Sunday, July 20, 2008

The famous polka-dot house may get a makeover

Paul Gatchell's polka-dot house may get a new paint job.
I had a chance on Friday to sit down with Paul Gatchell, the Epping man who owns that outrageous polka-dot house on Main Street in Epping. Whether you like the house or despise it, the house (it's actually a two-family apartment building) has become a local landmark, and that's basically what my story that appeared in Saturday's New Hampshire Union Leader said. Paul is considering changing the color because the paint is peeling and the house really does need a facelift. So what will the new color scheme be? We don't know, but it doesn't sound like he plans to keep the desert orange color, crayon green trim and the purple polka-dots. I think he's leaning toward something less obnoxious and more mainstream, like vinyl siding.
If you're not familiar with the story behind the house and why it ended up with such a funky paint job, you might enjoy reading Saturday's article, which I've included here for your reading pleasure. And if you get a chance, drive by the house at 242 Main St. and check it out for yourself. Paul's also looking for feedback on what color the house should be if he makes a change, so let him know. I told him he oughtta run a contest, but I don't think that'll happen.

Check out my story below
By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent
EPPING - When Jason Reynolds gives directions to his family’s apartment, he just tells them to look for the polka dot house.
“It’s easy to let people know where we live,” joked the 33-year-old father of five whose family moved into the funky apartment house at 242 Main St. six months ago.
Time has taken its toll on Paul Gatchell’s crazy paint job, but the 19th century two-family house is still catching stares, especially from the newcomers to town who don’t know the story behind the building known to most as simply “the polka dot house.”
It’s been almost 15 years since Gatchell painted his apartment house a bright desert orange with purple polka dots and crayon green trim, all to get back at a neighbor who opposed his plan to store his trucks, a trailer and other equipment for his business on the property.
Over the years, the house has become a local landmark. People still drive by to check it out when they hear about it, and many refer to the house when giving directions.
But the landmark that’s had so many people talking may soon get a makeover that most likely won’t include outrageous bright colors and polka dots.
Gatchell said the paint is peeling and the house needs a fresh coat. But he’s not sure what the color would be. He doesn’t even know if he wants to repaint.
Gatchell said he’d like to put vinyl siding over the orange paint and purple polka dots to preserve the paint job that grabbed headlines during the spat with the neighbor in the early 1990s.
Changes to the paint scheme will likely come over the next year as Gatchell makes plans to expand the New England-style apartment house.
As if he hasn’t heard enough already, Gatchell said he’ like to get feedback on what people think he should do with the colors as he considers the changes.
No matter what happens, few will ever forget the house. “It was probably one of the best moves I ever did,” the 37-year-old Gatchell said of buying the house in 1992 at the age of 21 and painting it to make a statement about his rights as a property owner.
The neighbor who complained most about his plan to store equipment on the property moved out of town about a year after Gatchell painted the house. Before the paint job, Gatchell had warned the neighbor that if he continued to make trouble that he would paint the house the “funkiest” color he would ever see.
Gatchell stuck to his word, and in a little more than a week, transformed the front of the house using paint brushes and a roll of duct tape to make the polka dots.
While some people didn’t like the paint scheme, no one could tell him what color to paint his house.
In time, the house color began to grow on some people.
Grace Lavoie, who runs a hair salon next door, said she’s heard customers complain and wonder when he’ll repaint the house, but others don’t mind it so much. Gatchell only painted the front of the house, leaving the sides facing Lavoie’s place still painted white.
“It’s not a problem for me because I don’t have to look at the polka dots,” Lavoie said.
Even though they’ve had to look at it, Gatchell said his tenants over the years haven’t complained.
“The place has always been rented,” he said, adding that a second apartment will be rented out to a new tenants who are supposed to arrive today.
Reynolds and his wife, Robin, actually enjoy living there with their kids.
“Everyone seems really amazed that we live in a polka dot house,” Reynolds said.

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