Perry Mansion Culture Center, Chicago, IL (September 2009)
September 1, 2009
For a man who didn't want to take on home improvement projects, Sam Smith has certainly accomplished an amazing feat in single-handedly restoring a wrecked, 117-year-old Queen Ann Victorian house and turning it into a budding center for the arts.
Sam first saw the house in July 2003 and initially passed on buying it. But when he revisited the property later in the year, he was attracted by the expansive lot. "It's very unusual to have that much land with a property in the city of Chicago, and I felt I could create something interesting with it," he commented.
Sam grew up working beside his father, a master carpenter and furniture maker–so when he left home, he pursued other careers besides working with his hands. But when he began purchasing properties as an investment, he re-discovered the value of the do-it-yourself skills he had learned. He threw himself whole heartedly into work on the badly-damaged building, which encompasses four floors (including the basement) and 9,600 square feet.
The rehabilitation process began in 2004, with Sam repairing the home's structural integrity. "The house had caught fire, and it was basically gutted," he said. "Almost everything is new–only a couple of windows, floors, doors, some trim and the heating system didn't have to be replaced." Outdoors, Sam landscaped and created a lovely wood fence accented with decorative iron work, which he welded himself. The Thompson's Company donated one of our tinted Wood Protectors in a gold shade to help protect the wood from Chicago's tough climate. Sam also built three decks, one for each above-ground level of the house, which will also be protected with Thompson's® Water Seal® products.
As Sam worked, he began to envision the extensive space as a place that could help people blend cultures through art. The Perry Mansion Culture Center grand opening was held in September 2008. "I want to have something going on here seven days a week, Sam says. "From sketch art and charcoal drawing, oil and acrylic painting, all forms of sculpture, to creative writing, poetry readings, horticulture, a speakers series–the sky is the limit." The now-beautiful backyard hosts a collapsible stage that will host plays, concerts and fashion shows.
"The lot ultimately 'sold' me on the house, and the outdoor spaces will be an important site for our classes and events whenever the weather permits," Sam concluded. "I really appreciate The Thompson's Company for stepping up and helping protect my dream."
Thompson's® Water Seal® contributed product to beautify and protect the new fence at the Perry Mansion Cultural Center.