Renovating of downtown house is dream come true

By Lynn R. Parks

When Dan and Debbie Short bought the house at 106 Pine St., they got a few surprises: Hidden behind 20th-century renovations were a set of pocket doors, a butler's pantry and a small bathroom. Under carpet and linoleum were original wide pine floor boards. And tucked away in the attic was a handrail, just the right size for a back staircase, the top of which had been covered over with a floor. "I have driven by this house so many times, it was calling to me," said Debbie Short. "I love this house. And I was very excited to find that it had things we did not even know about." The Shorts bought the house and adjoining empty lot from Dennard Hill in late April. They began renovations in June and hope to have the building ready by February for the opening of The Browsery, a gift, collectible and fine furniture store. Last week, they were honored by the Seaford MainStreet program for contributing to the downtown renaissance. "Owning a business is a dream we have had for many years," said Debbie Short, a nurse at the Methodist Manor House, Seaford. Her husband is an agent with J. A. Montgomery Inc. insurance and is mayor of Seaford. "In the last few years, we have dreamed about having a business downtown. With the recent renovations, with the new lighting, there are a lot of interesting things going on downtown. There is a lot of traffic, and that's good for business." She said that she is encouraged by the success of restaurants downtown: the Main Squeeze, Caffe Sarajevo and Bon Appetit. "There is real enthusiasm there and that is a good start," she said. Short does not know when the house she is renovating was built. It had been divided into apartments and at the time of Short's purchase, the second floor was occupied. (Those tenants moved out June 3.) The downstairs was used for storage. "It was in pretty bad shape," Short said. "A lot of the plaster was crumbled." In addition, a hole in the roof had allowed water to run in and as a consequence, some floor boards were rotten. Short located old boards at a flea market in Greenwood to patch the floor. Plasterer and painter David Calloway, Laurel, is working on patching the plaster and painting the walls. The original walls are made of horsehair plaster, which is being saved wherever possible. Calloway is using wallboard for the patches.

Short said that it is her intention to return the house to its original floor plan. That plan was disrupted when the house was divided into apartments. The rooms will be painted in different colors, but all will be in medium pastel shades, she said. She is also interested in preserving the house's decorative features. Moldings are staying in place and that handrail has been put back up alongside the recently uncovered back staircase. Carpenter Allen Peterson, Seaford, created new balusters to complete the banister. Merchandise for the Browsery will be displayed throughout the house, including in the kitchen, the butler's pantry and the south-facing sun porch. Short has not yet decided on a specific inventory. "But I hope there will be something for everybody," she said. "And something for everybody's pocketbook. If a child comes in looking for a gift for his mother, we will have something for him to buy." The empty lot next door to the house, at the corner of Pine and High streets, is being transformed into a parking area and landscaped yard. Once home to All About Crafts, it has been vacant since the store, also owned by Hill, burned several years ago. "This is a dream come true," said Debbie Short. "I love the idea of renovating an old house. It is a shame more people don't do it." And instead of inspiring disgust, a worn door sill in the old house sparks Short's imagination. "How many times have people walked through that door?" she asked. "When you step through the front door, you wonder how many other people have done the same thing. I am interested in that."

Help from many
Short said that she and her husband have received lots of help in renovating their new property. Her mother, Betty Frable, Seaford, is helping with the cleaning and will help manage the store when it opens. The Shorts' daughter, April, Seaford, is also helping with renovations and is working on the store's inventory. Dan Short's father, Wesley, Seaford, used a glass-bead polisher to shine up the porcelain doorknobs and the cast metal feet of an old bathtub. Workers at the site are: carpenter Allen Peterson, Seaford; David Calloway, Laurel, who is doing plaster work and painting; Harry Mitchell of Electrical Maintenance and Construction, Seaford; plumber Dan Henderson, Seaford; roofer Jeff Allen, Seaford; mason Daryl Matthews from Matthews Concrete; and Jon Whitt, Seaford, who cleaned the chimney and worked on the front steps. Jeff Todd, Seaford, is doing the landscaping.

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