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Built in 1909, Drew Mansion was named one of Jacksonville's most endangered historic properties by the Jacksonville Historical Society.
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May 5, 201512:00 PM EST

Bourré starts new historic renovation line with a major project: Springfield's Drew Mansion

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by: Carole Hawkins

Historic renovation is about as far a departure from new homebuilding as Drew Mansion in Springfield is from Michael Bourré’s suburban home in Fleming Island.

So why is the custom homebuilder taking on the $800,000 Drew Mansion project and launching a new historic renovation business line?

There’s a plan for profit, yes.

But Bourré concedes historic renovation isn’t the easiest way to make money. So, he also brings passion and, he says, a little bit of crazy into the mix.

“It’s about being part of something bigger than me,” he said. “I could build the same stucco box and be very profitable … but I know I can do more.”

To the casual eye, Drew Mansion looks gnarly — graffitied walls, crumbling plaster, missing window panes and a sagging foundation that’s thrown the doors out of plumb.

The roof leaked for years, as did the front porch beneath it, sucking portions of both into the basement.

Seen through his eyes, though, the house looks different.

“See that wiring?” he said, gesturing to a spot on the wall. “The house once had gas lamps there and we have those original fixtures. We’re going to restore them.”

The fireplaces in every room are oddly small because they were coal-burning fireplaces.

There are lessons about construction history, too.

To prevent racking, instead of today’s sheathing and tie-downs, builders covered the frame with one-inch thick boards nailed at an angle.

The 2-by-6s and 2-by-10s that make up the frame were actually a full 2, 6 and 10 inches, instead of today’s dwarfed dimensions.

“They were beefier structures,” Bourré said. “To see that, along with all of the heart pine in the house, it just adds a lot of beauty and excitement.”

The house also tells a personal story.

Of an era when one servant lived in a bedroom off the kitchen and another, a groundskeeper, made his home in the basement.

When the master’s bedroom was separated from the mistress’s bedroom by an adjoining bathroom and separate closets.

Of a time when Jacksonville was a winter center for the silent-film industry.

Dr. Horace Drew was friends with Oliver Hardy of the famed Laurel and Hardy duo, and the two men often retreated to the mansion’s third-floor attic to drink cocktails and play billiards.

Drew Mansion also recollects harder times.

Most doors are missing their knobs, sold at one point to pay off mounting debts.

The high-profile history of the home will garner a lot of attention for Bourré’s project, making it the perfect launch-point for a historic renovation division he plans to create.

“As the owner of a building company, we need to find niches where we can provide service,” Bourré said.

For Bourré that niche will be restoring historic homes in Springfield, Riverside and Avondale and also, building new homes with period correct architecture on the district’s many infill lots.

He’s never done a historic renovation to the scale of Drew Mansion before. But he’s no stranger to renovation.

Before the downturn, Bourré Construction was building million-dollar custom homes on Jacksonville’s waterfronts, the river and golf courses.

When the recession hit, it drove the company deep into the renovation business and helped the team hone the skills that led to historic projects.

Drew Mansion will be Bourré’s opportunity to show how well he can do it.

He plans to use the fully restored home as a model that illustrates to homebuyers the possibilities for blending early 1900s architecture with modern technologies and features.

The house will double as an office, establishing a presence for Bourré Construction in the heart of the historic district.

The area itself is poised for recovery, Bourré said.

In its heyday, Springfield was the neighborhood where Jacksonville’s most affluent residents lived. Before the recession, it was drawing residents back, in the form of high-income urban pioneers.

Now with housing in recovery, the interest is returning.

The draw isn’t just because of Springfield’s beautiful and varied architecture or its full-length front porches, which connect homeowners to the neighborhood.

But also because of the convenience to Downtown.

“People can literally ride their bikes to work, to the stadium to see a game and to the Riverwalk,” Bourré said. “Jacksonville is still expanding. But at some point folks start looking back into the city.”

It’s not lost on Bourré that his work on Drew Mansion will coincide with some high-dollar projects Downtown, like the restoration of the Bostwick Building, proposals for revamping the Shipyards and the Jacksonville Landing and the restoration of Hogan’s Creek.

Bourré Construction can be a residential complement for all of that, Bourré said.

“Jacksonville is in a revitalization,” he said. “The investors see it, the business owners see it and quite frankly I just feel honored to be a part of that group. Even in a small way.”

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(904) 356-2466

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