Tom Turcketta has dedicated his life to preserving the homes early Americans built throughout Cape Cod.
REMODELING AND RESTORING homes in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, was never about the money for Tom Turcketta. Instead, it was about living out his passion to preserve American history, one home at a time.
“I think the history is important,” says Turcketta, who comes from a family of carpenters and launched Thomas L. Turcketta Building & Remodeling in 1975. “A lot of the homes we work on were built by early settlers before the Revolution or before the Industrial Revolution, so each house tells a story.
“One of the things I made my living on is doing this type of work because I love this work,” Turcketta adds. “The truth is, there are very few of us around with the ability to do the work we do with the understanding of these buildings.”
It helps, too, that Turcketta basically has carpentry in his DNA, with countless branches of his family tree making their living in construction. His father, two uncles and three brothers made their living in carpentry. His mother’s father and grandfather were carpenters, as well, establishing their career in Canada. With this history, Turcketta says he knew he always wanted to work in construction, long before he returned from serving in the military to work in the trades in the 1970s. In 1975, Turcketta enrolled in industrial school to learn how to make his own architectural details, including moldings, cabinetry, woodwork and window sashes.
In 1997, Turcketta and his wife, Ellen, decided to move to Cape Cod, and he intended to move his business to the luxurious oceanfront community. Today, the company’s business primarily remains on the Cape, and Turcketta is well-known throughout the region for delivering historic restorations at the highest possible quality.
“Anywhere I have worked, the results have always been outstanding,” Turcketta says. Turcketta is discovering the generation behind him is not as attached to the historic structures he has built his career restoring, so one of the biggest obstacles he faces is convincing clients a restoration is preferable to a complete teardown. He also understands this may not always be a practical solution based on the state of the structure, but some of the clients he works with find these homes disposable.
“The biggest challenge I face today is not being able to present an accurate estimate to work on a historic home that more often than not will not cost more than a rebuild,” Turcketta says. “The challenge would be to convince a client that these homes are worth saving and are valuable. Today, it seems to me that the majority of younger people live in a disposable world. People today will call me to go look at a structure and ask what I think of the structure, whether it has good bones. I give them the truth because the process of a restoration is not an inexpensive one.”
Renovating a Legacy
One such home Turcketta was able to save was the Capt. Benjamin Freeman house in Brewster, Massachusetts. The home was built in 1835, and Turcketta was called upon to make improvements like a custom kitchen and library, shelving in the oversized pantry, a new laundry room with built-ins and other work throughout the main house as well as restoring an exist- ing detached carriage house and garage. A new three-car garage featuring historic details also was built with a cross-gabled cupola to match the cross-gabled Greek Revival house. The existing carriage house was restored to remove rotting wood. The entire back of the building was rebuilt from the ground up, which required new sills and corner posts. This was necessary because the building had shifted sideways and had to be straightened and secured.The finished interior serves as a guest house with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms. Flooring, beams, steps and rails on the first floor were built from reclaimed heart pine. The second floor’s sub-flooring was salvaged during demolition, according to the company, and remilled on-site and used for the finished floors on the second floor.
“A lot of people I work for have a desire to preserve and restore and appreciate the fact these houses are still around,” Turcketta says. “A lot of times, I don’t think I have to convince the person of what they have. I let them make decisions on their own.”
In the case of Capt. Benjamin Freeman’s home, the decision to preserve the home turned out to be a rousing success. In fact, Donald C. Arthur and Mary W. Chaffee, the owners of the home, installed a bronze plaque to commemorate the restoration.
“One of the things is [Arthur] understood my dedication to my craft and allowed me to do what was necessary to save the building,” Turcketta says.