HFCC students restoring historic house

Photo by Bob Oliver
HFCC students D’Andre Evans (left) and Gene Boren discuss renovation options inside the 1919 house they are inspecting in the Ford Historic Homes District.

By Bob Oliver
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — A collaboration between Henry Ford Community College and the city of Dearborn is allowing students the opportunity to learn skills in their field while improving the community.

This semester 25 students from the Interior Design and Architecture/Construction programs are working with their instructors and the city to restore a historic 1919 house.

The house, 22668 Nona, in the Ford Historic Homes District, is in need of many repairs designed to challenge the students and allow them to take the skills that they’ve learned in the classroom and apply them to a real project.

“It’s sometimes hard to bring real-world opportunities into the classroom because of the way we balance the curriculum,” Chad Richert, HFCC instructor of Architecture/Construction said. “But this has been fantastic.”

Richert is leading the Architecture/Construction students through the planning, but the students working and designing the house’s interior are led by instructor Karen Wilmering. He is working with the students to ensure the designs meet the requirements set by the Ford Home Historic District.

Students are still working mainly in the classroom, but they’ve been at the house several times to document the existing conditions and figure out what needs to be done to the house.

Working outside of the classroom and following the requirements of the house construction is something the students find unique and exciting.

Architecture/Construction student Anwar Alwan has been in the program for almost two years and has enjoyed the experience of measuring the house so far.

“I love that we are doing something hands-on and not just working in the classroom,” Alwan said. “It is a really good experience because it allows me to see what I can expect to face on real jobs. Also, learning more about energy efficiency and adding it to this house is exciting.”

Construction issues with the house include no first floor bathroom or closet, a small kitchen, inadequate storage space, no garage, and neglected landscaping. All of those issues must be addressed to improve the current functionality and future marketability of the house.

“We’re trying to maintain the historic nature of the facade as much as possible, but the inside we have a little room to work with,” Richert said. “We’re trying to update it a little bit but still have it be representative of the style it was built in.”

The two HFCC programs will continue to design and document their plans for the house and hope to turn them in to the city on May 2. Then the data may be turned over to a contractor so that some of the demolition work can be started on the outside while the interior work is completed.

Whatever the involvement level after submitting the plans, the programs want to stay involved with the house in anyway possible.

“I’d love for students to be involved in the build in some way,” Richert said. “We don’t know exactly how we’re going to stay involved with it, but we’re definitely staying involved.”

A Facebook page for the HFCC Architecture and Interior Design group had photos of the work thus far and will continue to update throughout the process.

(Bob Oliver can be reached at boliver@bewickpublications.com.)