9 Amazing Restorations

1Big Ben (London, England)

London’s Big Ben is set to stop ringing in 2017, so that repair work on the landmark can be carried out. For the third time in its 157-year history, the clock chimes will not ring out across the capital once work has begun.

“Problems have been identified with the clock hands, mechanism and pendulum, which need to be dealt with immediately to ensure that the clock can continue to work properly,” a Q&A, on the Houses of Parliament’s website, reveals. A repainting of the clock reflecting Victorian-era color schemes is also in the works.

The Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben, will also undergo extensive renovation during the three-year project.


2Hotel Del Salto (Soacha, Cundinamarca, Colombia)

Twenty miles southwest of Bogota Colombia lies the Tequendama Falls Museum of Biodiversity, also known as the historic Hotel Del Salto.

The hotel was built in 1923 as a residential mansion for well-to-do architect Carlos Arturo Tapias. By 1928, it was formally opened as the elegant Hotel Del Salto. The hotel had hoped to capitalize on tourism to Tequendama Falls and was successful in that endeavor for 60 years.

By the early ’90s, however, the original structure became too damaged to operate, and the place was closed. It lay derelict for years and was even reported by the tabloids as being haunted.

A glimmer of hope came in 2011. The Ecological Farm Foundation of Porvenir and the National University of Colombia’s Institute of Natural Sciences began a joint restoration effort of the hotel’s intricate architecture. Their aim was to convert it into a museum that would serve as a national symbol of cultural heritage and environmental restoration. While there have been exhibits open to the public, the lower floors are not yet accessible. The restoration continues, and it is expected that the museum project will cost upwards of $2 million before completion.


3Porsche 911 2.5 S/T (US)

How did this rare Porsche end up in a playground? We’re not sure, but, thankfully, it’s been given a new lease on life. Porsche’s classic division has finished restoring an ultra-rare 911 2.5 S/T that took first in class during the 1972 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

One of just 24 examples ever built, the 911 2.5 S/T was uncovered a couple of years ago by an enthusiast in the US rotting away as a playground fixture. The car underwent several significant modifications over the course of its mysterious life. To complicate matters, it was wrecked during a race and poorly repaired, rust had started to attack the inner fenders, and, adding insult to injury, the roof was severely dented when kids jumped on top of it.

The car has quite a racing history. In 1972 alone, legendary driver Jürgen Barth raced the car at the Daytona 6 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours, the Targa Florio, and the 1000-km race at the Nürburgring. Under team Louis Mezanarie, he took a class victory for GT cars up to three liters at Le Mans.

Porsche’s restoration that’s taken two and a half years to complete. Some parts were fabricated, but the renovation was done using the original Porsche blueprints from the ’70s. If you want to see it for yourself, it’s currently center stage at the Techno Classica motor show in Essen, Germany.

Source 1, Source 2

4Château Gudanes (Chateau-Verdun, France)

An Australian family looking for a French vacation home ended up purchasing a rundown château and are now restoring it.

Karina and Craig Waters bought Château de Gudanes in the south of France back in 2013. They immediately began restoring the sprawling property, which was built in the mid-1700s and designed by a Parisian architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel.

The 94-room château was practically in ruins when the family arrived. Many rooms had no ceiling or floor and, remarkably, the place had never been outfitted with heat or electricity. Since the restoration began, the Waters have uncovered mysterious tunnels, ancient artifacts, and even a fresco painting after peeling away some old wallpaper. They plan to open the château to the public with a café and tours, before offering accommodation and function facilities in 2017. To keep up with the progress, check out Château de Gudanes on Instagram.


5Clifton's Cafeteria, (Los Angeles, US)

The newly renovated Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown LA is massive. It consists of five stories of cafeterias, bars, and restaurants crammed inside. The design theme is set by a giant fake redwood tree four stories tall growing up the center of the building.

This historic space not only includes a huge cafeteria on the first floor but a craft beer bar on the second, a special events space and another bar on the third, and a fine-dining restaurant and tiki bar on the fourth. In the basement, there is a high-end mixology bar that can be accessed through a door hidden behind what looks like an antique electrical circuit panel. Wall murals of California nature, dioramas with stuffed animals, a bronzed meteorite in the middle of one bar, and fossilized dinosaur eggs hidden in the floor of another are all part of Clifton’s crazy aesthetic.

The cafeteria was opened in 1935 by the eccentric Clifford Clinton (he combined his names to get Clifton’s). It stayed open until 2010 when developer Andrew Meieran bought it and made $10 million worth of renovations.


6Grey Gardens (East Hampton, New York, US)

A former executive editor of the Washington Post, the late Ben Bradlee, and his wife, journalist Sally Quinn, restored East Hampton’s famously decrepit Grey Gardens estate.

Built in 1897, Grey Gardens was made famous by the 1975 documentary of the same name starring then-owners Edith “Big Edie” Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, who were the aunt and the first cousin, respectively, of former U.S. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The duo lived in squalor and isolation for several years. It was so bad, Jackie O made a memorable visit to the house to clean it up, and save her relatives from eviction.

After Big Edie’s death, Bradlee and Quinn bought the house for $220K, promising to restore the estate (the sale forbade the razing of it). During renovations, the couple reported finding the waste from 52 feral cats in the home, along with fixtures that were so rotted “you’d go into the living room, touch the wall, and it would move out 12 inches, as if it were on a hinge from the second floor.” Quinn recalled that while on an early walkthrough, she touched a key on a grand piano in the living room and it collapsed and fell through the floor.

Since revamping Grey Gardens, Bradlee and Quinn have used the property as a summer home, and have also rented it out.


7Norton Conyers House (Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, England)

A stately medieval manor in North Yorkshire, said to be the inspiration behind Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, has reopened after a 10-year restoration.

The authoress is said to have visited Norton Conyers in 1839 and heard the legend of a madwoman locked in the attic. This helped form the basis of Bronte’s Mrs. Rochester, who was similarly kept in confinement by her husband in the novel.

Jane Eyre fans of can now walk through a hidden door built into the 19th-century paneling and climb secret stairway leading up to the attic, known as “The Mad Woman’s Room.” The home’s library emulates Mr. Rochester’s study, which was used in the novel as a classroom in which Jane Eyre is to teach his French ward, Adele Varens.

The Graham family has owned Norton Conyers since 1624 and have spent 30 years renovating it. In light of their work, they won the 2014 Restoration Award, presented by the Historic Houses Association and Sotheby’s.


8Highland Park Bowl (Los Angeles, US)

Highland Park Bowl, before (covered in paneling) and after restoration

The historic Highland Park Bowl in Los Angeles has been beautifully restored and is now a prime destination for bowling, craft cocktails and wood-fired pizzas.

The venue, built in 1927 and known in recent decades as Mr. T.’s Bowl, peels back the layers of time to reveal some of the venues eight refurbished bowling lanes, two horseshoe-shaped bars, and an open-air kitchen that turns out Neapolitan-style fare.

The 1933 Group is responsible for the restoration. Their plan for the bowl has always been preservation, right down to the original wooden arches and eight-lane playable bowling alley. With a lot of on-site source material to pull from, anything of worth that couldn’t be put back into its original use has been repurposed, from old bowling league pennants to sawed-off pins that double as bar lamps. Plans for an on-site micro-brewery are also in the works.


9King's Theatre (Brooklyn, New York, US)

Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre opened on September 7, 1929. Designed in the style of the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Opera House, it was originally painted with muted colors and meant to look aged as if royalty had already held court in its 3,676 seats. Now, in the 21st century, the theater has been meticulously restored with the help of the ACE Theatrical Group, Martinez+Johnson, and EverGreene Architectural Arts.

In 1977, the Kings shuttered after a decline in customers. Five years later, the city seized the building for its failure to pay back taxes. The once opulent theater sat empty, a prime target for nesting pigeons and vandals, who stole every chandelier within reach. Each time it rained, waterfalls cascaded over the original plaster.

But in January 2013, reconstruction began. The new owners were so attuned to original detail that they scraped through layers of paint and did a forensic analysis of samples to recreate the theater’s original styles and colors. That doesn’t mean the Kings is without modern sensibilities. Seats have been widened. Sightlines to the stage have been improved. Restrooms have been added (originally, there were 28 toilets, only 12 of which were for women. Today there are 93.) When it first opened, the Kings had just one concession stand, but now has five permanent and five portable bars.


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