Jane wasn’t sure, but she thought the house looked like her dad’s house.
“Her dad (John Hardwick) was born in this house,” Rufus explained.
They came to Cleveland from Atlanta to look at the house, along with a Realtor, in February 2012. Independent of each other, they walked through the house and met up again at the foot of the stairway in the main hall.
“We kind of looked at each other and said, this is it — here we are!” he said.
They both liked many of the same physical features about the house, but there were other tangible and intangible aspects that attracted them as well.
One intangible the house offered was some place to retire that had community, versus going to a mountain or a lake.
“That was our idea, to get out of Atlanta into a place where we could have community,” Jane said.
“And Cleveland fits the bill,” Rufus said.
The intangible for Rufus was the history, but for Jane, the history and familial connection to the house was more tangible. It was something almost palpable she was afraid would be lost.
“We were afraid this house was going to be torn down,” she said. “I had never been in it but my dad used to walk me by this house and say what a gorgeous house it was and that he was going to get me in it someday.”
He died before that happened, but the house she was raised in mirrored the house on North Ocoee Street. “I knew in some ways, my dad was trying to recreate it.” The red brick house at the end of Centenary Avenue where Jane lived didn’t look at all like the house on Ocoee Street from the outside, “but inside, it’s a similar type of layout.”
According to an article by John H. Hardwick published June 15, 1980 in the Cleveland Daily Banner, architect and builder Pleasant M. Craigmiles constructed the house on Ocoee Street in 1852. The story noted it was built using the usual combination at that time of black and white labor. The house was built for Thomas H. Callaway, who was president of Southern Railroad. Callaway lived there only a short while until, according to family legend, Fate Hardwick bought the house for $3,000. His family and its descendants lived there for more than 100 years and it became known as the Fate Hardwick house.
The article describes the house off by itself, away from downtown Cleveland. But, within a short time, an academy was built diagonally across Ocoee Street from the residence. In 1980, the academy was the Houston Apartments. The nearby Presbyterian Church was built several years after the house.
Fate died in 1901. His widow died in 1915 in Dalton, Ga., while visiting relatives. The house became the property of her oldest grandson, George L. Hardwick Jr. After his death in 1947, the house became a burden to his widow and she sold it in the 1950s.
“While her (Jane’s) dad was away in World War II, his dad passed away. The house was sold and it got away from the family,” Rufus said.
Mr. and Mrs. Roger Hanger Jr. owned the house in 1980, according to the newspaper article.
“Roger Hanger, who came here with American Uniform, bought the house in the early ’50s,” Rufus said. “He owned it for 60 years, until last year when we bought it and brought it back into the Hardwick-Triplett family.”
Only Hardwicks and Hangers have lived in the 161-year-old house.
“A lot of people in town refer to it as the Hanger house,” Rufus said.
“And that’s what my dad called it,” Jane said. “He always called it the Hanger house although he was born in it.”
Rufus is the son of a former pastor of Broad Street United Methodist Church. He lived with his parents in the parsonage at the corner of Oak and Centenary Avenue and has always enjoyed looking at the house when traveling past it.
The couple called David May Jr. after they looked at the house last February.
“We knew he had redone the house I grew up in, and we suspected he had looked at this house before because it had been on the market several years,” Jane said. “He had seen it before and kind of walked us through what would have to be done.” She laughed and said, “Of course, it ended up being more.”
May said the Tripletts stressed in the original walk-through their desire to remain as true to the original home as possible.
“We made new doors to match the old doors and had [custom molding] knives made to run the decorative mold so it all matched,” he said. “In the kitchen area, Jane commented that she felt somewhat dizzy walking in there due to the bulging brick walls.”
Little by little, the bulging wall in the kitchen was pulled backed into place until it popped back in line.
“As that issue was being addressed, Jane stopped by and thought we were tearing her house down. The upper center hallway had people backing up against the wall due to the bounce in the floor. We later established this instability was due to an earlier renovation that removed a center staircase,” May said. “Through the years the old home had fallen into disrepair and a huge colony of bees that had taken up residence proved to be most reluctant to leave. The bee handler removed 10 gallons of honey. The bees soon followed so I was not sure if it was the beautiful old home that was so attractive to them or their honey.”
When asked if they ever felt like buying the house wasn’t such a good idea, Rufus said they were already in too deep.
“We knew some stuff had to be done, but as Jane said, we didn’t know to what extent it would have to be done,” he said.
“When you first fall in love with a house, you don’t see all of the paint peeling, eaves rotting, roof tiles missing and that kind of stuff. Then we signed the papers and came back over — that’s when I kind of lost it,” she said.
But, Rufus assured her over and over again that it was going to be OK.
“The house needed love,” he said.
According to the newspaper article, the Fate Hardwick house is on the east side of Ocoee Street, a block north of downtown Cleveland. Many years ago, architect Blanculli of Chattanooga told its owner, the late George L. Hardwick Jr., that it is an excellent example of Georgian architecture.
Italian Andrea Palladio started that style of architecture in the 1500s. Some buildings along the canals of Venice are of the same type. English architect Inigo Jones took the style to the British Isles in the 1600s.
The Georgian style has been much used in English manor houses and in most government buildings in Williamsburg, Va. In Georgian architecture, ceilings are quite high — in the Fate Hardwick house, 12 feet high ceilings kept the house cool in summer. In winter, people wore heavy clothing to keep warm, the story continued.
The article explained front porches are usually small, at most perhaps two-thirds the width of the house. On the front brickwork of the house can be seen the outline of such a porch. Window frames usually are large, with much woodwork on all four sides. Georgian architecture does not have the large columns seen on many Southern homes. Sometimes brick formations at corners of houses give an appearance of built-in posts, according to the 1980 news story.
It stated that early architects said Georgian houses were more for show than for comfort. The house had about 22 rooms, the total being dependent on the definition of room. The house had a well and a cistern; both visible but now filled in by 1980. It also had a great amount of inside woodwork.
When the house was built, it had three chimneys, each having two outlets in the rooms. In 1940 the coal furnace controls operated incorrectly and caused a major fire. The fans blew flames throughout the house. The dining room was just above the furnace. The floor and contents fell through to the furnace. All silverware was melted but the china remained undamaged by the heat. All downstairs floors had to be replaced. One life-size portrait was destroyed. Another was scorched but was repaired by a painter. It is now in a home on Lookout Mountain. Following the fire, the basement was much enlarged, according to the story.