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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008 04:19 am

Italianate revival

Decker Home saved from demo list, headed for historic status

Steven Kren knew he found a gem in the Decker Home, 303 S. Glenwood Ave., and after two years of renovations, he could get the ultimate seal of approval.

Kren appealed to the Springfield Historic Sites Commission in November 2006, requesting designation of the Decker Home as a local historic landmark. The commission voted in support of his request, but before the measure could move forward, the city of Springfield called for structural changes to the foundation, floors, ceilings, and front porch.

By July 2007, Kren had replaced the home's roof and rebuilt its north and west foundation walls, but he'd also fallen short of not one, but two completion deadlines. The city shut off his electricity and water and slated the structure — built in 1865 — for demolition.

After a neighborhood protest and further city negotiation, Kren was granted a third extension to finish adding support to the wraparound porch, the second floor, and the brick retaining wall connected to the basement. Last October city inspectors OK'ed his updates and canceled the demolition [see Amanda Robert, "Reprieve," Oct. 18, 2007].

Now that Kren has resolved the home's structural issues, Kip Kolkmeier, head of the registry committee, says, its landmark application can move forward in the form of a city ordinance.

The commission usually preserves local residences that are connected to a historical event, figure, or prominent architect, Kolkmeier explains, or in the Decker Home's case, ones that exhibit a significant architectural style. The home reveals Italianate architecture, featuring a flat roof and a four-square floor plan with front parlors and rear utility space.

The Italianate-style flourished between the 1830s and 1880s — an early example of Springfield's architecture that can be difficult
to locate.

"There are quite a few of these, but not nearly as many as we'd like," Kolkmeier says. "Unfortunately, it's a vanishing part of our
history."

Kren says that it's been his goal to get the Decker Home on the local historic landmark list.

"I bought it because I was trying to clean up the neighborhood," he says, "but when I realized it was one of the first houses built around there, I wanted to put it back to the way it was."

Due to a technicality, it might take some time before the ordinance designating the Decker Home as a local historic landmark is approved. Jim Donelan, the mayor's executive assistant, says that Kren has pending court fees associated with the case. He'll recommend at tonight's meeting of the public affairs and safety committee that the ordinance be held until the fees are paid.

Kren plans to pay the balance — in the ballpark of $2,000, he says — as soon as possible.

"If that's what I have to do, then I have to pay them," Kren says. "I want the city to work with me, not against me."

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