The John Updike Society board has approved the hiring of R.J. Doerr Co., an Easton, Pennsylvania-based contractor that specializes in historic restorations and home museums. As the Reading Eagle reported, Doerr has “a 25-year history of restoring historic properties for nonprofits, including the home of George Taylor, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.”
On Thursday, July 16, Robert Doerr did a walk-through with society president James Plath at The John Updike Childhood Home at 117 Philadelphia Ave. in Shillington, and the two agreed to a three-phase restoration.
Phase 1, which is projected to be completed by the end of summer 2016, will include all the rooms that have been “deconstructed”—the dining room, living room, parlor, foyer, and all upstairs bedrooms. During this phase, the entire house needs to be rewired and the radiators need to be removed so that a more archivally-friendly forced air system of heating and cooling can be installed.
Phase 2 will include the restoration of the front, side, and second-floor porches.
Phase 3 involves the addition of a grape arbor that was there prior to 1945 when the Updikes moved to Plowville, and the addition of decorative exterior corbels that had been removed to make repainting cheaper/easier. The kitchen and second-floor bathroom will also be upgraded to be period, but functional, during this phase. Below Reading Eagle reporter Bruce Posten (l) questions Robert Doerr for the article as they sit in the “deconstructed” dining room.
The total for the three-phase restoration is expected to be around $300,00 to $350,000, and Plath said he is “currently and always” looking for additional corporate, foundation and individual benefactors. Those who donate $1000 or more of cash or in-kind contributions will have their names on a donor wall inside the house.
Work will begin the end of summer, after Habitat for Humanity of Berks County finishes “tear-out.” Plath estimates that Habitat volunteers saved the society $20-30,000 by scraping wallpaper and removing everything that was added to the house after 1945.