Historic Home In A Historic District Of Iowa City
“For a Family”
An article of this title appeared in the August 2014 issue of “Room” magazine. The story featured the prestigious VanGilder home in one of Iowa City’s historic neighborhoods.
Located at 330 S. Summit Street, the house was built in 1890. Since then, the VanGilders are the fourth owners of this lovely property. Dr. John VanGilder and his bride, Kerstin purchased the house in September of 1976, 44 years ago, for their family of six. The VanGilder children, Sarah, Rachel, John and David all grew up here and now have families of their own in Cleveland, Des Moines, Great Falls, and Seattle.
“Why did you buy this house?” I asked Kerstin. She answered, “John and I loved the warmth of old homes; we loved established neighborhoods; we loved large gatherings of family and friends; we loved having enough space for the kids to have playrooms and a house flexible enough to be their home while they were in college. This place has done all that.”
Living in this home, Kerstin and John made continual improvements to it, all of which reflect their love for quality workmanship. They hired the best contractors to help them make the quality upgrades that such a historic home deserves.
The kitchen was remodeled in 1977 by Gene Duffey Construction. Kerstin was so delighted with the workmanship, that, in 2009, she again asked the Duffey Brothers to help design a major addition to the structure. This project added 800 square feet to the original house; it enlarged the kitchen and added, on the main floor, a master bedroom which includes a large walk-in shower. No expense was spared.
In the kitchen, the Duffey craftsmen built quarter-sawn oak cabinets with glass door fronts. The kitchen also features such rare amenities as granite countertops, a 500-pound hand-crafted oak table, a 36-bottle wine cooler, a floor-to-ceiling pantry, a “food-planning” kitchen nook, and a granite-top breakfast bar. Deserving special mention is the Thermador cooking ensemble embracing a 6-burner gas stove-top, a vent hood that boasts food warming lights, a double-wall bake oven, and a separate warming oven. The kitchen must be seen to be fully appreciated.
An east-facing door leads to a covered porch where one can enjoy a coffee or, perhaps, feed the birds. This porch overlooks a big back yard with a masonry cooking grill and a custom-built swing—just another place for people of all ages to congregate.
The 2009 addition has heated floors, so spending time there is remarkably pleasant in the winter. It is not hard to imagine that much of the VanGilder household’s life was lived in the kitchen.
Parties and more formal occasions can be held in the separate dining room, away from the preparations in the kitchen. The dining room can be closed off with solid oak pocket doors, although, by keeping the dining room open, one does not lose the cozy aspect of this spacious house.
The living room has custom-built bookshelves and a wood-burning fireplace and would be the perfect place to park your baby grand piano. If your job permits it, and if you like to work from home, this house accommodates you with an office/library/reading room right off the living room. Also accessible from the living room is the screened porch, which extends your living space to the outdoors.
A leaded glass window designed by fine-arts student Ronna River graces the ample and inviting foyer. It was Ms. River’s thesis piece. The period in which magnolia trees are in bloom is quite short, so this stained-glass window gives you magnolias the year around.
The wraparound porch was completely redone in 1990. Kerstin found light fixtures that had been in a school to lend atmosphere and charm to the porch. I envision some begonias and ferns to transform the porch to a party space or a summertime retreat.
Of the seven bedrooms in this house, two have private bathrooms. The master bedroom is now downstairs, a part of the renovation project of 2009. This room was designed with aging-in-place philosophy; access from the kitchen to all points of the main floor is direct and easy. Whether for a person who has difficulty with stairs or just for those who prefer sleeping on the main level, the new addition is perfect.
The old, upstairs master bathroom also has heated floors, large windows and a private, three-season room with wainscoting on the ceiling and walls. There are 16 windows on three sides of this air-conditioned porch. It could be a summer bedroom or yet another place just to please your fancy.
While he was in medical school, Kerstin’s son lived in the attic. The attic is one big room, but it’s sort of like an apartment with bathroom and space for a bed, space with shelves for a study, space for a dining table, space for living-room furniture, space for you-name-it. The attic space is a vast room almost 36 feet by 30 feet wide!
A new roof was installed in 2010, and the house has been repainted since then. The concrete driveway is about 15 years old.
There is even a carriage house, which now serves as a double garage. Half of this space has been used for storing wood for the fireplace. A workshop/storage space also exists in the carriage house. You could use it, for example, to store your golf clubs or outdoor furniture.
The upstairs of the carriage house is unfinished; it is an open area with a high-pitched ceiling. It would make a fabulous art studio or a spacious office. Outside of the carriage house, there are three car parking pads.
As I visited with Kerstin, I realized that her love for this home is reflected in every corner of every room, in every detail and in every improvement. The tradespeople and craftsmen who helped her with the upgrades were rehired again and again. They did such outstanding work that I asked her to give me a list of their names so that the new, fifth owners will know who has been taking care of the house, trimming trees, doing gardening work, removing the snow, and maintaining the mechanical items. I have that list and am personally visiting with the contractors.
This home is a jewel, an Iowa City gem! If you loved “This Old House,” the TV program, you will be able to live it yourself in this beautiful, warm, distinctive home. Indeed, a home “For a Family.”
Please look at the articles from the “Room” and “Elements” magazines. The VanGilder home was featured in both publications for its peerless custom work and splendid layout.