House Tour: Rick and Karen Mepham 2007.12.05

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By DAVID GREEN

Rick and Karen Mepham get many glimpses from the past when they look around their stately North Summit Street home.

Some of those glances into former times aren’t so cheery.

They see beautiful woodwork covered with paint. They see modern doors replacing the originals still stored in the garage.

There are patches of wood on the floors where the old decorative heating registers were once in place. Only two remain, and just one of them still includes the metal skirting around the edges.

The old light fixtures are gone and even the old mantel surrounding the fireplachouse.mepham.mills.jpge had been removed. Bare bricks were showing until Rick, with the help of Karen’s step-father, built a replacement.

The house no longer includes all the features that once made it one of the town’s premiere residences, but it’s still an impressive structure.

Slowly, the Mephams are making improvements, but that’s no easy chore—especially not with a two-year-old daughter to care for.

“We work different shifts,” Rick said.

“We’re hardly home together,” Karen adds, “and when we are we’re spending time with Kalie. It’s really hard to get anything done.”

It’s only been two years since the Mephams moved in—right about the time Kalie came along.

From what Rick and Karen have learned, the house was built by John and Susan Crabbs, who later sold it to a Porter family. Attorney Yale Kerby lived in the house for many years and eventually opened a law office in the basement of the home, reached by a side entrance off the driveway.

Edna Covelaski owned the home for many years and rented the upstairs as an apartment. Since then, a series of owners lived there starting in the 1990s.

The Mephams haven’t been able to learn of the construction date, but they’re guessing somewhere around 1890.

A photograph from that era shows the Crabbs family in front of a house that looks somewhat different now. Back then, there were two separate porches instead of the continuous L-shaped porch.

The biggest difference is in the porch construction. The porch was originally wrapped by wooden railings rather than the impressive stone work that now makes it one of the most distinctive homes in Morenci.

The Mephams’ first big project was to rejuvenate the dining room floor. Years ago this was the kitchen and holes showed where pipes came through. When they arrived, the floor still had traces of the old linoleum, with the adhesive and felt layer.

That was the first floor job. Since then, they’ve tackled every downstairs room to bring back the original wood.

The front room—with the replacement mantel—has two sets of tall, sliding doors that had to be repaired. It’s impossible to find replacement parts, Rick said. They’re operational now, but the paint hasn’t yet been completely removed.

“You wouldn’t believe how many odds and ends there are to do,” Rick said. “I spent an entire day removing pipes in the basement that don’t have a purpose anymore.”

They’ve left the bright colors that a former owner painted, but that’s a welcome change for Karen. She grew up in a home with much more muted walls.

The modern kitchen offers lots of cabinets and counter space, and there’s an island—actually a peninsula—that can be used for meals.

The house once featured double doors leading into the entryway—the only area where woodwork was left unpainted. A handsome stairway leads up to four bedrooms, although Karen and Rick use the smallest as a walk-in closet.

There are two unfinished attics and both have the old wooden water tanks that once served the house.

In these last few days before the house tour, new carpet will be laid upstairs, but that’s the extent of the refinishing. Cleaning and decorating will complete what guests will see of the work in progress.

Rick says they both really liked the uniqueness of the house when they looked it over for the first time.

“I really like the porch in the summer,” he said.

For Karen, it’s the size of the place.

“I do like the big rooms and the tall ceilings,” she said. “Our old house seems so claustrophobic now.”

And for as long as they enjoy trying to restore the glory of an old home, they’ll never be left wondering what to do with their spare time.

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