When David McAnallen restored his 150-year-old Manchester townhome, he didn't know it would lead to the restoration of an old, abandoned alley house on the perimeter of his property. But when it was on the verge of being condemned, he knew he couldn't let it go.
Where others saw blackened mortar and ruin, he saw potential. When his contractor, Lee Bruder saw it, his first thought was, "It should be saved."
Together the two men worked to restore the North Side home to its former glory. Less than a year later, the almost finished result is a light and airy house that blends old and contemporary features.
The restored house will be one of 10 stops on Sunday's Manchester House + Garden Tour from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Mr. McAnallen's adjacent home, which will also be on the tour, served as the inspiration for the alley house. When Mr. McAnallen and Mr. Bruder got their hands on the house last fall, they knew their biggest challenge would be working with the limited space. The interior of the skinny, three-story house was already cramped, and the transverse stairs cutting through the middle of each floor worsened the effect.
"We couldn't come to terms to how to make it work," Mr. McAnallen said of the stairs.
Looking at the original kitchen addition that was near collapse, Mr. Bruder suggested they tear it down and build a new two-story addition. They knocked down the stairs, gutted the house, installed maple wood floors throughout and added a 12- by 14-foot addition.
The space where the stairs were became a spacious kitchen and open living area flooded with light. The addition also allowed for a pantry, powder room and new staircase. Maria Costello, Mr. McAnallen's friend, came up with the idea for the open-tread stairs and provided other suggestions to maximize the space.
In the kitchen, for example, the granite top island doubles as a table, and storage space is built in under the stairs.
The second floor mimics the open floor concept of the first floor and includes two original chimneys on one wall. The addition also allowed the men to squeeze in a full bathroom with a pocket door.
The stairs on one side of the room are well-lit by a small skylight at the top of the landing, but the best view comes from large windows imbedded in the newly extended dormer.
"This is icing to me," Mr. McAnallen said, looking out at the courtyard he added to his own home. Spanning one-third of an acre, the courtyard is a green gem.
"You get this gorgeous park-like courtyard to look over. Then you see how these two [houses] connect," he said.
The extended dormer, new windows and repointing of the brick were funded by a $5,000 matching grant from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.
At the other end of the open room is a deep, narrow dormer that opens out to what will be a rooftop deck built on top of the two-story addition.
Mr. Bruder estimates the house will be completed by the end of the month and that it will stand for another 150 years.
"These buildings were built to last," he said.
He and Mr. McAnallen will continue their partnership by building more alley houses that will mimic the old style of both restored houses, forming what they jokingly call a compound.
"When you look from my house or Sheffield Street or you look back across that courtyard, everything that's going to happen here is going to all blend in," Mr. McAnallen said.
Kitoko Chargois: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1088.