Rickards finish long project of saving historic home from demo

Vicky and Alan Rickard stand on the grand staircase in their Huntington home, which was built in 1892 and originally owned by David Alonzo and Elizabeth Purviance. The Rickards purchased the house in 2015 and have been renovating it ever since, working to restore its 19th century charm while giving it their own spin.
Vicky and Alan Rickard stand on the grand staircase in their Huntington home, which was built in 1892 and originally owned by David Alonzo and Elizabeth Purviance. The Rickards purchased the house in 2015 and have been renovating it ever since, working to restore its 19th century charm while giving it their own spin. Photo by Steve Clark.

Alan and Vicky Rickard’s house in Huntington is distinguished by a flower bed that states the year the house was built.

The numbers “1892” are rendered in the flower bed with artificial flowers, which are visible to anyone who passes the house on North Jefferson Street.

While the house has been a familiar sight in Huntington for 128 years, there was a time when demolition loomed for the historic structure.

And if it wasn’t for the Rickards, along with the owner who preceded them, it wouldn’t still be standing.

The Rickards have owned the house since 2015. They purchased it from Marvin Dziabis, a North Manchester physician who acquired the house in 1992. The house was under the city’s scrutiny at that point in time, due to external issues at the residence. Accordingly, that’s what Dziabis focused on fixing.

“He spent half a million dollars on the renovation on the exteriors of it,” shares Alan Rickard.

Dziabis’ efforts placated the city. Another celebratory moment came in 1994 when the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

While the house had received the attention it needed on the outside, its interior still needed some work. A lot of work, in fact.

That’s when the Rickards entered the picture. Dziabis was selling the house and hoped to find a buyer who would finish the work he started.

Alan Rickard spied a listing for the house on OldHouseDreams.com. A Roanoke native who graduated from Huntington North High School in 1976, he immediately recognized it. And with a background in engineering and real estate, the prospect of tackling a complicated restoration project appealed to him.

“This was just kind of up my alley,” he says with a smile.

Before purchasing the house, the Rickards traveled from their home in Denver, CO, to tour it. While Alan was prepared to buy the residence,

Vicky took some convincing before agreeing to the purchase.

“When we got it,” she recalls, “it was completely gutted and just basically rotting away on the inside.”

“She thought I was crazy when we walked through,” comments Alan.

Upon acquiring the house, the Rickards began making trips to Huntington every few months and working on the house for a couple of weeks at a time. Work on the house continued even after they left, as they hired a general contractor for the project, Scott Trainer.

Accomplishments during this period of time included the completion of electrical work throughout the house and the installation of furnaces. Progress was also made on installing air-conditioning units.

By 2017, the house’s powder room had been finished, along with one bedroom. With some areas of the house habitable, the Rickards decided to move in. From there, they began restoring one room at a time. Pictures that were taken in the house after its construction in 1892 proved to be invaluable resources to them as they worked.

“It helped us on some of the things,” says Alan. “We wish we had more, because we have nothing on most of the other rooms.”

While the Rickards have endeavored to restore the house to its appearance in the 1890s, Alan admits they have taken some liberties with the restoration process.

“I’m not a 100 percent true preservationist, like some people are,” he says.

One example of how the renovated house diverges from its original layout, shares Alan, is in the number of bathrooms it has now.

“They didn’t have bathrooms – they had one,” he says of the original owners, David Alonzo and Elizabeth Purviance. “Well, we want bathrooms.”

Another area where the Rickards have taken some creative license is in the details of certain rooms. For example, in the house’s tea room, the couple decided that crown molding and wallpaper would make nice additions to its original look. They also opted to use carpet for the floor covering.

Presently, the house’s first and second floors, which are approximately 10,000 square feet, are mostly finished. Small jobs remain here and there, says Alan.  

“No room got done 100 percent,” he observes.

Some of the outstanding work pertains to the house’s nine fireplaces, Alan notes. All but one of them will be converted to gas. The lone fireplace to remain wood-burning will be the most visible one in the house, situated near the house’s grand staircase to the second floor.

The Rickards, who are retired, continue to work on the house as many as 50 hours a week. They are, however, ready to share the fruits of their labor with the public. This year, says Vicky, they will be holding “tea and tour” events at the house. Attendees will have the opportunity to sip on tea in the tea room, looking through scrapbooks compiled by Vicky that tell the house’s story. Guests will then be given a guided tour of the house.

Vicky looks forward to the events and sharing the story of the house’s renovation, which she says has been a rewarding experience.

“It basically has been a labor of love,” she reflects. “At first, I was hesitant, but I thought, you know, to be part of history, saving this house, and being a part of the renovation and transforming it to what it is, was special to me.”