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Saturday, May 18, 2024

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Historic Restoration Recognized

Evelyn Wagenhoffer descends the oak staircase that was painted white by a previous owner. The wood was restored and stained to bring it back to original condition.

By Carl Price

COLD SPRING – According to a 2002 Herald article, Evelyn Wagenhoffer had begun restoration work on her recently purchased circa 1890 Seashore Road home and predicted to finish in two years.
She accepted a plaque March 4, 2019, from Lower Township Historic Preservation Commission and Lower Township Council for restoration work she performed on her home. Work, she said, is ongoing.
“The major work is finished, but there are odds and ends that are still being worked on, small things,” the former social worker from Philadelphia and owner of Evelyn’s Chair Repair explained.
The “major work” Wagenhoffer referred to included vines growing through the walls, a beehive, loaded with honey, in the dining room, buckling floors, leaking windows and no insulation anywhere in the house.
Wagenhoffer purchased the home from the previous owner who, after owning it for four months, recognized the enormity of the project and sold.
She immediately began restoring the house by tearing the plaster off the walls and adding insulation. She also replaced electric wiring, plumbing, and re-glazed and replaced the rope and weights in the windows.
“All of the wood in the house, the staircase, moldings, and doors was painted white. All of that paint was stripped off and the wood restored,” she said.
Wagenhoffer realized she wouldn’t be able to complete the work herself and enlisted the help of family and friends, as well as hired a contractor. When the contractor’s helper left the project, she became the contractor’s helper.
She was not new to restoration work, having previously restored a bed-and-breakfast in Wildwood Crest.
The roof of the house was replaced. However, a dormer, a major source of water leaking into the house, was not replaced.
The front porch, enclosed with windows and a model-train platform, was opened up, restored and replaced.
A few modern amenities were added to the property. Central air conditioning was installed, radiators removed, and a new heating system put in place.
Gardens were added, along with a screened porch at the back of the house and a powder room on the first floor was built where a small side porch existed.
Windows were re-oriented in the kitchen to make room for the powder room and allow additional light.
Wagenhoffer also constructed two workshops for her restoration business. She added a pergola and repurposed an existing concrete slab as a patio for outdoor entertaining.
Many of the things added had to be custom made, like stained-glass windows at the peak of the house that opens out, according to Wagenhoffer.
“Nothing in this house is square and that is original,” Wagenhoffer said with a laugh.
The home is furnished with antique pieces obtained at estate sales, antique shops, gifts from friends and family and yard sales.
“The dining room table was my grandmother’s and I couldn’t wait to get it in here. A tabletop clock was my father’s. Friends gave me pieces because they knew I would take care of them,” Wagenhoffer said.
The house sits a short distance from Historic Cold Spring Village and deeds from the area describe the property as farmland.
 Wagenhoffer researched and recorded ownership of the house from 1890 to the present. Some of the owners of the property had surnames familiar to the early history of Cape May County, including the original owner, Benajah Downs, who deeded the land to his heirs, William and Josephine Davis for $1. Other owners included names like Schellenger, Cox, and Lovett.
The wording in the several hand-written deeds Wagenhoffer obtained included phrases she found interesting, like measuring the property according to locations of stones or walking minutes to the creek or gut.
“The wording in the documents is so colorful and indicative of the time and nature of the area,” she said, referring to one deed that said that the house could not be used to sell intoxicating beverages or as a bowling alley, gambling saloon or a stable for horses or cattle.
Wagenhoffer said she estimates she has spent upwards of $100,000 on restoration.
“Even with the $85,000 purchase price I would recoup my investment if I ever sold it,” she said.
Of course, that wouldn’t be until the small projects she mentioned are finished. This time there was no prediction on when that would be.

  • To contact Carl Price, email cprice@cmcherald.com

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