Colors for a Porch

7.14.2013   This past week we focused on the front porch, got some of the skirting built, painted and installed, as well as the porch floor.  All the upper trim is painted, as well as this cool ceiling. (talk to Joan about that!)   Had some help from a new helper Monty, who is a real go- getter.

We spent quite a bit of time on the porch columns, which hopefully we will be installing this week.


160 North Chestnut Street Ravenna








We began the restoration of this magnificent Heritage structure in May.  We installed a garden using sandstone retaining stones, as well as planted some trees, in an existing limestone parking area.  We have removed most of the siding from the South side, and the lower portion of the east side.  We have also removed the porch posts and rebuilt the porch floor framing.  new flooring is on order and we are restoring the posts.  We hope to re-install the posts soon and then begin working on the upper level of the west gable, including restoring the magnificent gable end light.

It is clear from the undressed stone that there once was a stoop in this location.  There is a perfect cut out of the crown from the original door surround.   There must have been at least a transom window, and likely side lites to the door.  We have the original front door, that is 7-8″ tall, 39″ wide and full 2″ thick.  The plywood opening is 55″.

A visitor last week, Harold Anderson, said his aunt and uncle Stephens had a roll top desk in front of a window that is now the low entry door.  (his mothers sister Helen was his aunt)  Dr. Stephens sat in the big room in his broken down Macintosh chair, next to the fireplace, smoking cigars.  Mr, Anderson said he would help his uncle drive his Lincoln out of the garage on the way to Congress lake Country club.

This week Kim Plough stopped by.  She is 71 and said she worked as an assistant to Dr. Stephens in his office for 3 years.  She was 19 when she started.   She said Dr. Stephens was “all about the Congress Lake Country Club”, which is what Mr. Anderson told me.  He was a member, but only fished in the lake.

Tim Ong on the side stoop

July 9th

For the past two weeks we have been working on the West side of the building, primarily the porch.  We have the porch flooring primed, and yesterday got the final paint colors selected. Tim painted the west wall of the porch and I painted the ceiling.  With a little good weather we hope to get the high areas painted so we can install porch floor this week, and maybe some of the columns.

We continue to have a steady stream of visitors, yesterday it was John Mendiola, a retired Ravenna Barber.  We had one woman roll down her window on Poplar Lane and yell out something like, “is the house being restored?”, “i thought that they would tear it down.”  “gonna take a lot of time and money”…”I hope you do it right.”


It has rained a lot the last few weeks, so in-between we have been scraping the porch columns, and I have done a little bit of sash repair.  Much more to do of course.  Should have the building permit soon so we can begin to work on the interior modifications.



Since my earliest days I have been intrigued by the question: “will we ever take a rational approach to the role of the automobile in the city?”   If we do, will we ever find a way to design a city without automobiles?

Fortunately we know a lot about what the city of the future, the city without the automobile, will look like.  This is because the city of the future will look a lot like the streetcar cities of  the late 19th century, except without the horses, as they will be replaced by bicycles and other human powered vehicles.

The challenge of course is finding a way to re- design our cities, in every sense of the word design, that have for several generations been built around the spacial needs of the automobile, instead of humanity.

To some, this idea is preposterous.  20 years ago, inspired by the 2nd international conference on the auto-free city, I spent a few hours reconsidering what the late 19th century downtown of Kent, Ohio will look like in the post automotive era.  To some, including the mayor, this idea was not just provocative, it was absurd.  My response then, as it is now, was that the real absurdity is to put convenience of a few before the needs of many, and indeed the future prosperity of the planet and its people.  In the interim,  of-course,  we have learned that climate change, mostly created by the burning of fossil fuels,  requires us to make changes to the way we live, govern and do business.  The challenge of course is that our problem is not technological (as in designing more efficient vehicles), but as our former president, George W. Bush, a Texas oil man, was willing to admit …psychological and and sociological.  An addiction not to oil, as he said, but to auto-driven vagrancy. The changes therefore have to do mostly with our relationships to each other and the planet, to the way we use space,time and because those, energy, each being integral to the other.

We know how to create human-centered convivial places where people can live most of their lives within a few miles of their and upon the resource base of their home region.  Traditional societies around the world have done this, even in post industrial times.   Subsistence economies always do this, but the modern, globally integrated society, built on financially cheap but ecologically costly energy have long lost the geographical imperative of living at home in our regions.  The automobile, while manufactured within our region, has severed our tie to place and unsustainably  un-tethered us from our region. It has reduced the natural influence of geography by creating the illusion of speed, without factoring the time and resources invested in return for that speed.  As Ivan Illich famously pointed out in his seminal Energy and Equity, when the time and money of maintenance of the automobile and its infrastructure is examined, our net Miles Per Hour is actually no better than walking.  Unfortunately, it comes at a great social, ecological and economic cost.  Building walkable, and as a bridge to walkable, bicycle-friendly, communities, is our way to sustainable prosperity.

Part of our challenge of course is making a paradigm shift from the modern-industrial consumptive economy to an economy based on conservation, the preservation of the planet and its people.  We have so separated consumption from production that until that idea is over turned, we will further imperil our planet.


As an architect who happens to be a Christian, I consider it my solemn moral and dare I say,  sacred, duty to speak out in favor of the human-centered redesign of our settlements. Earlier I mentioned design, “in every sense of the word”, because the creation of the places we work, live, play and are buried are ” designed” not just by architects and urban designers, but by businesses, elected officials, energy companies, consumers, engineers, and the geographical settings that constrain development.  Indeed, the development and “design” of our communities and regions is driven more by investments in infrastructure and real estate than by the rational evaluation of the costs and benefits by architects, designers, urban and regional planners.

The question that I am asking now, and will pursue with a series of essays is,” can we design a sustainable future?”, and can we put the automobile in its place, in the dustbin of bad inventions.






Rick Hawksley