Sometimes finding a subject for a great Newburgh Restoration blog post can be ” just around the corner”. In this case it quite literally was, when I was recently leaving my Heights rowhouse on Overlook Place. Heading around the block and up Courtney Ave (by the corner of Liberty St), I could not help but notice scaffolding set up and and a towering young man balancing on that scaffolding, stripping the large decorative columns in front of a pastel colored “Painted Lady Victorian” that appeared as visually striking as the first lilac colored crocuses popping out of the ground to welcome Spring. In 2008 the house looked totally different.
Of course, I stopped and proceeded to introduce myself as an “almost new homeowner” in the nabe and as a contributing writer for Newburgh Restoration. As a response back, I was then treated to a very pleasant smile from the homeowner and an extremely welcome “break the ice” comment that he was indeed a fan of the Newburgh Restoration Site!
What followed was a wonderful conversation with a very talented artist, sculptor and stone cutter and an inspiring full tour of his historic Victorian that has kind of been a “blood, sweat and tears” project house that has spanned intermittently over the last 5 years.
The artist/homeowner is Chris Lewis who has a working stone cutting/art studio located at the once gritty, but now burgeoning waterfront Brooklyn Navy Yard area, (which for those not familiar borders both Williamsburg and the trendy Clinton Hill nabes in Brooklyn.). To get a sense of Chris Lewis and his bold sculpting style, stone cutting projects and outdoor hard scapes can best be experienced at his website www.christopherlewisdesign.com
The hard work he has put into his house is obvious when you enter into the large front foyer. Chris is particularly pleased in literally uncovering the carved staircase (pictured here) which was fully enclosed in wallboard when he purchased the home. Additionally, Chris explained that he had to level the entire house which had as much as a six inch slope as you went from the front living room to the back dining room (and I can say, job well done Chris…no “old house tilt” felt underfoot). The lovely hardwood floors and the beautiful original stained glass in the upper front bedroom are decorator items that additionally help to add to the home’s Victorian personality.
Two aspects in particular that Chris is particularly proud of is the absolutely spectacular totally renovated bathroom with custom cabinetry, bold granite counter top, large and visual claw tub and a gorgeous hand cut stone floor that of course he designed, cut and installed. It includes a creative shower area that drains to the center of the bathroom floor and gives an artistically inspired “spa like feel” overall.
The other is the “self designed and hand cut” stone patio in the huge back garden area. He explained that he had to dig, excavate and remove a full foot (in height) of soil in some places to level out the garden area in order to prep it for his large stone slabs and enable him to plant the lovely Hemlock trees that border along the back and sides of the yard area.
Lastly, I asked Chris what his thoughts are regarding Newburgh’s revitalization. He explained that working on a project for 5 years is quite an experience and journey in a city like Newburgh. He has seen the city definitely improve (especially most recently again) and is inspired and hopeful of Newburgh’s path to a promising future.
A post script to the story is that Chris may need to potentially consider selling the “Newburgh Project” house as career demands force him to spend more time either traveling to site locations and spending many extended hours in his Brooklyn studio. If and when that time comes, after seeing his home, I can honestly say that he will be leaving Newburgh with a bit of his artistic talents as part of the urban landscape and even in my brief conversation with him, I think a bit of his heart will actually always remain.