Working from home has new meaning for a vintage park house caretaker and restorer in Collingswood

Working from home has new meaning for a vintage park house caretaker and restorer in Collingswood

Sean O’Donnell remembers strolling in Victorian instances Knight Park House day by day on the best way to Collingswood Excessive College.

However he had by no means set foot there – not to mention imagined that he would sooner or later dwell and work there – till a decade later, when he turned the resident custodian of the native monument in 2020.

“It is a as soon as in a lifetime alternative. I could not say no,” mentioned O’Donnell, who can also be restoring the house on behalf of the nonprofit Knight Park Board of Administrators, which owns the 60 acre park.

“I do all of the work myself, by hand and on ladders,” he mentioned. “I really like getting my arms soiled.”

Graduated in 2014 from Williamson College of Trades in Media, Pennsylvania, the place he majored in horticulture, O’Donnell has been the park’s third resident caretaker and conservator since 2010, when the Proud neighbors of Collingswood the group started funding the restoration. The park itself was listed on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations in 1982.

“Proud Neighbors has all the time been about historic preservation, and the Knight Park Home was not in its finest form,” founding member Frank Vita mentioned.

Proud Neighbors has donated greater than $30,000 to the restoration thus far as a result of “we wish to work with the trustees to revive the home to the way it was when Mr. Knight donated it to the group,” mentioned declared Vita.

The Knight Park Board estimates that contracting out the catering may have value as much as $250,000 and the live-in caretaker/restaurateur method may find yourself costing as little as $30,000, all offered by donations and fundraising.

Edward C. Knight was a Philadelphia businessman and Collingswood actual property developer. He grew up in what’s now the Collings Knight House throughout from a triangular expanse of woods, fields and marshlands bounded by Browning Street, Collings Avenue and Park Avenue.

Knight deeded the positioning to the belief he established in 1888. Knight’s board of administrators holds title and oversees the property for the good thing about the general public, as directed by its benefactor.

“The park is known as after Mr. Knight due to his generosity as a donor,” mentioned Michael Brennan, who served because the park’s trustee for almost 30 years and served as borough mayor from 1973 to 1993.

Providing open landscaped area within the densely developed middle of Collingswood, Knight Park is inside strolling distance of many neighborhoods within the 1.9 sq. mile borough, residence to roughly 14,000 folks.

The bustling stretch of eating places and outlets alongside Haddon Avenue two blocks from the park is testomony to Collingswood’s continued evolution from mere suburb to vacation spot. Like different cities within the Philadelphia space’s internal belt, Collingswood enjoys good downtown entry, enticing housing inventory, and a bustling downtown core.

Vita mentioned Proud Neighbors raised greater than $200,000 for enhancements to the enterprise district in addition to the park itself – together with the price of constructing a youngsters’s play space devoted to the late actor Michael Landon of Cut price and little home on the prairie fame, who spent a part of her childhood in Collingswood.

“Knight Park is Collingswood’s largest and finest asset – a stabilizing asset,” Brennan mentioned. “So we needed to protect the home.”

Brennan credit former borough commissioner and Haddon Avenue enterprise proprietor Joan Leonard with originating the resident custodian-restorer method in 2010.

After the longtime resident caretaker and his household left, “we had the chance to actually begin to have a look at the bones of the home and see what wanted restoring,” she mentioned. .

“Every [caretaker-restorer] did what he may, little by little, take away the carpet, take away the layers of paint and convey the home again to the unique wooden. It is exhausting work,” Leonard mentioned.

“Despite the fact that it is a good looking home and you reside in the midst of a park, it is a labor of affection. You could actually love this home.

Like his predecessors, O’Donnell donated his job in change for dwelling in the home rent-free. An preliminary two-year deal will possible be prolonged so long as progress is made, and either side wish to proceed it, Brennan mentioned.

“We had a committee of volunteer architects and consultants have a look at the home and provides us some preliminary recommendation and likewise speak to the carpenters and contractors,” Leonard mentioned. “We selected this [projects] might be performed beneath the experience of a caretaker, and Proud Neighbors donated the seed cash.

Knight had the six-room Park Home constructed as a residence for the superintendent and a gathering place for the general public, with a wrap-around porch and an ornamental rooftop viewing platform referred to as a gazebo.

In contrast to the inside of the home, the place the unique woodwork, home windows, doorways and plaster stay (some beneath a number of coats of paint and polish), the porch and gazebo have been considerably altered, O mentioned. ‘Donnell.

Knight Park itself has developed over the a long time: a pond created by damming and bridging the marsh within the late nineteenth century has been significantly diminished. Extra just lately, a pavilion and a playground have been added. And the borough continues to mow and keep the opposite parks.

The home nonetheless has the unique cedar siding that has been siding for many years, O’Donnell mentioned, climbing a ladder in opposition to the west aspect of the home on a chilly October afternoon. “Holes had been drilled [some of the clapboards] when the insulation was put in, and I needed to fill all of them.

“Proper now, I am placing the ultimate layer on the filling. It is quite a lot of work. Hours and hours of stripping, scraping, priming, however I needed these things performed earlier than winter hit. i’ll do it [south] aspect of the home within the spring.

Residing within the park “is superb”, he mentioned. “It is fairly a spot to get up and look out the window on the timber. And it is quiet.

O’Donnell lived alone in the home for nearly two years till he married Eileen O’Mara on October 6.

They married beneath a pink cedar arbor they constructed collectively from wooden salvaged from a Knight Park tree, with one of many native plant gardens he grew close to the home as a backdrop. background for the ceremony.

“I had the privilege of watching Sean work with ardour to convey this historic residence again to life for nearly two years,” Eileen, a particular wants educator in Haddon Township, mentioned in an electronic mail. “It amazes and evokes me to see the dedication he has to his work to revive and protect the character of this home.”

Her husband mentioned peeling again layers, taking home equipment aside and placing them again collectively and attending to know the bones of the home helped hone his carpentry abilities and taught him the worth of persistence, a- he declared.

“I made positive to be affected person and never rush into my preservation tasks,” O’Donnell mentioned.

He additionally discovered “to understand the craftsmanship and nice persistence it took from the women and men who constructed this home and the stewards who cared for it within the a long time earlier than me,” mentioned he declared.

Sitting on the roof the place the gazebo as soon as stood, O’Donnell mentioned: “It has been lacking for years. I personally researched what it will take to construct one thing like this.

“I want to be the one who builds it and places it again on the home. Will probably be just like the icing on the cake.

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