Do you have a specter in your neighborhood? While walking the dog, I often wondered about 2300 Willing Avenue, just around the corner, at the edge of Ryan Place. In an advanced state of decay it looked uninhabitable if not uninhabited.
Returning home one evening, I noticed a chink of yellow light behind a torn shade. Signs of life. Visions of Boo Radley. The old edifice looked as if it might fall down before being torn down. But this being Fort Worth, a happier destiny awaits this 1922 vintage dwelling.
Two weeks ago on another walk, another surprise. The home at 2300 Willing Ave., with every one of its bricks now on the ground, stood naked, cloaked only in an extensive network of scaffolding. Enter Brent Hull of Hull Historical Architectural Millwork. trained in the art of museum-quality preservation at the prestigious North Bennet Street School in Boston, his bespoke mouldings and millwork have graced such high-profile public buildings as the iconic Tarrant County Courthouse and the Santa Fe Pacific Terminal. He has also racked up an impressive portfolio of residential projects running into the hundreds in Fort Worth’s historic neighborhoods.
Today, work seemed already well underway. In fact, Hull plans to knock this project out in a mere eight weeks. The tear-out nearly completed, electricians were pulling modern cable to replace the knob-and-tube that preceded it. In back, workers were busy cleaning and carefully stacking the bricks in advance of relaying them
“You’d never match this brick with anything being made today,” observes Mike Sherrill, tasked with the structural work. Wherever possible, original tile and fixtures will be preserved. Mike draws my attention to the front porch, completely separated from the house and in danger of imminent collapse before framing was hastily installed to support it.
Having braved the porch, I charily enter the 3,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath house. Evidence of better days can be ascertained from the hefty chimney piece and handsome staircase. Hull acquired the house for clients of his millwork company who wanted a Fort Worth base and wanted an older house.
“We want to restore as purely as possible, reusing the existing materials where we can, hiding a modern HVAC system and using the original registers,” says Hull. “There have been only two owners, and the current owner’s family have lived here nearly 85 years. They were able to provide historic photographs and a wealth of useful information to aid us in our work.”
A rework to the back of the house after a 1933 fire gave Hull the moral permission to alter and expand the kitchen. In a way, kitchens have replaced the hearth as the heart of the house, therefore making this modification seem a sensible choice for modern living.
Although clearly not ready for its close-up, 2300 Willing Ave. will in fact be the subject of a series documenting the renovation on a major cable network I am not yet permitted to name. Watch this space.
Eric Prokesh is an interior designer whose work has appeared on HGTV, and in books and publications including D Home, Southern Accents, House Beautiful, and House and Garden. In January 2005, HG named Eric one of the 50 tastemakers in America and D Home has included him as one of Dallas’ Best Designers for 10 years. Having lived most of his life in Dallas, he now calls Fort Worth home and is one of our experts on beautiful Fort Worth Dirt.