Their home remains, top to bottom and inside out, an architectural gem and a historic treasure. It is, in fact, a Local Historic District as an outstanding example of the Tudor Revival style so popular in the 1920s. It was designed by Fort Wayne architect Lloyd W. Larimore and built in 1928 for William S. and Edith Mossman and their family.
Over the past few years, current owners John and Amy Beatty faced the growing need for their beloved home, which they intend to live in for the rest of their lives, to serve purposes it could not, as it was originally built. So they did the right thing. They expanded and renovated their historic home while respecting its design and the neighborhood’s integrity every step of the way. They took their plans to Fort Wayne’s Historic Preservation Commission and received approval in February.
They love both these important things about the house: Its architectural beauty and the lovely neighborhood in which it sits.
Their respectful expansion and renovation preserves the house’s usefulness for generations to come and adds to the value and attractiveness of living in and owning a home in the historic Oakdale neighborhood. Their $100,000-plus investment improves their life as it contributes to the value of their neighborhood and every other home in it.
The house was and remains the right house for its extra-special location. Indeed it stands as a good example of how the right house designs and the right neighborhood design transform a pleasant but not otherwise unusually beautiful tract of land into an extremely desirable neighborhood.
“We felt very strongly about the property when we bought it,” Amy Beatty said, “so we listed it as a local historic district when we moved in in 1998. It was on historic homes tours three times that first year and then was the filming site for Civic Theatre’s commercial for ‘Christmas Story.’”
William Mossman grew up in West Central in the home that is now Castle Gallery. His father B. Paul was the Mossman of Mossman Yarnelle Hardware. When he and Edith selected Larimore as their architect, “it was his chance to show off the Tudor Revival style,” she said. The style has distinctive brickwork, different wings on the houses and stonework.
Their remodeling architect, Matt Wiedenhoeft, of Martin Riley and now head of the firm’s Oshkosh, Wis., office, “was very sensitive to that,” John Beatty said. The original exterior uses bricks of several different colors, for example. They were able to match every color but the green with new bricks, and the new brickwork continues the Tudor Revival style of having a single brick set out farther than the others here and there.
When the Mossmans were raising their three children, the Beattys have realized, people used their homes differently. All entertaining was in the living room, where today’s parties inevitably find people congregating in the kitchen. All meals were eaten in the formal dining room, but today’s active families appreciate the convenience of a table in or near the kitchen for quicker meals. And most of today’s families have at least some space dedicated as a play area for their children.
The Beattys “moderately finished” the basement for a play area for their two children, which helped, but the kitchen was a challenge.
“We were really falling all over each other in the kitchen, all of us crammed in there at the breakfast table,” John said. Their addition adds an informal dining area onto the kitchen.
“Now we have actual room to be in there and to entertain,” he said.
Bigger issues than a crowded kitchen were pushing the Beattys, though. Amy’s mother had lived four doors down the street for years, a very convenient arrangement, but they could see the time when she would not be able to live alone was coming. Plus they knew their own desire to live the rest of their lives in the home raised the difficulty of getting up the stairs to their bedroom, should mobility problems arise.
Multi-generational living and aging in place are two of the biggest trends in home design and remodeling today. Like so many other homeowners, they addressed both issues with one remodeling project.
The addition includes a bedroom/sitting room with adjoining handicapped-accessible bathroom. That suite shares a new laundry room, just off the enlarged kitchen, with the rest of the home.
“Now there really is a separate area that will give her some privacy but let her be a part of all the activity that she wishes to be a part of,” Amy said.
Amy learned the ins and outs of using a scooter in their home when an ankle injury put her on one for six weeks.
One potentially difficult decision was rendered unnecessary early in the process. Amy was concerned they would have to give up the screen porch (the same size as their living room), which provides much-loved living space in the warmer months, to make room for her mother. Architect Wiedenhoeft said no to that idea, John Beatty said, and showed them how an addition could work on the back of the house. The landscaping behind the house was torn up and redone for a smaller space, and the three original exterior windows that had been on the back were reused in the new section. Those windows were top-of-the-line 1928 Pella windows, and they are joined by two new Pella windows matching the original style.
Navigating the approval process for changes to a historic home did not feel difficult, they said, perhaps because they were already familiar with the professionals with whom they worked at every step of the process.
They talked with city Historic Preservation staff Don Orban and Kreager Smith soon after they seriously began thinking about what to do last summer. Their architect already knew them, the house and the neighborhood because he had been their neighbor across the street in another historic home, one built by Wayne Thieme. Their general contractor, Sam Lipscomb, is not only a well-respected contractor for historic building work, but he’s also their backyard neighbor. Either Lipscomb or the Beattys (often both) had already worked with every subcontractor on the project.
All of the aesthetic and practical decisions were straightforward, Amy said, with a goal of seamlessly blending into the original structure. The house sits on a triple lot with open yard on both sides, a little bit of which was used to address the Beattys’ concern about adding another car to the household. A pergola that hides space to park two cars plus some storage area was the historically appropriate solution, one that sets the family up well for when their children start driving. It was important to them not to clog the street with their cars. Additional slate to continue a mansard-style roof was found with the help of Joel Fremion.
Decisions about the interior were more of a challenge, she said. Her goal was to meld the extra kitchen space and the extra living space as harmoniously into the rest of the house as possible. The front walk is slate tiles, and Amy chose to use slate tiles in the same colors in the enlarged kitchen (now with red walls) and new room to continue the look.
“The only shocking contrast is the kitchen. The previous owners had done a stark white kitchen. Now there is better flow and transition, but it is still very functional for Mother.”
She settled for harmonious but not identical light fixtures for the interior. All the original light fixtures match and carry a shield design that is repeated in leaded glass on the doors and in the brickwork above the front door and on the garage.
Pam Michael, a local antiques dealer who handled the light fixtures when the University of Saint Francis restored the Bass Mansion, helped the Beattys find vintage light fixtures that blend nicely with the originals.
Amy Beatty is happy that the interior changes give her more space for art. A former window in the library is becoming display space, and a backlit stained glass piece is being added to the original downstairs half bath.
Contractor Lipscomb suggested the backlit piece, something he had seen work well in other homes, and that extra touch is not the only contribution the contractors made.
“All of the contractors have not been afraid to make suggestions because they see the interest we have, and most of them are pretty excited about the project, too,” she said. Lipscomb believes he’s fortunate to have done so much work in historic homes.
“I always look forward to the next day and what we’re going to do,” he said. “I get to go back and see how things were done 100 and 200 years ago and appreciate it. It was a pleasure to work with the original Pella windows from 1928. They were probably cutting edge.
“This house and this area — it was Sycamore Hills at that time.”
His house was formerly his grandfather’s, and their neighbors included Gene Stratton Porter’s sister and one of the architect Mahurins. R. Nelson Snider lived nearby. He knew the Mossmans and is confident they would be delighted with how the Beattys have enhanced their house.
No one found any artifacts during the work on the Beatty’s house, as he sometimes does on historic projects, but he left the children’s names in new concrete in a couple of places and left “a few time capsules for the fun of it.”
All in all, the Beattys’ home is ready for its second hundred years.
“We have no intention of ever moving,” Amy said. “This is planned ahead so when we are in our 80s and 90s we can stay in our home.
And they gladly envision the home living on after their time in it.
“We are the caretakers of the house,” Amy said.
“It will still be here after we are gone,” John said.