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'Built to impress' - Pooles rally to restore grandeur to long-deteriorating duplex

Descendants of the original owners of the house the Richard Poole family is rehabbing at the southwest corner of Fifth and Church Street in Hannibal, Mo.

Published in the Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Author: Mary Lou Montgomery

Martha Poole saw a picture of the duplex at Fifth and Church streets in Hannibal, Mo., in a real estate ad in the newspaper. She called her husband, Richard, and said she wanted to see the house. He urged her to use restraint. He doesn't like to waste Realtors' time window shopping if they are not prepared to buy. Martha called "their" Realtor anyway, and Sue Giroux made arrangements for the viewing. Martha saw potential. Richard saw a challenging project. Together, they knew they had the combined knowledge and resources to save the house. They rejected an appraiser's recommendation that the house was too far gone to save, and went ahead with the purchase. At the time, they didn't know the history of the house; just that it contained unique architecture and great hard wood features. "I haven't seen too many houses with this impressive display of woodwork," Martha said. Before they began major renovations, their daughter-in-law, Val, set out across the street to the library in search of historic information. That's where she found "The Robinsons of Hannibal, Missouri," and stories about the original families who made their homes there. And that's when they knew their quest to save a unique house was also a quest to save part of this town's history. Richard, Martha and their seven children have all contributed to the renovation. First project to stop the building's deterioration: The roof. "I can tell they were making repairs to the roof 50 years ago," Richard said. Rather than trying once again to repair a fiat portion of the roof, they put a pitch to that 24-foot fiat section, believing that the leaking problem is solved, once and for all. Son Matthew, 25, and his wife Val re-roofed the house, with the help of sons John, 16, and Aaron, 14. Emmy, 12, "kicked off shingles for five hours," Martha said. "We do really well in old houses together," Martha said. "Richard wires and plumbs. Our son roofs." And Martha designs. "Everybody in the family has helped," she said, including the family's youngest, daughters Sarah, 9, and Hannah, 7. At first, the custom oak floors on the first floor of the South Fifth Street side of the duplex were so dirty they looked like linoleum, Martha said. They stripped, sanded and varnished the floors to restore them to their natural beauty. Martha was hopeful they would find a roll of paper from the original Robinson Paint and Wallpaper store, but that wasn't to be, so she selected wallpaper designs that she believes would be of the era the house was built. Richard said the original wiring is still in place behind the plaster, but that more recent owners had started the job of rewiring the house. He picked up where they left off, to bring the wiring up to code. A coal bin exists in the basement of the Fifth Street side of the house, while an old boiler remains in the basement of the Church Street side. "It probably weighs as much as a car," Richard said. A high efficiency gas furnace now adequately heats the structure. Twin brothers and their families originally lived in the attached houses, and "there is quite a bit of decorating difference in the two sides," Martha said. The foyer on the Fifth Street side "was built to impress," she said, with inlaid wood design in the floor and French doors on each side of the foyer. The Church Street side had pocket doors, Martha said, which were more typical of the era. Both sides of the house have transoms over all the interior doors, and all but one of the transoms are in working order. While all of the rooms feature an elegance of their own, the kitchens are understated, most likely built for function, rather than style. The Fifth Street side has a built-in buffet, with a potato bin, shelves and a cabinet for food storage. There are two stairwells on the Fifth Street side, one built from elegant hard-wood with hand-turned staircase spindles, and the other narrow with painted wood steps. The back staircase was likely used by household help. This half of the duplex features oak floors on the first floor and maple on the second floor. An attic space exists on the third floor, an area the Poole 's would like to finish in the future. Renters moved into the Fifth Street side of the house at the first of February, just as a historic snowfall blanketed the region. When the weather breaks, the Poole 's will turn their attention to the Church Street side, which has suffered the most from water damage over the years. They plan to replace warped hardwood floors with new wood from Southern Missouri; they will remove the walls that were built over the years to transform the duplex into apartments; they will restore closed fire places; re plaster; and bring a long closed-off staircase back into use. Martha said that while the Fifth Street side is in better repair, the Church Street side is her favorite. The Pooles, who live in Philadelphia, Mo., where Richard works for the U.S. Postal Service, look at the house as an investment for now, but ultimately, they may make their home there. They make property investments with the notion that maybe some of their seven children will want to call this region their home.

Memo: By definition TRANSOM: (noun) A horizontal crossbar in a window, over a door, or between a door and a window or fanlight above it. ALCOVE: (noun) 1. A small recessed section of a room. 2. An arched opening, as in a wall). BUFFET: (noun) A counter for refreshments. DUPLEX: (noun) A two-family house. VARNISH: (noun) A liquid preparation that when applied to a surface dries to form a hard lustrous typically transparent coating. · All definitions are from

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