Originally created 03/10/02

Best of both worlds



Nicole and Danny Fitzgerald weren't going to live too much in the past when they moved into their Walton Way home - they wanted old-style craftsmanship with the convenience of modern creature comforts.

They bought the century-old house because of the artisanship apparent in carved wooden pillars and molding, brass-framed fireplaces and mahogany-inlaid floors.

"You can't build a house like this anymore," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "I'd venture to say you couldn't build this for $250 per square foot."

At the same time, the couple included modern conveniences and touches that open up the house and make it more comfortable. A large kitchen added to the back of the house includes a center island with a cooking range. Glass panes in the cabinet doors allow a glimpse of brightly colored dishes.

The room opens to an informal dining nook and a den filled with stuffed armchairs and a leather couch, creating a large, light-filled space. Botanical prints hang on the straw-colored walls, their clean lines contrasting with the heavy, ornate gold of their frames.

The 4,900-square-foot house is a mixture of historic and contemporary. One of the "sister houses" at the corner of Walton Way and Monte Sano Boulevard, it's accented by turn-of-the-century craftsmanship that the couple have tried to preserve: carved, white-painted pillars, trim and molding; crystal chandeliers and enameled light fixtures, stone hearths at eight fireplaces.

Common Augusta lore says it and the house next door were built in 1901 for sisters. The previous owner told the Fitzgeralds that doesn't seem to be true, even if it is a nice tale. But the houses must have some connection, Mrs. Fitzgerald pointed out. They are mirror images of each other and, in the past, they were joined by a walkway.

When the family moved in three weeks ago, only five of the fireplaces worked. Working on the gas lines to fix the other three forced soot into rooms that Mrs. Fitzgerald had recently cleaned.

"I cried," she admitted. "I was literally on my hands and knees, scrubbing, the day before that happened."

The color scheme for the home is more modern - a formerly gold-leaf ceiling in the formal dining room is now white, while the once white walls are painted in warm colors such as the sunshiny yellow of a third-floor guest suite that's accented in bright blues. The formal dining room and a sitting room are Burgundy, a computer room off the den is green.

In 6-year-old Hensley's room, the walls are a deep pink, accented by sheer, airy green window treatments. The little girl's second-floor bedroom is connected to her brother's by a "Jack and Jill" bathroom that provides a sink for each child. In 8-year-old Connor's room, the walls are a more muted tan, matching the background of his bug-themed pillow shams and bed covering.

The second floor also holds the master suite - which includes a walk-in closet the Fitzgeralds added to provide the storage space that older homes so often lack. There's also an airy utility space in the back of the house with a washer and dryer. After having to run down two flights of stairs to the basement of their former Jones Creek home to do laundry, Mrs. Fitzgerald loves the convenience of the setup, she said.

A small front room is Mrs. Fitzgerald's favorite. Painted a pale green, with French doors that overlook Walton Way, it was intended as a playroom but has become a sitting room. Its purpose changed because it's the best room for a sofa that movers were unable to get up the narrow stairs into the guest suite on the third floor. The sofa is joined by a chaise lounge.

Afternoon sunlight filters though the windows of the French doors, but the sturdy construction of the house muffles almost all of the noise from rush-hour traffic on Walton Way.

"These old houses are built so sturdy, you can't hear all that noise going on out there," she said. "It doesn't make it into the house."

Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223 or ademao@augustachronicle.com