Bonner Street home’s restoration a community effort

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, November 2, 2017

The front porch of a house on Bonner Street was once coated with rotting wood — a leaning porch seemingly about to fall to pieces.

Hilton Moore, 89, lives at the house. He’s lived in Washington all of his life, and he once liked to sit out on the porch — but not anymore. It was borderline unusable.

That’s where his daughter, Velma Stewart, came in. She once sat outside, watching visitors go by, and realized something needed to be done.

“One day I was outside and I saw people visiting. They were taking pictures, and I was like I hope to God they’re not taking pictures of the house. … I said, ‘Oh no, we can’t have this,’” Stewart said.

Now, the leaning porch stands tall and proud with all original pieces, courtesy of Stewart and her husband Donald, and a generous donation from the Washington Area Historic Foundation.

The porch boasts two original, Colonial Revival-style columns at the end, but the two inner columns had been replaced with mass-produced, Victorian-style columns, according to Emily Rebert, community development planner for the City of Washington.

WAHF purchased and donated two Colonial Revival-style columns to match the outer ones, in the hopes of supporting Stewart’s effort to replace and restore the home with like materials.

“I couldn’t afford it. I ran out of money. I was very grateful for them to do that. We put back everything original. It was very expensive,” Stewart said.

Stewart said she received the columns about two weeks ago, and she and her husband are now beginning to finish up the porch. There’s only a little bit of work left to do, and she’s not stopping at the porch, either — she plans to move inside when the porch is finished.

Stewart said there are raggedy boards inside the home she wants to fix, and she just wants to help out her father.

Rebert said it’s encouraging to see family stepping up to restore Moore’s house because he can no longer do it himself. She said it’s a scenario she sees often, and the Stewarts’ heart and desire to repair the house should encourage the community to do the same for other senior citizens unable to renovate their homes.

“When you have a senior citizen like that, not being able to work on the house, sometimes it takes family to help. If you don’t have family, sometimes it takes the community,” Rebert said.

Rebert said it’s been about a yearlong process — the columns took quite some time to come in, but “good things take time,” she said, and the columns turned out well.

She said the Stewarts should take a lot of pride in the home they are rebuilding, especially because they made it a point to use all original materials. It wasn’t easy or cheap, but they went the extra mile, pumping thousands of dollars and hours of labor into Moore’s home.

“They’re budgeting; they’re doing it right. It’s something to be proud of. They are really doing it the right way,” Rebert said.

Stewart said her father is excited about the new porch because he can now spend more time using it.

“He’s very excited. He said, now, he can sit on the porch. He’s going to get some porch furniture on there,” Stewart said.