By Julie Herron Carson
The Atlanta Urban Design Commission has given its annual Award of Excellence for Historic Preservation to the William R. McClelland Home in West End.
The circa1902 home on Peeples Street has been meticulously restored by owners Caleb Racicot and Daniel Vasquez, along with a renovation team that included Jerry Davis of Park Atlanta Homes and Thomas Portis, Jr. of Southwest Paint.
Racicot, a LEED-accredited planner with local architecture firm TSW, is no stranger to historic preservation. Throughout his career, he has been involved in writing preservation ordinances and guidelines for various cities. He also currently serves as co-chair of his neighborhood’s preservation and urban design committee.
Nevertheless, he and Vasquez were not specifically seeking an historic home in need of renovation when they found the McClelland home.
“We were looking for an older house that was within walking distance of MARTA’s north-south rail line and was located in a walkable historic neighborhood,” said Racicot. “After looking at several houses that had been updated, we realized we wanted something with true historic character – dings, tiny bathroom, scarred floors and all. The moment we walked into the McClelland Home and saw its intact plaster walls, fireplaces, stained glass, hardware, woodwork, etc., we fell in love, despite the fact that it needed a lot of work to make it livable.”
Racicot and Vasquez did many of the small restoration projects themselves, then hired Jerry Davis with Park Atlanta Homes as the contractor for the larger projects.
The home is one-story, blending design elements of both the New South Cottage and Bungalow house types. The home’s first owner, William R. McClelland was a partner at the J.M. High Dry Goods Company. In later years, J.M. High’s widow, Harriett “Hattie” Harwell Wilson High, donated the family’s Peachtree Street mansion to the city to found the museum that would eventually become Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.
The house’s entry hall features a stained glass back wall – a unique feature of the home. Multiple sources plus an examination by two glass conservators suggest its abstract design is original, despite being dated from 1902. In order to complement the stained glass, Racicot and Vasquez have incorporated original wall treatments into the dining room, parlor and entry hall.
“We appreciate that this house was never stripped of its character,” said Racicot. “The same family owned the home for almost 70 years, and apparently they never saw a need to rip out the late Victorian details. We love the original, unpainted pocket doors, the fireplaces, and, of course, the beautiful stained glass windows.”
A major component of the renovation process included discovering and restoring the home’s original colors. Thomas Portis, Jr., used original paint chips to reproduce both interior and exterior paint colors and even reached out to Benjamin Moore Canada to obtain paint codes for authentic porch decking.
“It was very exciting to discover the home’s original colors,” said Racicot. “We were able to uncover and restore the original wall coverings in several rooms, revealing how beautifully the stained glass, paint and wallpaper all complemented each other. It was also extremely gratifying to remove the Masonite siding that had been applied to the home’s exterior decades ago. Its beautiful to see how the home’s interior and exterior design and color were carefully designed all those years ago to create a balanced, unified whole. We are proud that we were able to bring this historic home back to life, and honored to receive the Award of Excellence for its restoration.”