoration – has been provided through grants from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund of the department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for $500,000; the Urban Initiatives Program of the New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation along with the state Home and Community Renewal for $200,000; the CNY Community Foundation Inc. for $30,000; and the William & Mary L. Thorpe Chari table Fund for $20,000. The Arts & Crafts Society of Central New York also donated $10,000. The Gustav Stickley House Foundation is also raising funds for the project.
The Gustav Stickley House Foundation, a non-profit organization, is raising funds for or the project. At the event, the foundation announced its “Campaign for Completion” of the exterior work, a campaign to raise $35,000. The foundation has already received a commitment of $5,000 in matching funds from its board members.
GSHF, which serves as an advisory board regarding the preservation, is raising funds to ensure successful completion of the restoration as well as on-going use and maintenance of the house. GSHF is actively pursuing fundraising through various preservation grants, corporate sponsorships and private donations for the Two of the project -restoration of the historically significant interior.
Plans to restore the Gustav Stickley House were made possible when its previous owner, the furniture company of Stickley, Audi and Co., donated the house to UNPA, which has been overseeing Phase One. Once the exterior work is completed, ownership will be transferred to the Onondaga Historical Society (OHA), which will complete Phase 2, the interior of the house.
Additional funding is needed to complete the project in its entirety.
By Patricia Rycraft O’Toole