Home with running creek

Friday, July 23, 2004

The doorbell rings at 3435 Old Hopper Road and an outgoing and enthusiastic retired woman answers the door. Judy, wearing a wide smile, introduces herself then retrieves her husband, Tom Holshouser.

He arrives at the front door dressed in a plaid, button-up shirt, which is tucked into his cotton slacks. His shoes are shiny black.

His voice is pleasant and welcoming, but largely monotone. His face is warm, but not exuberant. By all appearances, Mr. Conservative is standing in the doorway.

But the first impression isn't completely accurate.

Internally, Tom Holshouser wears designer digs right off the catwalk. Mr. Conservative on the outside, Mr. Creative on the inside.

In a town full of historic and dramatic homes, Holshouser designed and now lives in one of the more recognizable houses in Cape Girardeau.

There is a creek under his kitchen and dining room. Not a creak. A creek.

The unnamed branch is a major architectural element to the one-level home. Tom Holshouser, an architect of 33 years, designed the 3,300-square-foot house for he and Judy to retire in.

The back deck and adjacent screened porch provide a view of the dammed spring-fed stream, which trickles over rocks and flows directly underneath the house.

Holshouser usually designs commercial offices. He has also designed several homes, but usually they're more traditional houses.

For his own place, he wanted to let some of his creative energies loose.

"I wanted to do something different," he said.

A couple years ago, real estate agent Ken Inman showed Holshouser the lot that was for sale and the architect immediately saw the potential. A running creek. A fairly steep hill. A nearby barn. A country setting for a city home.

"When Ken Inman brought me out to see it, I saw the spring-fed creek and I knew I had something," he said.

At first, Holshouser thought of building the house on top of the hill, but that wasn't feasible. So he did what innovative and creative people do. He improvised and just designed around the creek.

Holshouser's design wasn't easy to execute. Workers had to use a jackhammer to break through rock to fit in one corner of the house. They had to dig down many feet for the footings of his garage -- and then fill much of the hole back up again. All told, 250 cubic feet of concrete were used, about double the amount of a typical house. And 120 loads of dirt were brought to the site. He moved into the house about a year and a half after he bought the lot. Including the land, he spent $337,000 on his nest over the creek.

The house is built above the flood plain. Even during a 6.5-inch deluge a few years ago, the water rose to road level, which is 5 feet below the bottom of the house. The house basically works like a box culvert.

"There would have to be a monsoon to be even close to the house," he said.

Wright's Fallingwater

The interior has a contemporary flair. The house is all on one level, and the floor plan is very open with many vertical windows that showcase the rocks on the side of the hill just outside the family room. On the wall of the living area space is a painting of Fallingwater, a house designed in the 1930s for the Kauffman family in Pennsylvania. The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, built the house over waterfalls.

Tom Holshouser called Fallingwater his inspiration.

Judy Holshouser calls her home a dream.

"He did such a wonderful job," said Judy, once a student counselor. "It's so gorgeous when it snows. The evening is my favorite time, when the lights come on and the breeze blows nicely through."

The couple moved into the house in February of last year. Holshouser still has a few things to do. The couple still hasn't found a chandelier for their living room, and there's some yard work that still needs to be done.

The architect very much wants to build a bridge over the creek.

Only this time, the bridge won't come with a roof and 3,500 square feet.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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