PaperCity Magazine

October 2017- Houston

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O n e S a t u r d a y m o r n i n g i n t h e f a l l o f 2013, Michael Skelly and a g o o d f r i e n d , architect Joseph Meppelink, were r i d i n g t h e i r bikes through Houston's historic east end. "On a lark, I said, 'Let me show you this cool old building,'" remembers Meppelink, who knew that Skelly and his wife, Anne Whitlock, were in the market to renovate an industrial building to live in. For years, Meppelink had ridden past a boarded-up 100-year-old fire station and had once even asked around about buying it. "I was told the owners would never sell," he says. Still, it was worth taking another look. They pedaled to the dilapidated two-story structure and stopped. The brick was crumbling, and there were holes in the ceiling, but its stalwart dignity remained intact. "As soon as Michael saw it, he said, 'It's perfect. Let's see what we can find out.'" By that evening, Skelly had tracked down the owner's name via HCAD, and early the next morning, the two were knocking on her door. "She cracks it open and says, 'Who are you?' Meppelink recalls. "Michael is pretty easy to talk to and charismatic, so the next thing you know, they're involved in a long conversation." The owner had inherited the fire station from her father, who'd recently passed away, and she was willing to sell — with one caveat. She had also inherited three big lots around it, and he'd have to buy those, too. Each of the lots had houses on them, and all were in terrible shape, Meppelink says. Eventually, a deal was struck to buy it all. "Suddenly, our little renovation project had mushroomed into half a block," says Whitlock. "We had no idea we were creating a community." F or anyone who knows Anne Whitlock and Michael Skelly, it makes sense that they would save a historic fire station in an older immigrant neighborhood. The two had served in the Peace Corps, and after graduating from Harvard — Skelly with a degree in business, and Whitlock with a master's in public policy — they devoted their lives to making a difference. Skelly was an early pioneer in the wind energy business in the 1990s and now owns Clean Line Energy Partners, which builds high- capacity lines connecting renewable energy to cities. Whitlock is the founding director of Connect Community, which serves diverse inner-city neighborhoods. With three children headed to college, 73 BY REBECCA SHERMAN. PHOTOGRAPHY LISA PETROLE. ART DIRECTION MICHELLE AVIÑA. ARCHITECTURE METALAB ARCHITECTURE/JANUSZ DESIGN. INTERIOR DESIGN MARTHA BAXTER INTERIOR DESIGN. Custom bench with Cortina hide from George Cameron Nash. Vintage iron table. The plaster walls were patched, leaving the old patina. Custom doors inspired by vintage doors at the Houston Fire Museum. Vintage lighting, circa 1910.

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