CARBONDALE — Potential tenants at D. Gorton’s rental properties learn about more than rent and maintenance responsibilities during visits; they’re given a history lesson, as well.
Gorton has restored about eight historic homes in Carbondale, mostly along Cherry Street in the city’s Arbor District, through the past 10 years. He has sold a few and rents out the others to SIU professors, graduate students and members of the community.
He started the project not with intent to become a landlord but out of an interest to preserve some of the city’s historic homes. He said the idea first hit him while attending a municipal meeting.
“Everyone was concerned about slumlord encroachment in Carbondale and asking what the city could do,” he said. “We said, ‘What can we do? What can the people do?’”
Gorton’s philosophy involves taking historic homes, primarily those from the 1920s, and renovating them while maintaining their original appeal and design. This includes using special paints and supplies that match colors and styles from the original time period.
It’s been an effort spearheaded on a personal level without municipal support.
Gorton, husband of Carbondale City Councilwoman Jane Adams, credits two of his lead craftsmen, Dan Francis and Jeff Jones, with the success he’s found and the quality of the renovations. Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, either.
Gorton recently won his fifth Historic Preservation Award from the City of Carbondale for his restoration of a house at 700 W. Cherry St. The property was a complete refurbish, as the roof and walls of the 1920s bungalow had caved in.
“It’s a good thing,” Gorton said of the recognition. “It recognizes the hard work we’ve gone through and, frankly, rewards the risks of investing in Carbondale.”
Making an effort to create quality rental options in Carbondale is essential to the city’s future, Gorton said, noting he’d be willing to talk to anyone interested in historic property reservation about the cost and benefits of the project.
With properties like those Gorton owns, there’s a more personal nature to rental and a connection to history missing from large complexes and other rentals. “We know all the histories of these houses and know that history matters,” he said. “It’s not random. We know what we’re doing.”