Since we began visiting the Horner House in March 2011, access to the interior of the house has been difficult at best. The front door had been boarded over to prevent break-ins. Many of the windows were also boarded over due to broken glass. Climbing a ladder to a second story window was our first access. This was not a good solution for me since I have a fear of falling.
Then, we tried removing the plywood from one of the ground floor windows to enter. At one point, Amanda and Eric even fashioned a "door" on one of the windows so they didn't have to keep risking damaging woodwork every time they needed access. Whoever had been breaking in quickly found this new "door" and damaged it while entering the house.
Even with the front door boarded over, people continued to try to kick the front door in. They kept at it even after we moved a claw foot tub behind the door as a brace. Eventually, they finally succeeded in breaking in the front door and badly damaging the door frame. Luckily they were only able to dislodge the sides of the door frame; the tub and the framework of the stairs at the top of the opening prevented the plywood and frame from being pushed completely through, which would have allowed intruders to simply walk into the house. If it weren't for that, it's likely that the interior would have been totally trashed by the vandals, perhaps to the point of not making the restoration feasible.
Boarded over front door. Unfortunately, we never got a picture of the door as it was hung, it had been kicked down before we had a chance.
Amanda needed a front door to feel that she had a house. And we needed a door to use for workers to gain entry. The only question was - do we put in a "new" period door and pray the activity at the house would prevent further break-ins, or do we put in a security door now and a historic door in the future. Since we can't afford further setbacks, a security door was the logical choice. (Remember, it's going to look worse before it gets better.)
Front doorway. Imagine how spectacular this would be to look through a door that was half glass. You can see the back of the staircase that winds up across the transom and the newel post. It must have been very impressive to knock on the door and get a peek at the interior of the house.
Several weekends ago, Amanda, Eric, and Ron began to reclaim the boarded up front doorway, remove the demolished front door and install the security door. There were a number of hurdles to over come. The old door was broken likely beyond repair. The entire door frame was rotten. The current lack of gutters causes that area of the house to stay wet. The wood nailing blocks (originally mortared into the brick) that the old front door were attached to had become rotten and unusable. Just adding more wooden blocks did not resolve the issue because they needed to be reattached to the brick structure and the bricks and mortar are so crumbly. When they tried to re-install the door frame, it could just be lifted out of the hole because there wasn't anything to really attach it to.
Ron moving original frame because there is nothing to attach it to. They had to add new blocks and wood framing around the door opening in order to have something to attach the frame.
A steel entry door has now been secured with a regular door knob and dead bolt. Amanda added the door knob by herself - woohoo! this is a first for her. The fill-in for the old transom will occur in the next few days. Unfortunately, we don't believe the door just removed is in condition to be restored. Amanda and Eric will negotiate the final front door configuration with Indiana Landmarks, to address both security and historical accuracy, later in the project.
Our new door! A new portal into a fabulous old home.
Currently, we're just happy we can provide access to the various teams who need to be able to enter to help with restoration and also keep the property safe from break-ins. And as Amanda said, "It's just awesome to have a real front door on my house."