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Woman shows her love for Lisbon

Stevie Halverstadt and her husband Kim stand on the porch of a home on East Washington in Lisbon that they restored. (Photo by Brook Faulk, Just Jaxee Photography)

LISBON — Lisbon is home to some of the state’s earliest brick buildings.

As one of the oldest towns in Ohio, it has plenty to offer for those interested in preservation. One of Lisbon’s most passionate preservationists, Stevie Halverstadt, has been working hard to show the beauty and importance of the historic buildings.

“When I was a little girl and I would come to Lisbon to visit my grandparents, I felt like I was in Europe. I was so fascinated with this town,” Halverstadt said.

She recalled the archways that once connected downtown buildings, all but one of which have since been demolished. “When I was in high school and went to school in Switzerland, I realized that Lisbon really was like Europe.”

She decided to do everything she could to help preserve the downtown. “I suppose the best way to do that– unless you have buckets of money — is to just buy one house and show somebody what can be done and how beautiful old can be.”

For Halverstadt, historic integrity is key. She believes that using replacement doors or windows will take the character away. Even small details can make a big difference. Using the correct mortar mixture, for instance, changes the way a space is seen and prevents damage to the older brick. Concrete mortar is destructive to soft, old brick since it traps the moisture that soft brick absorbs.

“A sand and lime mixture on an old building is beautiful, she said. “When you use concrete mortar, people look at the building and can tell that something is off.”

While buying cheaper and newer replacements might seem to be the more affordable alternative, that isn’t necessarily the case. “Preserving what you have is more cost effective in the long run, as long as you know how to do it correctly,” she said. “If you have a passion for it, you’ll figure it out.”

Halverstadt’s latest project was a house built in 1885. It is located just two doors down from her own home on East Washington Street, which they also restored. The house belonged to the Blocksom family and has been passed down for generations.

“The history of the house is really sweet,” Halverstadt said. “Mr. Blocksom, back in the early 1880s, saw a girl in the parade who he instantly fell in love with. He hand-built the house as a tribute to her, and they ended up getting married.”

While much has since been painted over, Halverstadt said they were lucky that the original hardware remained. Still, there was plenty of work to be done. The front porch was sagging, so they had it raised to its original height. For the doors, which were original, they stripped them of all the paint. She replaced the plastic in the doors with etched glass, a touch that was common in 1800s.

Halverstadt also had the original slate roof repaired, and they replaced the newer downspouts and gutters. She found the appropriate half-round gutters at a local custom sheet metal store. “When I went to go buy them, they told me that they hadn’t sold any of those since the 1940s,” she laughed. “I got a good deal –he sold them to me at the price they were going for back then!”

One way to learn about new ideas and techniques is by visiting different restored places. Halverstadt enjoys being able to ask others about what they did and how they did it. What she learned on a visit to the recently restored Cincinnati Union Terminal, for instance, led to her using a new kind of flooring. She found out that the reason the train station sounded so quiet was because it had a cork floor. This was the same material used back when it was built. They still use it since it is soundproofing, insulated, and renewable. Cork comes from the bark of cork oak trees, and it can be harvested and regrown many times from the same tree. Halverstadt decided to use this material in the house.

“We put it in the kitchen because the kitchen needed new flooring,” she said. “It’s a beautiful natural product.”

When it comes to finding new solutions, Halverstadt is not afraid to get creative. “When the house was painted, some paint had dripped down on the hinges. Do you know what I did?” she asked. “I used nail polish to cover all of the drippings, and you can’t even tell.” She recently discovered that nail polish is not so different from auto paint. “I figured that metal is metal,” she said.

From raising the front porch to painting the hinges, Halverstadt made sure that the house was both beautiful and functional. “We had everything stripped and reinstalled, and all the original pieces work as if they were brand new,” she said.

The house was listed for sale as a historically correct restoration, and recently sold for $119,000.

Another renovation project that she is known for is the Courthouse Inn. It is the oldest brick building in the state of Ohio. Her sister, Renee Lewis, purchased the building to be restored. Halverstadt worked to expose the brick, rebuild the arched windows with old glass, and add antique doors. She preserved the exterior, and her sister turned the interior into Lisbon’s most popular restaurant.

Halverstadt believes that Lisbon’s attitude toward preservation is getting better over time. While it’s not where it needs to be, the downtown is slowly evolving and looking as beautiful as it used to. “People are trying to do what they can with their budget,” she said. “The problem is that not everyone knows how to do it correctly or where to access materials.”

To assist with this, Halverstadt helped form an organization called the Lisbon Landmark Foundation. It strives to inform people how to do restoration correctly. She does her best to educate those who are interested, all while doing what she can to preserve her hometown.

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