H.J. Lutcher Stark originally planned to restore the Stark House prior to his death in 1965, but the discovery of extensive termite damage delayed his plans. After Lutcher Stark’s death, the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, under the direction of Nelda C. Stark, began the enormous task of restoring the home. The ten-year renovation began in 1971 and the Stark Foundation was diligent in its effort to achieve a precise restoration. Old photographs, personal remembrances of former staff members, and historical guidelines from the 1920’s were used in the restoration.

Assessing the termite damage was the first step in the restoration. The worst damage was in the Music Room and Breakfast Room areas. Original wood was reused when possible, but Longleaf Yellow Pine and Cypress from Lutcher Stark’s stockpile was used as needed. The old paint was scraped off and a special mix of two shades of green was re-painted by hand. New man-made slate from New Orleans, closely matched to the original slate, was installed on the roof. The three chimneys were taken down to the first floor ceiling level. After the chimneys were determined to be in sound condition, they were rebuilt with the same bricks. During this process, approximately 30,000 bricks were removed, numbered, and replaced in their original location. A specially designed heating, cooling, and humidity control system was added. Water is pumped into the house from underground, and air is blown over coils and into the rooms. The duct system is completely concealed.

Ongoing Preservation

The ongoing maintenance of the Stark House campus includes hand painting the entire House and Carriage House every few years.

Hurricane Rita hit Orange in September 2005 as a Category 3 storm. The 125 mph winds caused damage to the roofs of the House and Carriage House. After the hurricane, the Foundation installed Eco Star Majestic Slate, which is recycled rubber in a slate design, to replace the damaged shingles originally installed during the 1970’s restoration.

Hurricane Ike hit Orange in September 2008. Despite sandbagging, the Carriage House took on several feet of flooding. Although the basement had significant flooding, the design of the Stark House elevates the first floor and prevented flooding inside.