Preserving the Historic Integrity of Homes During a Renovation

“Close Enough” isn’t Good Enough

Historic Home Summit Ave. St. Paul

Historic Summit Avenue Home in St. Paul, MN

While we refrain from choosing favorites when it comes to our projects, we do find ourselves specifically drawn to renovation projects that involve historic homes.

Understanding the history of your city, your family, your country, and even your house can create a deep-rooted sense of belonging. Our pull toward historic renovations may just be preference, or it may be that architecture is in our family’s blood as my (Tim’s) ancestor, William Gray Purcell, was the architect that built one of Minneapolis’ most prized historic houses, the Purcell-Cutts House.

Historic Purcell-Cutts House

Historic Purcell-Cutts House

A New Beginning in Historic Stillwater, MN

We are proud Minnesotans, and many years ago decided that the best place to start our business would be somewhere with history.

“The foundation of my historic interest was mainly due to the fact that I started my business in Stillwater. Stillwater is the birthplace of Minnesota.”

– Tim Purcell, owner and President of Purcell Quality.

Stillwater, MN

Stillwater, a quaint and bustling little city, where the architecture ranges from Greek Revival, to Italian and Gothic Revival. From classic Victorians to ornate and eye-catching Queen Anne style homes, the town is thick with history and pride, and we were inspired by every street’s showcase of architecture. As our business started to grow, we were excited to learn about Minnesota’s deep loyalty to their historic homes and neighborhoods. Just take a walk down Summit Avenue in St. Paul, or a stroll through downtown Red Wing, and you’ll start to wonder about the generations of families that lived their lives proudly in those homes.

But working on historic homes is not all good times and romance. When tackling a historic renovation of any scale, there must be almost twice as much thought put into it every step of the process.

“Working on a historic home is a lot more work. Generally speaking, most homes today do not have the intricate details that you’ll find in or on historic homes. For the most part, all of the details need to be re-created and cannot be bought off-the-shelf at local home improvement stores. Extreme care must be taken during a restoration to not damage any of the existing finishes that are not in the scope,” says Tim.

Our motto when replicating anything from the past is, “Close enough isn’t good enough.” The details need to be exactly the same as they were when originally built, or else we have robbed anyone who enters that home from its original history.

We want it to be historically accurate, not fake. We have an intense passion for the attention to detail that the carpenters and woodworkers put into their work. Most of their work was done by hand, and that level of detail remains unseen in the majority of modern homes.

Tim explains it like this,

 “Every historic home has a story to tell from the past. I really enjoy learning the history of the house and in some instances finding items buried in walls and attics.”

Here are a few of our personal favorite historic Purcell renovations

1.  Historic Porch Renovation

Historic Porch Renovation

This beautiful Summit Avenue porch renovation. We made sure that all the materials, from the siding to the railing to the light fixtures, were built as if they had been a part of the original building plans.

2.  Adding a Historic Attached Garage

Historic Garage Renovation

Another stately St. Paul home that needed a detached garage. Again, we wanted the add-on garage to look as though it had been with the home from the beginning.

3.  Preserving Existing Historic Architecture

Preserving Historic Architecture

Every detail of this historic Minneapolis home was stunning even before we got our hands on it. The curved doorways, the detailed bricklaying, and the original wood beams took our breath away. Every room in this house is a show stopper. Look for more of this home in the MSP Home & Design magazine’s June issue!

So, yes, we don’t want to pick favorites, but it is pretty clear why we love working on historic renovations of all sizes. When you know your history, you’ll know yourself better. We just want to help you uncover it.

– Tim and the Purcell Team