1990 - 2008 A Diamond in Alton

In 1990 we bought a house on Diamond street in Alton, Illinois. It was in such bad shape that it almost needed to be condemned, but we wanted something we could pay off quickly and we knew we could fix it. 

Outside Front: 
We had all the outside bricks tuck-pointed and the roof replaced. We replaced the outside doors and most of the windows. Eventually the outside was beautiful. Grass wouldn't grow here so we put red mulch on the lawn and planted Monkey Grass between the sidewalk and curb. In the spring, the Chinese Willow tree in the front yard was covered in pink blossoms.
The porch was almost a write-off; only the roof and the top part of the columns could be saved.
We painted the porch trim in three shades of green, and painted the porch roof light blue, as they do in the south.
A brick and stone pillar near the sidewalk was the boundary marker, so we built a stone wall along the property line up to it.  
The Internal Systems:
It all had to go. Every bit of wiring and plumbing had to be replaced. This house still had old cast iron pipes and old knob-and-tube wiring with fragile wires.
Front Hallway:
The front door opened to a short hall, with the living room on the left side, a staircase on the right, and the kitchen straight ahead. The door to the living room was a big pocket door that slide into the wall. But it was covered with several coats of old white paint and would not open or close completely. We stripped the door and replaced all of the door molding. In the attic we found a lovely door decoration that was custom made for the door but never installed. It's made of wood but looks like metal, and it affixes to the moulding so the door opens behind it. We also fixed and painted the wall and installed hall lights.
We could not figure out why none of the previous owners had hung up this beautiful piece!
Living Room:
The living room was in terrible shape. The old plaster walls were cracked and thick with old paint. The door between the living room and the kitchen was another pocket door, smaller than the hallway door. It was also covered with peeling white paint until we stripped it down to the wood. After that we removed all the wall plaster, down to the old laths. 
When it was done it was a beautiful room, with warm colors.
In the corner by the dining room we put the entertainment center. I love flowers and I don't need them to be real, so I topped this with a big arrangement of roses.
Long before the room was furnished, we hung the light. We like medallions around larger light fixtures, so we had one here, with pale yellow detailing.
Dining Room:
The dining room was as dismal at the rest of the house. The walls were a dirty off-white and the room was heated, like all the rooms, with a cast-iron radiator, which also had several coats of dirty white paint.
On one side of the door to the kitchen was an old built-in cupboard. Like everything else, it was covered by many coats of white paint. We had to tear some of it off and strip everything else. 
But when this room was done, it was one of our favorites. In the center of the room we set the dining table with a big centerpiece. We only painted 2 walls red; the other 2 were painted off-white; those walls had tall windows with deep sills (the walls were about 18 inches thick), so red drapes and lace curtains tied the white walls in with the red. 
The built-in cupboard cleaned up nicely, and we used it for our dishes.
On the other side of the kitchen doorway we placed a slender curio cabinet. Randy used this as a bar, keeping liquors and glasses here.
The rest of our crystal went into the tall hutch, which provided another place to put flowers and greenery.
The door between the living room and dining room also had a decorative piece which we installed. When we painted our new moulding white, it really stood out against the warm red of the wall. 
The light in the dining room was also hung before the room was finished. It hung directly over the table and was easy to decorate for Christmas with garland and bows.
The kitchen was not only covered with dingy white paint, it was also stripped of appliances. It was just so cruddy.
We had to strip this room down to the bare walls, also. Both windows had the be re-sized, to allow for a counter top to be installed.
We put a large sink at one end of the new countertop, and at the other end was we installed a small prep sink and a wine rack. The pantry door was next to these cabinet.
The countertop ran the whole length of the outside wall, and we hung our every-day copper above it. 
Above the copper pans, on the soffit, I painted a design to personalized the room.
In the center of the ceiling we hung a pan rack. 
The stovetop and large oven were across from the counter top.
Back Hallway:
The back door was located at the end of a short hall between the kitchen and dining room. Originally it went to a back porch that was falling apart. 
We prettied this area up and replaced the door. Randy converted the back porch into a laundry on one side and a half-bath on the other.
The staircase, across from the living room, was very large. And it was, of course, covered with many layers of white paint. Fortunately the handrail and newel post were not painted; a couple of less things to scrape!
Each baluster had to be cleaned by hand. 
But eventually most of the paint came off
and the old staircase got another chance to shine.
The upper hallway was a great place for family photographs. 
The original staircase ended on the second floor and a separate, smaller set of stairs went up to the attic. Randy changed the layout of the second floor and continued the big staircase up to the third floor. It was hard to match the balusters and handrail from 1903, but he managed it.
Because the stairway was completely open now, we hung one big light at the top, with blue accents on its medallion.  
From the third story, we looked down over the new chandelier.
Guest Bedroom:
The first bedroom was a small one. It didn't have a closet so Randy added one. We used this room as a guest bedroom, decorated with quilts that Mom made for us. 
Guest Bathroom:
At the end if the stairs was a small bedroom. We  converted it into a large bathroom. 
The room was large enough for a double sink.
Master Bedroom:
The master bedroom was the only room not covered in 6 layers of white paint. It was painted an awful shade of dark blue. It went perfectly (awful) with our curtains made from sheets!
We tore out all the walls, down to the studs. 
When it was finished, we found a bedroom suite that fit the room perfectly. 
The room was large enough for all the pieces, without feeling tight. 
We even had room for an additional curio cabinet.
The second story porch, which was a mess, was converted into a small sunroom, complete with wet-bar and refrigerator. 
Master Bathroom:
The original small bathroom, across from the bedroom, was expanded; we took out the dumb waiter that ran from the second floor to the basement and redesigned the layout.
It made a nice bathroom, although there was only room for a shower instead of a tub.
The master bedroom didn't have a closet, so Randy was able to add a walk-in closet off the small bathroom.


Upstairs was an attic that had never been finished. We framed it and insulated it. 
And finished it to create one large room. 
Back Porch:
The back of the house originally had a double porch. It was in such rough shape that it could not be saved.
We wanted to use the space for other things, anyway. One the first floor we put a half bath on one side of the door, and a laundry room on the other. Upstairs was the sunroom.  
Garage/Carriage House:
At the back of the property was one quarter of an old shed that used to straddle the property line between this house and next door. 
We replaced it with a two-story garage, with a garage door on the front and in the back (at the alley). Later we added shutters. Our neighbors called this the "Taj Garage".
The plan was to make a wood-working studio upstairs. But work on the house took so long that Randy converted the garage upstairs into an apartment for us, so we could quit living in the house while it was so torn up. The apartment had a combined living and dining area, a galley kitchen, a bath with a shower, and a small bedroom. It worked perfectly. 
When the house was finished, Randy converted the garage upstairs into a workout room, complete with workout machines and a hot tub. 
Back Yard:
The backyard was in a terrible state. Big, untrimmed bushes were everywhere. We had to get rid of them to see what we really had there. This yard never grew grass; we tried everything, including sodding it twice, but it never worked. 
Randy put up a 6 foot fence around the yard. At the back of the house he created a raised deck, and in the area between the deck and the gate he built a pretty sitting area. 
We finally gave up on grass and mulched the yard and bricked in some specimen area. Instead of grass we had some green areas of wild violets. The rest of the greenery was from roses and flowering bushes. 
Later we expanded the brick paths.
In the back corner we created a small waterfall. We put goldfish out in the pond below the waterfall and set flowers around it.
The house was so pretty that it was on the cover of two publications: the annual Historic House Tour, and the Metro East/Illinois Real Estate Book.

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