Couple turn the corner on restoration of Tower House

Couple turn the corner on restoration of Tower House

Paula Keefe, right, explains how a retaining wall and old stone stairs were restored at the old Tower House on Mendon Road. Partner Jeff Polucha is at left. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – Two weeks ago was the low point for the local couple restoring the Tower House at 2211 Mendon Road. Endless jackhammering of ledge in the basement and chipping of old mortar from some 6,000 bricks had led to deep discouragement, said Jeff Polucha and Paula Keefe.

But the two say they have turned the corner, getting a second wind after a new floor was poured in the basement and they reached the point of starting to put the 1825 home back together after a demolition phase of three months and the reinforcement of the home’s main floor.

“This week we’ve turned a corner,” said Polucha during an impromptu tour of the property last week.

The couple said people stop by all the time, curious about what they’re up to after watching the home sit vacant for decades. They say they’ve received all kinds of offers to help, which they appreciate but most of which they can’t take people up on.

The main level of the home is now shored up and most of the rot has been removed. Polucha and Keefe have scraped off nearly all of the paint from the home and built a 12-foot by 13-foot new addition to function as the mudroom.

Polucha and Keefe say they’re getting closer every day to deciding to move into the home themselves but haven’t yet made that commitment.

The home, they said, will be perfect for a professional who works from home, with the basement/walkout level, including an entrance under a unique second-floor porch, having an ideal layout for living and working. It would also be great for either an in-law space or game room, they said.

Much of the granite around the property will be repurposed in the outdoor entertaining areas and other parts of the property, and four new granite posts have been added to the front of the property, running past a new driveway now located to the left of the house.

Keefe and Polucha say there has been significant interest in their corner lot next to the home, which was created by the town to help facilitate the old home’s redevelopment, but so far haven’t sold it.

Extensive tree work has also been done, and piles of bricks and old lumber are stacked outside awaiting potential re-use. The two said they probably won’t be able to use all of the granite on the property, but will certainly be able to use a lot of it, including in the outdoor space next to the new front door off the main driveway.

While some items will see major modern upgrades, including a new gas fireplace, other original features will be maintained, including a 42-inch front door that’s “something special,” said Polucha. The old windows next to that front door aren’t salvageable and will be replaced by wooden Anderson 400 windows previously discussed with members of the Cumberland Historic District Commission. Two new doors will also be added.

The pair removed a cement apron around the foundation that they said was functioning to retain moisture and harbor insects. Old stone stairs have also been rebuilt. The owners don’t plan to put a new fence back up near the street, instead sticking just with the old granite posts.

New utilities were also added during the demolition phase, with sewer pipes running under the newly poured concrete floor in the basement.

The 2,100-square-foot home will have three bedrooms and two full bathrooms when complete, with a storage/utility room included in the back of the basement. That room will be important without a garage or shed space, said Polucha. An old outhouse will be restored, likely as a small shed space.

Despite all of the issues with the home, including immense damage from insects previously compromising it, the home overall has proven solid with its post-and-beam construction, said the owners.

Riva Homes, which specializes in restoring old houses, is the contractor on the project, and Cruz Construction of Cumberland is doing much of the exterior work.

Keefe and Polucha, Cumberland residents who enjoy restoring homes as a hobby, say they have no regrets about tackling the project, saying they’ve been fortunate to have the the right people around them advising them on the work. That said, a project of this complexity brings never-ending issues.

“We had identified all possibilities, and all possibilities did come to fruition,” said Polucha, laughing.

Jeff Polucha stacks some of the old lumber taken from the Tower House in Cumberland, much of which will be reincorporated into the home. At rear is an old outhouse that will be restored as part of the project.

Comments

Please keep us updated. It's such a beautiful old house, and can't wait to see how it turns out!

Just a thought ... not sure what the Cumberland Preservation group does for projects or even if they have a bucket list. Perhaps they should consider some types of fund raisers to financially assist the restoration of both the Walcott and
Tower homes. Am not familiar with how the Go-Fund Pages work, but perhaps that is a possibility. We all cry "foul" when these wonderful old homes are being destroyed, but we need to step up and help!

I agree, there's tons of history in Cumberland being destroyed. A go-fund-me or something of the like would be nothing but a boon to preservation. So you've only been donated $100? That's $100 you never would have seen dedicated to the preservation efforts otherwise.