Restoring a 1913 Bungalow – 1623 10th Ave. W.

written by Viki A. Sherborne, resident
Reference/images:  “Back to Basics for a Bungalow,” by Brian D. Coleman, Old House Journal December 2017

1623  10th Ave. W.

Development came to West Queen Anne with the expansion of the electric streetcar system still operating on 10th Ave W.  My Craftsman Style Fusion Bungalow was designed and built in the Spring of 1913 by C. H. Bickel at an estimated cost of $2500.  A permit was also issued in 1913 for a 10’x12′ chicken house with a $50 estimated cost.  An addition to the back of the house was added in 1915 for approx. $1500.  A residence across the street at 1610 was also built in 1913 by the same builder/architect.  Of interest, the 1908 house at 1601 10th Ave. W. was designed by noted architect Elmer Green.
Arthur Benjamin Pracna (1878-1948) and his wife, Belle M. Marzolf Pracna (1879-1936) were the first owner/occupants of 1623 10th W. and lived there until their deaths.  Burial is at the Wright Crematory and Columbarium, Queen Anne.  Arthur’s parents immigrated to America from Bohemia, the Czech Republic.  An engineer and architect, Arthur Pracna is credited in historical documents with a number of accomplishments.  He held a 1904 patent for a tilting metallurgical furnace; was a well-known saw and shingle mill designer in 1911 when he moved from Everett to Seattle; is credited with the 1916 plans for a Sutherlin, OR lumber mill; designed the 1917 plans for a hotel and apartment building at Wall and Wetmore Streets in Everett; and was the consulting engineer in 1918 for a 1000 kilowatt steam turbine unit for Pacific Mill Co. in Port Gamble.  His papers, 1902-1921, are held at the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.
In the 1950s, my house was divided into 4 units:  the main floor and 3 rooms-to-let upstairs with a shared bathroom.  Kitchenettes were installed in 2 of the upstairs closets, with plumbing coming through the attic and draining along the exterior to a backyard sump.  Wiring from the attic ran across the south-side exterior.  At that time, a 3-door garage was also built at the alley.
My parents, the eighth owners, purchased the house in 1969 as rental income property.  They completed a basement apartment, leaving the sewer connected to that of the Elise Apartment house next door and the bathroom sink draining to the garden.  The rest of the basement was filled over time with the accumulations of decades of tenants.
The house came to me in 2001.  I’ve been determined to restore it to a single-family residence with a proper apartment and a decent alley garage.  The house has approximately 3100 sq. ft. and the lot is 7,200 sq. ft.  With careful planning, I’ve spent about $400,000 on the renovation and improvements including the basement apartment and a new alley garage.
Although I hoped the house had potential, I was overwhelmed by where to start.  Through my participation in the Historic Seattle Bungalow Fair, I was aware of some possible resources.  Architect Larry Johnson advised me on the feasibility of a restoration and the best use of the property.  He recommended that I consult a general contractor with historic residential remodeling expertise.  Rick Sever became that person.  From April 2001 to March 2003 he made a meticulous detailed inspection of the house with a 17-page ‘scope of work.’  He drew plans and took on all the critical initial projects:  furnace, roof, and shingles replaced, chimney issues resolved, floor slope minimized, front stairs and pillars rebuilt, and much more.  I still refer to that ‘scope of work.’
With the structure stabilized, David Swanberg continued the repair/remodeling work from May 2003 through April 2007.  He did most of the remaining carpentry including replacing or repairing rotted shiplap, siding, sashes, and sills; reconfiguring the powder room, breakfast room, upstairs bathroom, closets and eves; framing and finishing the basement apartment, rebuilding the back porch and stairs, matching missing trim work, replacing sill ‘ears’ that had been sawed off when the exterior was covered with asphalt, laying salvaged flooring, insulating the attic, and restoring and stabilizing the original 1-car garage.  Hundreds of details in all.  By 2007 he was understandably thoroughly tired of me and my house.
The final major project was the new large garage on the alley in 2013.  Built in a style sympathetic to the still-existing single-car 1913 garage, it has a shingled face, matching door profile, and sconces.
Throughout the restoration a wonderful group of talented and tolerant craftsmen persevered with some huge challenges.  Generally I’ve been very lucky, although there were a few problems.  I had to fire a cement contractor for horrid work, and one craftsman sliced off the tip of his thumb.  Also, a former neighbor called the police when at 3am I was removing old linoleum from the kitchen floor, pounding in popped nails as I went.
I’ve stripped, patched, and stained acres of painted fir woodwork which had been previously heat-stripped.  Original color was matched and blended using General Finishes Brown Mahogany gel stain and top coat.  Mahogany was considered a prestigious wood for interiors and it was emulated in fir in this house.
The interior paint colors reflect the palette uncovered during the wall preparation work.  Most walls had to be stripped back to the original plaster; washing off calcimine and wallpaper remnants, then repairing and skim-coating.  Major re-plastering had to be done in some rooms.  Wallboard in remodeled areas was skim-coated in a texture similar to the original plaster.  Before painting or staining, 100 years of holes had to be patched.   Woodwork to be repainted and flooring to be stained were sanded using a Festool dustless sanding system, a marvelous machine.  The plasterer, Steve Irish, and the painter, Chris Beckman, have done exceptional work.  Painting and repairing are ongoing.
My decorating has a global sensibility.  The International Arts & Crafts movement was well established before its broad spread in America.  In Scandinavia, for example, the British Arts & Crafts movement was particular influential.  There was a common emphasis on social democracy, the natural environment, and the comfort of home personified by Carl Larsson.
Possessions are from diverse origins and have accumulated over 50 years.  Many are family pieces and others have been found while living in Casper, WY; La Canada, CA; Houston, TX; and Seattle, WA where I was born.  Buying trips for my former business, Arts & Crafts Accents, expanded my collection as did an extended stay in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.  Everything, finally, found a perfect home here … and here I intend to stay.