It’s the epitome of the classic Colonial, its white clapboard exterior gleaming in the bright sunlight, its stately beauty accented with traditional green shutters and a dark roof cloaking a near 4,000 square-foot home — the rooms of which can only be described as having gracious dimensions.
It has a history, too, this house that went up in 1929 on Linden Drive SE. It was built by the late publishing scion Herbert Stamats. And it was “McKay built,” a proud phrase applied decades ago to homes of only the highest design and structural quality. McKay being at the time the built by well-known architect and builder Bruce McKay.
Add to that the fact that in 1930 Grant Wood did an oil painting of the home and now a replica of that stylized work hangs over the fireplace, and you indeed have a historic home.
After the Stamats family, the house went on to ownership by, among others, the Hedges, the longtime realty family in Cedar Rapids. And now for the past 22 years its fifth owners are Larry and Linda Bergdale. He is one of the founding partners and then retired principal and chairman of TrueNorth Cos., an insurance and financial strategies entity.
She is the Trustee of the House, so to speak, a woman who feels a strong bond to its innate beauty and history, and one who is bent on being a good steward, passionately retaining its authenticity while blending its vintage charm with the amenities of modern life.
“I’ve spent the last 20-some years on it,” Linda Bergdale says.
And a stellar job she has done. Bergdale is, surprisingly, a prime do-it-yourselfer, taking layers of old wallpaper off, stripping and refinishing woodwork, painting rooms and incorporating her design ideas into each area. She doesn’t work with a decorator, feeling confident in her own choices and innovations.
Indeed, it’s as if Bergdale looked at the house as a canvas and created a beautiful picture. And husband Larry have his own opinions in decorating ?
“I’ll tell you a story that Larry has told a friend,” Linda says with a laugh. “He told him ‘Linda could paint the entire house and I wouldn’t notice!’ ”
Says Larry: “My wife’s first love is this home, and the yard and landscaping. It’s her hobby.”
The couple are parents of two daughters and a son who live in Cedar Rapids, Houston and Australia. Linda, 64, and Larry, 65, might be at a point where downsizing or moving to a warmer clime would be appealing.
That said, however, Linda Bergdale will tell you that “I wanted a house my grandkids could grow up in and would love. A house that they could play and run around in. I loved my grandparents’ house when I was growing up and I wanted my grandchildren to have the same memories.
“My daughter was visiting once with her children, who were playing hide-and-seek, running up and down the stairs, making a lot of commotion. She asked me (during the conversation) if we didn’t want to move to a smaller house. I said ‘Do you hear the children? That’s the greatest sound in the world. That’s why I want to be here.’”
Larry Bergdale says, “It’s her decision we stay here,” but adds From his own perspective, he adds that “I’m a history major. … I’ve always enjoyed the history of this house. That’s been a bit of the glue that binds us (here).”
The traditional exterior only belies the classic interior. It’s a blend of antiques, antique reproductions, family pieces or antique shop “finds,” and rooms full of lovely oak floors that segue to numerous oak furniture pieces. There are Queen Anne wingback chairs keeping company with a great-grandfather’s handmade chair brought from Germany. Handsome room-size rugs in Oriental patterns leave honey-colored borders of hardwood floors.
Rooms that needed total renovating – the kitchen and master bath – took months of planning by Linda Bergdale. Colors throughout the home are muted and soft; there’s nothing bright or “punchy.” The home’s classic features, traditional furniture, and low-key colors come together to provide an atmosphere of beauty, peace and tranquillity.
The house sits on a near acre of land, has four levels and 12 rooms in all, including five current bedrooms (the sixth and seventh bedrooms were converted to an office and nursery), four full- and two half-baths and three fireplaces. The third level was once servants’ quarters. Fun fact: The bell that once called the servants still works.)
This area also contains a sitting room, bath, bedroom and a spacious playroom for the couple’s four grandchildren when they visit. The house also has a 2.5-stall heated garage.
In today’s market, Larry Bergdale estimates the home to be in the upper $500,000 range.
It’s the main floor that shines, though, this level holding the classic but comfortable living room; a dining room with a modified bow window; the remodeled kitchen; a narrow room now Linda’s office that was once the library, and the family room for casual comfort.
The focal point of the generous 25-by-15 foot living room is the white wood-paneled fireplace with the reproduction of Grant Wood’s oil painting of the house above the mantel. The 1930 original is aptly titled “Overmantel Decoration” and now rests at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.
A 14-by-10 Karastan rug in burgundies, teals and ivories is a thing of beauty. Wood-paned windows are another hallmark of the house, and this room has four. Two facing the front yard have attractive smock-topped and balloon-bottomed curtains. Between the windows is a Queen Anne table with a voluminous faux ivy plant that brags about its splendid foliage by cascading over the table edge. An oak curiolike cabinet graces a wall; it’s a piece from Larry Bergdale’s late uncle.
One of the priceless features of the home is the new dream kitchen.
“We just gutted (the old kitchen),” Linda Bergdale says. “It took a whole summer to complete.”
The 20-by-12-foot room is populated by an immense granite island, soft cream-colored cabinetry accented by “old” bin pulls and a cozy oak breakfast nook. Appliances are GE Monogram, including a stainless steel French door refrigerator, gas stove and dishwasher.
At one end of the family room is a paned door looking out on a 12-by-12-foot deck that beckons one to spend some time on white summer furniture, taking perhaps, a mint julep while shaded by a green garden umbrella. Below is a lovely secluded backyard with a small pond usually sporting bright flowers.
The master bath is a tribute to the bath-maker’s art, and is another room carefully planned by Bergdale. The room was gutted and now has a heated floor finished in hexagonal tiles to keep the vintage look; an outsized shower with the popular rain showerhead; a pedestal lavatory, and all custom-made cabinetry. Bergdale was careful to keep the original arch that now introduces the generous shower.
In the nursery, Linda Bergdale painted stars on the walls and inserted a mirror in an old window frame, painting on the frame a crescent moon, stars and the words to a nursery rhyme, a delightful touch for the little ones.
The lower level, or basement, houses a “movie room” (Linda Bergdale is a big movie fan) that has a 50-inch TV, comfy leather furniture, a raised hearth fireplace and a wet bar with microwave.
Recalling the first moment she walked in the front door, Linda Bergdale says “I just caught my breath. Each room I walked in, I just caught my breath. … I hope the next people love it as much as I do.”
And Larry Bergdale? The one-time history major sums his feelings: “I’ve always loved old traditional homes.”