Family finds century of comfort |

Family finds century of comfort

Jessica Buchalter/EnterpriseChris Barbella, his wife Melissa and daughters Amber, 8 and Jadey, 5, restored this 100-year-old house on Capitol Street in Eagle. They tried to preserve as much of the original character " inside and outside " as possible.

EAGLE ” The day 14-year-old Peggy Randall Buckau’s family moved into the white cottage-style house at 236 Capitol Street in Eagle in 1947 was a happy one. During the weeks and years that followed, the modest house brimmed with life.

There were late night card parties with high school friends. Buckau, her mother, and sister would gather in the kitchen to cook big family meals over the iron stove or to prepare for parties filled with friends and laughter.

She can still see herself in 1953, posing for the camera outside the house in her wedding dress. She married in the church across the street, then walked back home, veil trailing, for the reception.

“How special it was,” she remembers.

Peggy, 75, now resides at the Golden Eagle Senior Center. Family members have gone on to make their own homes in other places. Some of them have passed away. And now, their family house itself has changed.

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Once again, the home on Capitol is bubbling with life, and laughter of a new family ” the Barbellas. Their children run around the yard and Buckau welcomes the changes.

“Because it was mom and dad’s house, I am so grateful there is a younger couple with kids living there,” she says.

The house is one of Eagle’s grand old ladies, turning 100 years old this year. It was this history that first drew the Barbellas and it is this history they wanted to preserve.

“We wanted to restore it to its original grandeur,” says Chris Barbella, who lives in the home with his wife, Melissa Lally, and their two daughters.

Both Chris and Melissa loved the house from afar for some time. When it came up for sale, it seemed like a sign. Lally had always been particularly drawn to the willows out back. They were the first people to approach Buckau about the house.

Buckau and her sister, Patricia Randall Pinkowski, of Denver, held onto the house for six years after their elderly parents, who have since died, moved into a nursing home.

The Barbellas, who had lived on Third Street for years, purchased the home in January, 2006 and moved in August. They thought the remodel would be completed quickly; but the project turned into a lengthy, sometimes harrowing, but ultimately rewarding adventure.

Barbella, who owns his own construction company, Bella Construction, builds one or two homes a year.

But this was the first time Barbella had attempted an extensive historic remodel. “It’s a rare project in this area,” Lall says.

Subcontractors with the right expertise were hard to find. Barbella ultimately remodeled the home by himself with the help of friend and crew worker Leo Herrera. They worked day and night for seven and a half months, living for weeks in a pop-up camper in the backyard.

“My boss and me, we were here every day working, working,” says Herrera. Yet, he insists, “it is a good life.”

The L-shaped home with high gables had been added onto repeatedly over the years.

Despite making some extensive changes, the Barbellas were determined to keep the home’s original character and historical look, starting with its street-side profile.

The home’s front facade has barely been touched, and only about 30 percent of the siding needed to be replaced. Scalloped edges still accent the roof, and the lattice pattern around the bay window still adds a contrast to the slanted siding boards. The front of the house is very similar to the original but the bay window is new.

There are new dormers above, with a sunburst pattern beneath. The formerly white exterior is now a mellow pale to sage green.

But the porch swing that greeted Buckau’s family when they first moved in is still there, refurbished by Barbella and his two daughters, Amber, 8, and Jaden, 5.

The rest of the living room looks almost the same as it did years before, although the crown molding is new and the double French doors that formerly closed off the room now enclose the master bedroom instead. The old oil stove that Buckau remembers here is gone, but her family never used it anyway because the chimney didn’t work.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” says Buckau, who was delighted when she learned the couple had no intentions of tearing her old home down. “Chris has done an amazing job.”

Some things, however, had to go because of age or impracticality. The chimney was a structural hazard and no longer had a base.

“It started shifting, rocking,” says Barbella.

Removing it was no easy feat. Barbella and Herrera had to cut a hole in the roof, and run a conveyor belt up to the chimney to take it apart and haul it down.

One of the challenges of the remodel was the main floor. Because the home was built onto several times, the floor was uneven. Even the front door was about two inches out of whack. Barbella had to re-lay the foundation underneath, while trying to keep from raising the entire house in the process.

“Nothing was level,” says Barbella, recalling the frustration of trying to even get an accurate plum line to fix the problem.

He finally settled on an unscientific method of rolling a basketball across the floor to test whether it was level. A doorjamb had to be installed so the front door would work.

“Everything in this house is custom,” Barbella says.

The most dramatic add-ons were a second story and an expanded downstairs. Buckau believes there was once a bedroom of sorts in the open attic, before her family moved in.

The attic was high and deep enough to add two bedrooms, and a loft office. A staircase was added directly across from the front door.

The roof, says Lally, was not sound, and Barbella and Herrera had to add beams so it wouldn’t cave in.

But before they did that, they had to fix the floor below, so it would support the weight of new beams, trusses and walls.

“This was an engineering feat,” Barbella. says.

The “L” of the L-shaped house has been filled in to add space to the back of the home. The master bedroom has been expanded from the tiny 7-by-8-foot room it used to be. The old bathroom has been removed, and a stylish new one sits adjacent to the bedroom.

The spacious new dining room now sits where the old kitchen used to be, and a mudroom/sitting area opens out to Lally’s favorite willow trees.

The remodeled house is 2,160 square feet. The house also has all new plumbing, electrical and heating elements, as well as new blow-in insulation and thermal windows.

Barbella says the house is still a work in progress, but he and Lally love the way it turned out, and don’t plan on selling.

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