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It took more than $180,000 and the childhood recollections of a banker to put the house at 314 Court Street close to its original specifications. At right is a view indside the front door, before (top) and after.
 



THE WAY IT WAS

Thanks to a pair of dedicated entrepreneurs, 314 Court Street in Portsmouth has its original 1884 look back

Time, money and childhood memories helped transform 314 Court Street to its original 1884 look.

BY STACI DENNIS THE
VIRGINIAN-PILOT

  Through the hallways of history and at the front door of a new millennium, one old house in Portsmouth has stood the test of time and marked its place in history.
  What was once cutting-edge real estate, architecture and modern living in the late 1800's is now the perfect picture of nostalgia in historic downtown Portsmouth.
  A rundown house stood at 314 Court Street, the last house on the block in need of renovation. Through the years and various owners the house was neglected and eventually abandoned.
  That is when Trevor G. Spiers and Mickey H. Garcia came into the picture. The two bought the house and sank more than $180,000 into renovating it. Now, it stands picture-perfect against a backdrop of the downtown Norfolk skyline.
  "When we found this place we knew it was going to be great," said Garcia, 30, of Hampton. "But we didn't think it could be this good."
  Spiers stumbled onto the idea of buying the house while surf~ ing with a friend. Travis Chick, Spier's friend, revealed his need to get an old house off his hands and was looking for a buyer.
  Spiers called Garcia and the two quickly closed on a deal. Occasionally, Spiers and Garcia like to work together to find houses in distress and renovate them to sell. They both buy and sell property on their own, but this project was better suited for two people.
  "When 1 saw the house 1 thought you have got to be kid-ding me," said Spiers, 28, of Virginia Beach. "This was a gem."

 
Time, money and childhood memories helped transform 314 Court Street to its original 1884 look.
 

  Garcia called to secure the loan for the house. While discussing the logistics, his banker, Suzanne Skinner Bryson, revealed her grandfather had lived in that same house.
  "I couldn't believe that of all the houses Mickey was renovating he chose that house," Bryson said. "I had to drive by and look to see if it was really the same one."
  After driving by the house, Bryson' contacted her sisters to let them know the news. She then pulled out an old painting of the original house and showed it to Garcia and Spiers.
  "After she showed us that painting everything changed," Spiers said. "We wanted everything to look like the original. All our vacations were canceled and we made this house our baby."
  The job was a big one. The house was built in 1884 and has three floors and a basement with 6,500 square feet of living space. It has six bedrooms, four full baths, two half baths, a bill room, five fireplaces, two living rooms, five staircases and about 100 windows.
  Some of the doors and windows still have the original hardware. Every room has its own bathroom and the third floor room has its own deck.
  "We had windows custom made," Garcia said. "And we even hand-made the columns on the front porch to match the original. "
  Garcia arid Spiers installed seven chandeliers, ceramic tile floors, custom cabinets that are wired for lighting and refinished ill the hardwood floors. They even ordered custom appliances for the kitchen.
  Through the whole process Bryson was there to help tell the stories about what life was like visiting her grandparents in the house.
  "My grandfather would come home from work everyday and eat lunch with me," she said. "We would sit together and talk before 1 had to go to school. It was great."

 

  Memories of playing with her sisters and gathering for big family meals were just some of the stories Bryson shared with Spiers and Garcia. "At Christmas my grandfather would wait until we were ill asleep and then he would set up the whole tree and presents," Bryson said. "He did it ill by himself every year."
  With Bryson telling stories and pointing out changes in the house over the years, Spiers and Garcia felt they have come pretty close to producing a replica of the original house.
  "This puts the personality of the house back where it should be" Bryson said. ,"I absolutely love it."
  To celebrate, Spiers and Bryson held an open house and invited friends, family and neighbors to come tour the home. Some 170 people took the tour and celebrated completing the renovations of Court Street.
  "People kept thanking us for ill we did for the house and the neighborhood," Garcia said. "It was a great end to a wonderful renovation."
  Spiers and Garcia have put the house up for sale. Their base price is $450,000 but may vary depending on the finishing touches required by the buyer. Spiers and Garcia are willing to upgrade the house by adding an elevator or changing the carpet. We were thinking this would be a great home for a large family," Garcia said. "But a lot of people have called with hopes of turning it into a bed and breakfast."
  Currently Garcia and Spiers are working on other houses in Chesapeake, Churchland and Hampton.
  "My memories are so vivid of this house," Bryson said. "And it makes it so much better that the house has been restored."
  For more information about the Court Street house or any other project Mickey Garcia of Trevor Spiers is working on call 449-1832 or 342-0493.