Feature Stories

One look

Second Empire charmer won their hearts

By LauraMarie Carmody
Exterior colors are historically accurate with complex accents. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
A new deck is behind the house. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
A repaired slate roof. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
The staircase woodwork is strikingly designed. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
The entrance foyer shows off the home’s gorgeous staircase. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
The parlor furnishings salute the home’s historic era. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
Detail of fireplace. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
The family room adds modern leather furniture to the home. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
The kitchen was redesigned and modernized. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
The neutral background is brightened with warm accent colors inside. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
Bedrooms feature high ceilings and fans. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
Bathrooms were updated leaving only the original bathtub. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
Family photos turn a passageway into a gallery. (PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)
Among West Central’s many treasures is a Second Empire duplex built circa 1883 on West Berry Street. Designed by John Wing, the duplex features narrow entrances on each end, elongated windows, wide eaves with brackets, a pair of dormers and a slate mansard roof.

The structure was originally owned by William and Clara Carnahan. William Carnahan was the founder of a wholesale boot and shoe company. His wife, Clara, was the oldest grandchild of Samuel Hanna.

The Carnahans never lived in the house and probably used it as a rental property. Their son, Robert, was among the early tenants. Ownership changed hands over time and residents came and went. Most recently, the house sat empty for about 10 years before being purchased by Don and Judy Anderson in 2008.

The couple bought the property at the urging of their son, Mike, who lived just down the street from the duplex. The younger Anderson watched the empty house over time and thought it might be a good fit for his parents.  He encouraged them to consider moving from the suburbs into the city. One look was all it took. 

“When I first saw the house, it just felt right to me,” said Judy. “It was warm and inviting. It just needed some tender, loving care.”

“It was also close to some of our grandchildren,” she added. “I knew it was where we wanted to be.”

The Andersons moved from a larger home in the suburbs to a slightly smaller residence in West Central. Before they could occupy the space, however, the house required considerable attention. Renovations began immediately, and the Andersons officially relocated in fall 2009.

One side of the duplex consisted of four living units. Those on the first floor required minimal work, but the upstairs apartments were a different matter. The second story was completely gutted and renovated into a pair of units. Tenants currently reside on this side of the duplex. 

The opposite side, where the Andersons chose to live, originally included two downstairs units, plus one bedroom, one bathroom, five sleeping rooms and a shared kitchen upstairs. The new owners decided to transform the entire space into a single-family dwelling. The resulting interior is a mix of restored and renovated spaces coupled with an eclectic combination of traditional and contemporary décor. 

The Andersons started with the basics. The hardwood floors were pulled up, relayed and refinished. The front staircase and accompanying wooden panels, which had been painted, were hand stripped and stained. All of the windows were removed and reglazed, and the ropes replaced.

Some of the home’s plaster walls were removed by a previous owner and the remaining ones covered in a textured finish that needed to be smoothed out. Trim had to be added or replaced in a number of areas. Great care was taken to make sure visitors wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the original and new pieces.

Throughout the process, the Andersons remained mindful of the structure’s original design. They worked hard to respect the bones of the house while creating a living space in which they would be comfortable.

“We appreciate the history of the house and the people who have lived here,” said Judy. “It was important to maintain its historical character.”

The essence of this house’s character is immediately apparent when stepping into the entryway. The richly stained woodwork, especially the front staircase, and attention to detail reflects the craftsmanship with which many homes of this era were built.

A short railing and landing separate the steps from the rest of the foyer. Sturdy square newel posts with finials anchor the handrails. The spindles have simple circular patterns.

The longer outside railing features a rounded, simply carved handrail that rises gently then curves upwards before reaching a second landing. After that, the staircase turns right and repeats the pattern as it disappears upstairs.     

Paneling with vertical rectangles covers the area underneath the steps. An arch is located underneath the short set of steps to the second floor. This reconfigured area provides improved access to a bathroom and other areas of the first floor. 

A wide wooden doorframe with a generous header leads into the front parlor. The room’s original wooden fireplace mantel was reacquired to complete the intended look of the tile fireplace. Grooved columns extend upward from square bases on each side of the fireplace. The columns support low and high shelves with a mirror positioned in between.

More wooden doorframes, some with pocket doors, help define the parlor, family room, kitchen and back office. The position of these doorframes enables a person standing in the front parlor to see almost to the back door. The design makes the space feel even larger than it is.

The walls throughout the first floor were painted a warm taupe color and accented in many places with white trim. Furnishings range from traditional to contemporary. For example, period pieces – a sofa and high-back chairs – are positioned in the front parlor, while a navy blue leather sofa and loveseat appear next door in the family room.   

The kitchen was completely redesigned and reflects Judy’s vision. It is contemporary in nature, with birch cabinets and high-definition laminate counters in mottled earthtones. An island in the midst of the kitchen boasts a built-in sink and a breakfast bar. High-back wooden chairs positioned at the island are paired with a nearby oval dining table for seating. While the entire setting is smaller than the kitchen in the couple’s previous home, it is more utilitarian, enabling them to move around the space more easily.

The office is located just beyond the kitchen, as is a renovated bathroom. The couple also added a back deck. A ramp at one end travels alongside the house and provides improved access for Don’s mother and others unable to maneuver the front steps.

The work continued on the second floor. The guest bedroom at the top of the stairs now has its own bathroom where a kitchenette once stood. All of the transoms were refurbished. A master suite was created and includes a large, walk-in closet and a bathroom with a tiled walk-in shower. A laundry room replaced an existing bathroom.

A shared kitchen toward the back of the upstairs was removed, revealing a surprise back stairway. It had apparently been covered up years before on both the first and second floors.

The home’s exterior has also been revitalized. The slate roof was repaired, and areas covered in shingles were returned to slate. The entire structure was repainted using historically appropriate colors. The base color is Avon green, while the entrances and the two sections with the dormers are offset with a lighter green. Russet is the main accent color and is complimented by dark green, cream and copper. Additional landscaping and a stone wall were added out front.

“We tried to maintain the outside of this house in relationship to other houses in the neighborhood,” said Don Anderson. “Inside, however, we have modern conveniences like heating and central air conditioning.”

As with all homeowners, the Andersons have plans to continue adding to their home’s attributes. They plan to build a carriage house in the back that can accommodate three cars.

One thing they don’t need to enhance, however, is the surrounding neighborhood. It’s something they’ve grown to enjoy on every level.

“We didn’t come downtown much before we moved downtown,” said Judy. “Since we’ve lived here, we have discovered the true charm of West Central and downtown Fort Wayne. We ride bicycles to the parks and the library with our granddaughters. The neighborhood is centrally located, everything is convenient and it’s a great place for the grandkids.”

“The history and especially the architecture of West Central is certainly a draw as well,” she added. “We are very comfortable here.”

The public is invited to explore the lovely home during the 30th annual West Central Home and Garden Tour and Artfest Sept. 8 and 9.

Posted: Thu, 08/30/2012 - 12:23 pm
Last updated: Fri, 11/02/2012 - 2:12 pm