"In making the house habitable, the couple did nothing to it that could not later be undone. They preserved the integrity of the main rooms by not adding closets or plumbing. New interventions such as woodwork or doors were kept modern in appearance and painted gray to make them distinct from the original fabric."
Duncan Abernathy, INFORM
In the 1980s, the John Davis House was abandoned, condemned by the city for building code violations. The gutters had rusted out causing water to pour down the walls and into the interior. The house was overgrown with vines and foliage which entered the interior through broken window panes. Upper and lower floors of the portico had collapsed.
In December 1993, the John Davis House was purchased by architects Michael Bednar and Elizabeth Lawson to be created as their private residence. Exterior work included roof repairs, new built-in gutters and soffits, new copper downspouts, brick repointing, rebuilding the front portico and painting all wood work. Much of the interior work involved the demolition and removal of partitions, old bathrooms, old kitchens, a firewall, plywood and linoleum floors, hung ceilings, the sprinkler system and a fire escape. The interior alterations to the original body of the house were few; the relocation of one door, the closing of two small doors in the lower hall and the creation of two small doors linking the dining room to the new kitchen. A new electrical system was provided with all wiring channeled into the solid brick walls. A new plumbing system was installed with all work located in the rear addition. The central heating system in the form of radiators, installed during the early part of this century was retained. Plaster walls were patched as necessary and new drywall ceilings were installed everywhere except the three south rooms on the first floor. Secondary wood floors, previously added, were sanded and finished. Original heart pine floors were scraped and left natural. A large new kitchen was installed in the northeast room and all of the interior surfaces and woodwork were repaired and painted.
Every preservation project requires a series of difficult decisions regarding restoration, rehabilitation and redesign. Certain aspects of this house were restored to their original condition such as the exterior woodwork, exterior brickwork and interior woodwork. Other aspects were rehabilitated such as the roof, plaster walls and heart pine floors. Still other aspects were redesigned so as to provide for contemporary living, primarily the new bathrooms and kitchen. Electrical wiring was judiciously placed and there are few installed light fixtures.
The resulting house is quite true to the original; this house never had a fire nor was it seriously altered by any of its owners. Changes made by each owner can be easily discerned; the Farish addition and closets, the Michie heating system and slate roof, the Barrett ramp and the Bednar-Lawson bathrooms and kitchen. The John A. G. Davis House, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, remains today as one of the best surviving examples of Jeffersonian residential architecture.
SOUTH VIEW WITH BLINDS
SOUTH VIEW AT DUSK