by Terry Rogers
On January 15, 2019, Beracah Homes set two new houses on two vacant lots on Marshall Street. One was placed on a lot where a home had been demolished in late 2018 while the other was set on a vacant lot next to a home owned by the late Jennifer Wiley. The Beracah Homes were designed by Wiley before her death following a horseback riding incident in 2017.
“Jen and I had worked on designing these homes before the recession,” Joe Wiley, Jennifer’s father, said. “During the recession, we kind of just put them aside. At the time, Jennifer lived on South Washington Street. Her sister, Jessica, and her family were living in the home on Marshall Street but they needed more space. They owned a home in Georgetown and were considering moving there when Jennifer suggested that they simply trade houses since her home on Washington Street was bigger and she didn’t need that much space. Jen’s plan was to build a new barn and home for herself and Eva, her daughter, eventually, so the girls just played musical houses one weekend.”
According to Mr. Wiley, Jennifer was passionate about the Marshall Street neighborhood with it shipbuilding history, often telling her parents that they should sell all the other rental properties they owned in town and focus solely on fixing up the Marshall Street area where she lived. She remembered the plans she and her father drew up, pulled them out and redesigned them. Mr. Wiley held the plans after her death and, when the Downtown Development District (DDD) grant program began, he decided to apply for funding to make Jennifer’s vision become reality.
“The DDD program will help tremendously,” Mr. Wiley said. “Because they are rentals, we need to keep the rents reasonable. The DDD will help us improve the area without the need to raise rents significantly.”
The area has a strong connection to the Wiley family. There is a home across the street that was the first home that Mr. Wiley and his wife, Renate, owned. It is the home where Jennifer and one of her sisters was born, so the area held special meaning to Jennifer and the rest of the Wiley family. Mr. Wiley hopes to build four more homes based on Jennifer’s designs. The two new homes on the lots will have 8×16 front porches added so they will look similar to the one that Jennifer lived in before she passed away.
“I am sure Jen is happy about this,” Mr. Wiley said. “It was bittersweet. I knew I was doing something she was passionate about but her handwriting was all over the plans. Sometimes that was tough to deal with but I knew I was doing exactly what she would have wanted me to do.”
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