Breckenridge architect adds own story to historical property
February 27, 2016
a brief history
1882: House is constructed and lot at 215 S. High Street sold to E.G. Miars.
1890s: D.J. and Gertie Thompson, owners of mining interests in the area, move into the home.
1905: The Thompsons move to Arizona and Emilie Baker owns the property.
1910s: Oscar Otterson moves into the house and constructs the existing barn.
1945: The Otterson family moves to another home, 100 N. High Street.
1996: Janet Sutterley and Randy Kilgore begin restoration of the Thompson-Otterson house
1998: Secondary residence is built.
2016: House is sold for $1,625,000
The little blue house at the corner of High Street and Adams Avenue has gone by several names in the past. Historically known as the Thompson-Otterson house after two of its former owners, both miners, the building was also dubbed the "Hurricane Andrew House" before it was restored by local architect Janet Sutterley and contractor Randy Kilgore.
The property — including a newly constructed home and a historical barn — was sold to the Breckenridge couple for just over $1.6 million in January.
"The previous owners had called me to look at some options for that little house," Sutterley said.
She took on the project in 1994, when the former owner, Bruce Defnet, hired her to give the house a first look in terms of historic preservation. When the property changed hands to Kilgore, Sutterley was brought on to the project to continue her work.
"We end up getting married as a result in 1995," Sutterley said. "He plain and simply hired me to do the project and the rest is history."
While records of the property are limited, according to the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, D.J. and Gertie Thompson moved into the house in the 1890s, after the developers of the Yingling and Mickles subdivision sold the house to E.G. Miars in 1882.
According to records, Thompson was a miner who held interests in the La Vont and Dr. Hudnutt lodes, among several others. According to a July 1, 1899 article in the Summit County Journal, Thompson, originally a native of Ohio, moved to Summit County in 1880.
"During his residence here he has devoted his entire attention to mining, and, with others, owns some of the best patented claims in the middle Swan district," the Journal reported. That year, he was married to Gertie Thompson, described as "a charming young lady" who was "quite well known in Breckenridge, having lived here with her parents up to six years ago…"
The Thompsons moved to Arizona in 1905, and the property traded hands to a woman named Emilie Baker, and Forestine Seery, before landing in the hands of Oscar Otterson in the 1910s.
Otterson, a miner and lumberjack by trade, constructed the barn that currently rests on the property. The Summit County Journal celebrated the birth of his daughter in 1920; the family occupied the home until 1945 when they purchased a home on 100 N. High Street, the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance reported.
Not only is the property significant for the date of its construction, in the early 1880s, but the Heritage Alliance also noted it is architecturally significant as the last surviving example of a square, hipped-roof cottage in the town.
"The historic residence is little altered from its historic appearance," the Heritage Alliance further noted.
THE HURRICANE HOUSE
Several years — and owners — later, the old building at the corner of the street sat abandoned, with windows and doors boarded shut. In the summer of 1992, after Hurricane Andrew made landfall in south Florida, the words made an appearance spray-painted on the door of the building.
At one point, a scandal erupted after an outhouse disappeared from the property.
"This house had fallen into such a state of disrepair," Sutterley said, noting several Summit County locals had lived there prior to the renovation.
When she and Kilgore took on the project, they used a crane to relocate the frames of the old home and the barn away from property lines to meet town setbacks. They used bracing to keep the original walls and exteriors firm. They were also able to keep the original roof structure, walls and attic framing fully intact.
"Typically, getting the building stabilized and onto the new foundation is the key point," Sutterley said. "The idea on the outside is to save as much of the original, historic fabric as possible."
During the fall, when the interior of the house had been completely gutted, she and Kilgore used it as a haunted house.
"Halloween is a huge deal on High Street. … We had fun with it the first year," she recalled, noting the exposed boards, cobwebs and dry ice they used to create a scary atmosphere.
In the following years, Sutterley and Kilgore finished restoring the interior of the so-called "Hurricane Andrew House," moving on to restore the barn and constructing a new home between the two in 1998. They resided there for 12 years.
"It was a family project," Sutterley said. "Then comes the piece with dealing with historic properties, how can you add on and make it livable for a family?"
In 1998, the town of Breckenridge presented the couple an award for the historic preservation of the Thompson-Otterson House.
During their time at the home, the house served as an accessory apartment to their newly-constructed home and was rented out long-term to local workers up until its sale. The barn was used for ski storage, bikes and equipment, though Sutterley noted "There'd be the occasional party in the shed when the kids got older."
Sutterley has continued to restore historic properties in the heart of town, working out of a restored woodshed just a few blocks away. In 2015, she was acknowledged for her work in repurposing the Old Masonic Hall into a dance and arts studio, and recently has taken on another project within the town.
Since her restoration of the Hurricane House, historic preservation standards have become more rigorous, but as Sutterley noted, "That's what I do, mostly in town."
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