Restoration of historic Hohenadel House in East Falls inching closer to completion

In 2012, Felicite Moorman embarked upon a year-long quest to find the perfect home for her and her family.

The mother of three children had been commuting between Oklahoma City and Philadelphia — where she serves as CEO of the East Falls-based tech firm BuLogics.

“I looked in every single neighborhood, regardless of demographics, statistics, etc.,” Moorman said of her lengthy search. “I knew I’d know it when I found it, and once I found East Falls I was done. I love everything about this neighborhood,” she said.

Originally, Moorman had plans to buy the Mason Building at Ridge and Midvale — which also houses BuLogics — and convert the top two floors into a living space for her family. But when Felicite and husband, Sean Hawley,  saw the historic Hohenadel House on Indian Queen Lane, they knew the 19th century mansion was their destiny.

The history behind the home

Built in 1860, the Hohenadel House was originally owned by the Dobson family, of the Dobson Mills namesake.

Later it was sold to the Hohenadels who owned a local brewery at Indian Queen Lane and Conrad Street during the pre-prohibition era.

Remnants of prohibition can still be spotted inside the walls of the Hohenadel Mansion — literally. There is a liquor cabinet hidden behind the paneling in the dining room wall and the house is spotted with other hidden rooms and secret crawl spaces raising unconfirmed speculation for an even deeper-set history of involvement in the Civil War anti-slavery movement.

As years passed and the house changed hands, time began to take its toll on the historic house.

Getting to work

When Moorman and family began their journey to buy the Hohenadel House, it had been vacant for three years and had fallen into a state of nearly unsalvageable disrepair: Knob and tube wiring, lead paint, hazardous radiators, and a dilapidated exterior were all cause for concern.

“Of course I saw what was wrong,” Moorman said. “But it paled in comparison…I fell in love immediately.”

And that was just the beginning. To follow would be a grueling nine months of loan requests and zoning approvals. It wasn’t until February of this year that settlement was finally made.

“FINALLY! SETTLEMENT!” Moorman wrote on her blog in February. Moorman went on to thank the community of East Falls who she says has been extremely supportive and encouraging of the family in their journey to acquiring the home.

With renovations now well underway, the family is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Under their acquired 203(k) loan, the property must be owner-occupied during the time of renovation. “It’s a more challenging period than we imagined,” said Moorman, whose five-person family also includes two dogs.

They have been confined to a third floor apartment for the past several months.

The pressure of the loan’s six-month time limit for the project has also been an added stress, as renovations include complete rewiring, the replacement of the plumbing and boiler, refurbishing radiators, installing new windows, re-stuccoing the exterior, and a complete renovation of an au pair suite/carriage house. Plus, the typical requirements of painting and interior design.

“Everything that we do will be reminiscent of the period,” Moorman said. “But given nearly 200 years of ongoing add-on renovations, we’re being realistic…’original glory’ is multi-faceted,” she said.

Ready to call it home

What Moorman loves most about her soon-to-be home is the hardwood floors and woodworking, large rooms, one-of-a-kind architectural elements, a basement fireplace, leaded and stained glass, and the house’s staircase.

For Moorman, the waiting period has been worth it.

“Today I walked in and there was paint on the walls for the first time,” Moorman said. “Someday I’ll be walking my very naughty dogs down the hill, look up, and there will be a home. A home that this community made happen, together. Because of the community, I’m enjoying the journey — even on the days I’m dusting drywall from everything — at least a little.”

If all goes as planned, renovations on the Hohenadel House will finish in October of this year.

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