History revisited at Luke House

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 9, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Another of Suffolk’s landmark homes, the Luke House on North Main Street, has joined the ever-growing list of historic sites that are being restored in Suffolk. The house is full of new-found treasures, and it was in the current restoration of the house that a secret was discovered.

Deme Panagopulos, the owner Back Bay Outdoors and Luke House said a &uot;secret closet&uot; was discovered as the construction crew from Anderson Restorations & Home Improvements worked in one of the second-story bedrooms.


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&uot;Where the second section of the house was added on, there was a space between the two structures, a hidden closet, and that was discovered as the workmen were in the bedroom,&uot; said Panagopulos. &uot;We opened it up and put two doors up on it.&uot;

Along with the newly discovered closet, the Luke House gave up many other undisclosed treasures that have been hidden away for more than 100 years.

As Panagopolus said, the entire structure is now true to its original appearance; all the way up to its two leaded stained glass windows.

In one of the bedrooms, upstairs in the front of the house, there is a beautiful brick fireplace that was built for coal burning. The special ceramic tile on the hearth, the tiles around the chimney and the andiron disclose that fact. There is also an intricately designed metal plate that covers the opening of the fireplace when not in use. It is just one of the many items Panagopolus rescued from ruin.

Some of Suffolk manufactured old brick used to build the fireplace had been covered by plaster and the mantle piece was missing. Panagopolus discovered the house’s original corbels, fancy trim, in a storage building behind the house and he used those to support a new mantle in place. That mantle is also a timber taken from a Suffolk building that has since been razed. Panagopolus explained that he prefers to use materials that were once a part of other local structures.

Those corbels are also highly visible around the outside exterior of the entire house. Painted in its original colors, the house also features a perfect place to enjoy the cool of the evening or the sweetness of the early morning air from its two porches. One porch wraps around the front and left side of the house, and the other opens from an upstairs bedroom at the back of the house. A flight of steps also leads up to that porch.

Between two of the house’s bedrooms, Panagopolus found that there had been &uot;pocket doors,&uot; and that sent him searching in the storage building where he found the original doors. They are now back in place and ready to be refinished.

In researching the Luke House, Panagopulos found records dating back to 1877, showing that a Mrs. A. Wills was the owner of the house. He also discovered that the structure was considerably smaller than it is today.

&uot;The corbels, the trim work around the windows and the columns were all added around 1890,&uot; said Panagopulos. &uot;The wing addition at the back of the building was added about 1900 and the second floor was added about 1924. As their family grew, the house also grew.&uot;

The Luke House has seen many changes with a major transformation taking place in 1988. Aubrey and Jenny Smith partially revamped the house, turning it into one of Suffolk’s best known restaurants, The Old Towne Restaurant and Pub. They later sold the restaurant to a North Carolina family and they operated the business for a couple of years. Since then, Luke House has languished until Panagopulos saw another of his visionary establishments in it. He is the visionary who restored the Gardner House which sits next to Luke House.

&uot;Luke House is almost completed and we’ve designed it for a restaurant and offices,&uot; said Panagopulos. &uot;There are new restrooms and kitchen facilities and the a/c and heating system are ready to go. It will accommodate around 40 people per floor, and we’ll have one of the former bedrooms outfitted to serve as a banquet room. The building is ready to lease, completely state of the art technologically speaking, and we are looking for someone to open a restaurant, coffee shop, a salon, and professional offices… something that will compliment the historic district of Suffolk. Also, there is plenty of free parking at Luke House and other nearby areas.&uot;

Panagopulos is proud of the fact that every craftsman, shop, laborer, contractors and suppliers were all from Suffolk.

&uot;It creates, not only jobs for local people, but also ownership in the finished product,&uot; said Panagopulos.

For details

on leasing the Luke House, call Panagopulos at 923-0001, or visit him at Gardner’s Store.