A Long Four Years

This is 50. Stronger than ever, and learning so many new things.

It has been a long four years.

When I started Hat Trick Renovation, I wanted to use my skills to help rebuild the architectural and social fabric of the neighborhoods I love. I was so excited to be creating homes out of abandoned decay. I loved my brand, named for my trio of children, and my branding, a shadow print of the peaks of our home that made me fall in love with historic preservation. I picked up my brand new business cards, drove three blocks towards picking up my daughter from preschool, and everything changed in an instant.

I was rear ended in a car accident that caused a concussion that developed into Post Concussive Syndrome. Within a few weeks, my symptoms had gotten so bad I could barely tolerate light, sound, or movement. I couldn’t balance on solid ground, let alone on the top of a ladder while swinging a hammer.

Fortunately, I had a good friend recognize my symptoms and she connected me to someone who brought me to On With Life Brain Injury Rehabilitation. I spend months in Outpatient rehab, using neuroplasticity to rewire my brain back to the function that once allowed me two work on multiple houses at the same time. It took over a year before I felt like I could start working again, and then another before I felt comfortable doing my work.

The road back took some terrible turns. Ironically, the City of Des Moines mixed up my address (1161) with another house (1611) which resulted in them taking thousands of dollars of architectural salvage without notice and throwing it in the landfill. As if my own confusion with details was not enough! Then there was the pandemic…adding Kindergarten teaching aide to my responsibilities. More challenges with the City of Des Moines, the Derecho causing materials shortages. It has been a wild ride.

But here’s what I have learned: I am unstoppable and resilient. I have gotten my life back. I am so excited for what is next. I have done so many interesting things in the past four years, and I hope to start sharing what I have learned with you over the next months and years. For now, I’ll share this: we are stronger than we think. We have more potential than we know. And there are big things ahead for our corner of the world.

Siding Progress

One of our first projects was replacing the roof. Guardian Roofing did our replacement and set us up with new soffits as well. It’s a jarring juxtaposition with the burned out siding, so of course, we had to start ripping that off. It’s the construction equivalent of the children’s story “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”Soffits

Step 1 was ripping the old siding off:

Before siding2

An update for those of you following the Dumpster Count, this started 30 yard dumpster #10. Already, the house is looking better with part of the burn damage removed. It’s important to us to reuse materials when possible, so we saved the siding from removing the front porch and we’ve started the installation on the south side.

Siding progress

I really want to get this primed, because I think it will look amazing. It’s refreshing to see this building come back to life, and we love the support and encouragement we’ve gotten from the neighbors.

Delightful Discoveries

Most days in renovation of old houses are dirty, dusty, and drudgery. Every once in a while, we get a bright spark of something fun. At the 22nd Street house, we discovered a roof inside the walls, evidence of a sleeping porch that had been converted to interior space. My favorite architectural discovery was the historic porch ceiling on the front porch. This house was so big, we felt the highest use of the front rooms was to convert them to porch, which we suspected was there in the beginning. Imagine my delight when we started to pull down the ceiling and….

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PORCH BEADBOARD!!! Vindication is mine! I spent the whole day muttering “I knew that used to be a porch!”

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It’s gorgeous. Really. I’m going to do my best to preserve it.

1161 Numbers

A close second was the old (original?) house numbers found attached to some boards underneath the siding. We think it was part of the remodel that enclosed the porch. Luckily, they were too lazy to take the numbers off the boards they were reusing.

And then there are the strange and weird findings in renovation. One of our day labor guys found a couple bottles in one of the ceilings we were tearing out.

We tried to track down some information on Hazelwood Whiskey, but we didn’t get very far. We encourage all history buffs to share information on these bottles with us. Hope you enjoyed this peek into the archaeological adventures of 1161 22nd Street!

House 1: The 22nd Street House

Year 1 side by side

The Drake House came to us at the end of several rounds of hot potato. The house had been cut into 8 or 9 apartments and had suffered a fire in the back corner. It had been passed through a few different owners before it found us finally willing to dive into the restoration. This house has been our project since July 2016. This photo shows some of the exterior progress we’ve made in the past year.