John and Sid (short for “Sidonie”) McDaniel of Alexandria are truly fascinating people in many regards. There is too much to tell about them in this short column, so I will highlight what I have learned from them about historic building preservation, that is, that anyone can become a successful preservationist!
John was raised in Shreveport. He met Sid while both were attending L.S.U. Sid was raised in Baton Rouge, but is now a 4th generation Alexandrian. Her great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother all lived in the house at 1244 Barrister Street at one time or another, often known as the Scott-Thomas house, where John and Sid live today. John’s work in the Office of Mental Health brought him to Alexandria in 1977, where he eventually became the District Director for an eight parish area.
Sid always loved old homes. In their first home together, located on Thornton Court, they decided that they wanted to make the tattered home relievable again, while maintaining the character of its original construction. They felt that the “bones” (woodwork) of the house were not only still good, but were beautifully well-constructed. John had gained a lot of self-taught construction skills from his youth and his handyman skills added greatly in the home’s successful renovation. Not only did they succeed in restoring and adding on to the house, but they are now using this first home as a rent house, thus, making money off of their restoration work!
John and Sid’s skills were really put to the test on restoring and renovating the large old family home on Barrister Street, the first house built in that neighborhood. The house has been the scene of 80 years of Easter egg hunts and numerous family reunions. Sid’s contribution to the restoration work was through providing the vision of what the restoration should turn out to look like. One of the main differences with old houses versus new houses are that the walls in the former are solid wood and the later are floated sheetrock. Kitchens and storage areas in these older homes were always too small in contrast to today’s standards. The McDaniels decided then that they wanted to accentuate this worn older home by brightening it up, renovating the kitchen to serve modern usage, yet still retain its century old charm, and turn part of the attic into bedrooms for the visiting children. When I recently toured this century-old Alexandria treasure, the home retained every bit of its history and charm, furnished with all of the modern needs of entertaining and convenience. I was personally amazed at the unique kitchen adaptations that incorporated all that was needed for a small restaurant, but was still very “homey” and attractive. Sid said of the goal of the renovations of the house, “It is all about family.” This theme can be to any home restoration, including your own.
During both of the home restorations, as well as of a craftsman-style house the couple acquired on Barrister Street and restored and use as a rent house, John and Sid said they used the valuable restoration tax credits. They used commercial (for the rent house) and residential (for their own home) preservation tax credits which require that the house had to be 50 years old or older and located in a historic district, like the Garden District. “It made the restoration cost so much more bearable,” John said.
“We feel very passionate about preservation. There are still so many homes in Alexandria that can and need to be saved.” The McDaniels are great role models for what can be done for historic home renovation at a reasonable cost.