Photos and text (c) Mark Hertzberg
The Hardy House is reflected in a mirror left curbside with other items being thrown away during restoration of the house:
Gene Szymczak, below, center, became the new steward of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Thomas P. Hardy House in Racine in September. The responsibility of owning the house, and enjoying the restoration process, sometimes includes discovery of unexpected repair challenges.
Szymczak inspected the house a few days after the purchase with Chris Sunderland, who would do much of the repair and restoration work.
Restoration began almost immediately when the chimney flashing was replaced
to stem leaking from the roof.
The roofers found charred beams, which were evidence of a previously undocumented fire.
A search of old records by the fire department produced a report of a chimney fire in May, 1932. It had been put out with one three-gallon fire extinguisher.
Hardwood floors were revealed for the first time in many years when carpeting was removed that first week, as well.
The previous owners of the house let the trees and bushes on the hill between the house and Lake Michigan grow wild to protect their privacy. Chain saws cleared the hill a month after Szymczak became the home’s steward.
The view from the living room balcony is now likely similar to what Hardy saw a century ago.
Below, Sunderland works in a basement crawl space to shore up the sagging floor of the servant’s bedroom above him. That room is on the south side of the dining room, opposite from the kitchen.
It had been suggested that the door from the kitchen leading to the basement be replaced because it seemed to be a newer laminated door…but the laminate came off, revealing what is evidently one of the original doors of the house.
The most visible exterior change, for people passing by on Main Street, is the removal of the bushes in front of the house. Work will continue through the winter, inside the house, out of sight of passers-by.