Pride of Ownership

Leon and Elise Miller-Out outside of their property on West Buffalo Street after renovations, for which they won a Rotary Pride of Ownership Award. (Photo by Casey Martin)

The Rotary Pride of Ownership Awards is a program that recognizes the owners of properties throughout the City of Ithaca who have developed or taken care of their properties in a certain way that aligns them with the aesthetic background of the neighborhood. They are designed to encourage property improvement and investment that helps the community at large. 

The winners for 2019 were announced earlier this year, announced by the Rotary Club of Ithaca. They were: 323 Taughannock Boulevard, developed by the Arnot Realty Corporation, in partnership with Steve Flash and Anne Chernish; 319 Pleasant Street, owned by John and Rita Graves; Canopy by Hilton, owned by Baywood Hotels and designed by Mark Zeff Architecture & Interior Design; City Centre (301 State Street), developed by Newman Development Group, LLC; 238 Linden Avenue, owned by John Novarr and Phillip Proujanski; Bridges at Cornell Heights (The Craftsman), owned by Elizabeth Classen Ambrose; and 433 W. Buffalo Street, owned by Leon and Elise Miller-Out.

In the case of 433 W. Buffalo Street, Leon and Elise Miller-Out set out to make several improvements upon purchasing their home in 2005. They had to replace the roof with a coated metal roof and then turned their attention to the inside of the house. Following that, they began seeking a replacement for the crumbling cedar shake siding. Leon said he’s proud of the work that has been done on his home but didn’t realize one project would snowball into several. 

“It’s been a series of projects ever since we bought the house,” Miller-Out said. “When we moved in, the roof needed replacing and we did that right away. Then we didn’t do a whole lot to the side of the house for several years. Then about three years ago, I started building our little sauna/outbuilding. We’ve kind of been working more or less continually since then. We did the whole residing project, which involved gutting the outside of the house and insulating the walls from the inside of the house.” 

They decided to use a cedar clapboard siding with a natural finish. However, since they were replacing the siding on their home, they decided to replace the old clapboard sheathing in their home with plywood and to spray foam on any exposed wall cavities. Miller-Out said this was the biggest piece of work he did on the home. They were able to repair and repaint the exterior stairs of their home as well as new fencing and landscaping. Since then, he has been working to make his home energy efficient. 

“We insulated all of the walls when we did the siding project,” Miller-Out said. “We went from having old compacted cellulose insulation that was very ineffective to having four inches of closed-cell spray foam. I don’t know what the R-values are but they’re far better than they used to be. I recently insulated the attic. We still have to do the basement and get the foundation insulated.” 

Similarly, John and Rita Graves, owners of 319 Pleasant Street in South Hill, encountered several challenges in the work they did on their house. In 2015, John and Rita decided to expand their kitchen and the space above the kitchen.  

“I live in a pretty small house, actually it’s very small,” John said. “We put an addition on slowly over the years where I could expand the kitchen and put a larger bedroom upstairs, over the kitchen. I also had some experience repairing Greek columns for Vicki Romanoff and Sarah Adams. I could rebuild the columns in the back. I put the columns in the back because that’s where we spend a lot of time, the backyard.” 

The primary challenges that John and Rita faced in trying to get this work done was due to them self-financing the work. John said the work took several years because that was all they could afford to do. He added that with a new fountain in their backyard, a formal garden, and a trellis to provide shade and privacy to the brick patio, a tranquil ambiance has been created for their backyard. 

Elizabeth Classen-Ambrose, owner of Bridges of Cornell Heights, is a repeat winner of the award. She first won in 2006 for the work she did on the second Bridges Facility (The Tudor) at 407 Wyckoff Road. Ambrose was honored to receive a second award and is happy to have been part of the creation of a building that aligns so well with the neighborhood a particular credit to architect Bero Architecture, who Classen Ambrose said specializes in niche historic preservation jobs. 

“I think that sensitivity to the type of architecture is really important, and that you build and design something that would fit into the neighborhood and not stand out but assimilate to the surroundings,” Classen-Ambrose said. “I think they recognize that we took some efforts to build and design The Craftsman in a way you could have imagined it might have always been there. One of the comments that I get time and time again when someone walks in is, ‘what was this house originally?’”

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