News Column

Residential rebirth

June 12, 2014

By Mary Jean Porter, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.



June 12--It's fitting that a real estate man's house be a real showplace.

Once owned by Washington Irving Wigton of W.I. Wigton Real Estate and Loan, the brick beauty at 1125 N. Greenwood St. has lush green grass and roses blooming out front and a gleaming interior filled with antique furniture and sparkling chandeliers.

It wasn't always this attractive, though.

"It had been vacant for about 10 years. It was not nice, not a pretty sight," says Mary Lee Biber, who bought the house in 2008 because she thought it had potential.

"I could do something with this," Biber told herself after a quick walk-through.

With the help of her sons, Stephen Vigil and Jeffery Vigil, she restored the house front to back, top to bottom, inside and out, and was given the 2014 Historic Preservation Award by Pueblo County Historical Society for her efforts.

Biber, 72, is a nurse and clinic manager of Mount Carmel Health and Wellness Center in Trinidad. She also collects antiques and fixed up houses and sold real estate in the past, so she brought experience as well as enthusiasm to the Pueblo project.

Biber says she wasn't in the market for a house when this one found her. And when she told her sons, their initial reaction was "Mom, you're crazy!" But they soon realized the house's promise, too, and began shepherding more than four years of restoration work.

'Neat' neighborhood

Biber doesn't know when the house was built, but the 18891900 Pueblo city directory lists Albert Price, a teller at Western National Bank, at the Greenwood address.

Information supplied by the historical society has Wigton and his family living in the big corner house from 1916 to 1952.

Puebloan Rebecca Housman is the daughter of Wigton and his wife Bessie Marie and remembers growing up in the North Side house with her four brothers.

"It had a very interesting attic -- we used to play in the attic -- and a really big back porch. There was a cistern that my father built and we had chickens. The nicest thing is we had a goat and a cart. I don't know how we got that goat trained to pull the cart."

Housman says it was a "really neat" neighborhood. She walked two blocks to play at the John Thatcher home and one block to classes at Centennial High School.

"My father bought that house because my mother was friends with Lillian Thatcher," Housman says.

After the Wigtons moved, the residence became a boardinghouse and eventually stood empty and fell into disrepair.

Years of work

Restoring the house required jacking up the floors, stripping many coats of paint from window frames, doors and woodwork, installing reproduction tin ceilings, searching for and finding Douglas fir to match the original wood used throughout the house.

The Vigils and their crew rebuilt the staircase and made new banisters for it.

They made new crown molding and new exterior trim that replicates the original. They rebuilt the back porch and built a new, larger second-story front porch that catches the evening breeze. A backyard patio with a gazebo and a waterfall is yet to come.

Kitchen and bathrooms were updated, but the rest of the house retains its turn-of-the-century character.

Stephen Vigil says he and his brother were no strangers to construction, but he's been surprised by the amount of time the project has taken.

"We used to frame houses, we put siding on new houses in Colorado Springs. As little kids, our dad had us building carports and helping him, but they were two- or three-day jobs. This has taken four years-plus."

He's enjoyed bringing back the house and would tackle a similar project if the homeowner was prepared to pay the price. Re-creating the past is a costly endeavor, Vigil says.

maryp@chieftain.com

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(c)2014 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

Visit The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.) at www.chieftain.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)


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