Bell Court home’s history honored across multiple renovations

This 1910 house in the Bell Court neighborhood, with four bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms, retains much of its original charm. Although the 3,600 square foot brick home has passed the 100 year mark, it has had only three owners.

The William Butner family, who ran the now defunct Butner Produce Company on Vine Street, were the first occupants. Son Harold Butner continued to live in the house until he passed in 1990.

When 154 Forest Avenue went up for sale, local architect Alan Hisel recognized an opportunity.

“I could see a lot of possibilities,” Mr. Hisel said. “It had cobwebs draped across the ceilings and was in pretty sorry shape, but structurally the house was fine.”

The home had been without air conditioning and was heated with space heaters and stoves that vented into the chimneys. The kitchen had the original wall-hung cast iron sink and old school free-standing metal cabinets. The water heater was sitting right in the kitchen.

Still, Mr. Hisel and wife Carolyn found a lot to like — original light fixtures, 10 foot ceilings, pocket doors and oak trim that had never been painted over.

“I was actually going to fix it up and flip it,” Mr. Hisel said. “But we kind of fell in love with it.”

Following a major restoration and renovation, the Hisels made good use of the home for the next 16 years or so. The remodeled basement became the office for Hisel & Hisel Design Construction. A detached two car garage with studio space above was constructed as a work space for Ms. Hisel, a commercial illustrator and fine artist.


When the Hisels relocated about 10 years ago, current owners David Treacy and Nicole Huberfeld were drawn to the home’s rich architectural details as well as the historic Bell Court neighborhood.

“We liked the feel of the neighborhood with each house having its own character,” said Ms. Huberfeld, a law professor at University of Kentucky. “The old trees and the way people keep their yards, the little park in the middle, and we just liked being close to downtown.”

“Almost as soon as we moved in, we participated in our first neighborhood block party,” said Mr. Treacy, a lawyer with the bankruptcy court.

“When we looked at the house, we liked that the previous work had been true to the integrity of the house,” Ms. Huberfeld said. “You see a lot of sketchy renovations in older neighborhoods, but clearly the history of the house has been honored here.”

Original leaded glass windows and sidelights recall both mission and arts and crafts stylings. The wood-carved mantels are a favorite feature for Mr. Treacy.

“The detail in the five fireplaces really attracted me to the house,” Mr. Treacy said. “Each is unique and beautiful in its own way with its own original tile and wood trim.”

There was a lot of work ahead to update the home to suit their tastes. In the course of the last ten years the kitchen was completely overhauled with new cabinets and countertops, bathrooms were refitted, the front porch was redone with redwood planks, and the outside trim was meticulously repaired and painted.

Upstairs a hall was shortened to allow space to develop the master ensuite with a wall of built-in closets, double sinks, and walk-in slate and limestone shower. Carpet was removed on the second floor and attic level to reveal pine flooring that has refinished nicely.


Throughout it all, every effort was made to match original materials and honor the traditions of the home. Most of the work was done through Mitchell Construction.

“Mitchell is so good with historic preservation,” Ms. Huberfeld said. “If you need the guy who can handcraft the trim to fix the rotten piece on the front porch railing, they can find him.”

Outside they made the landscaping their own with a mix of old and new.

“We preserved the rose vines and trellis,” Ms. Huberfeld said. “We get spectacular light pink flowers right around Memorial Day.” Winterberry, boxwoods, hydrangeas and peonies liven up the back yard.

The couple and their daughter Sofia will relocate to the northeast where Ms. Huberfeld has been offered a position at Boston University teaching healthcare law.

“One thing we’ve certainly enjoyed is waking up on a Saturday morning, getting our selves dressed and out the door to the downtown to pick up some fresh tomatoes at the farmer’s market,” Mr. Treacy said. “And on our way back home stopping at Alfalfa for a Gravel Switch. It always makes for a good start to the day.”

“We love our house,” said Mr. Treacy. “It’s been a wonderful place to live.”

This week’s feature home is listed with Meredith Walker of Bluegrass Southeby’s International Realty.