Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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June 30, 2013

Historic Victorian home a window on the past

GOSHEN —  From a distance, the Victorian house at 324 S. Fifth St. looks in good condition, even though it’s been unoccupied for a few years.

The house isn’t so good, up close and personal.

Some of bricks on the steps up to the back door are loose and unsteady.

The original keyhole in the front door lets light pass through but locks and plywood nailed to the door keep unwanted visitors out.

In its prime as a family home, the invited visitors and guests entered into a small foyer to wipe their feet, take off boots or set their wet umbrellas down before stepping through a set of ornate double doors into the home.

If guests looked up, they saw two small stained glass window panes above the doors decorated in bright colors with a rooster and an owl. Smaller colored tiles were decoratively placed on the double doors.

There are pocket doors on the first floor for the parlor, formal living room and dining room, which. A pocket door is a sliding door that disappears, when fully open, into a compartment in the adjacent wall. Some of the doors have pressed glass with designs and some have a lead print on top of lead glass in different colors of orange, blue, red, light blue and yellow.

The walls have textured wallpaper in the rooms downstairs. A spiraling staircase with decorative spindles winds upstairs with the same patterned wallpaper in the hallway.

According to an appraisal done in April, 2012, the two-story residential house was built in 1866.

“This is when they built houses for beauty in those days,” said Steve Bice, residential building inspector for the city of Goshen. “Now they (houses) are made for energy-efficiency families. It’s all about efficiency anymore.”

He said all funerals and meetings took place in the parlor in Victorian-style houses.

“It’s a shame it’s not efficient anymore,” Bice said, while standing inside the parlor and looking up at the 10-foot high ceiling with cracked plaster. The bay windows in the room have extensive water-damage and the ledges are filled with dead bees.

“Water got the whole corner of the house and it’s rotted,” Bice said.

The other rooms have peeling paint and cracked plaster along with dust and cobwebs.

There are chandeliers and other varieties of light fixtures that “are all gas fixtures but were modernized” over time, Bice said.

A set of built-in bookshelves in the wall on the second floor provided a place for the family to store their books. Gingerbread molding was used around the stairway on the second story.

In one of the three bedrooms, a small sink was built out in the open in a corner near the closet.

“They don’t do that anymore, either,” Bice said. “A person would get up, wash their face and shave, if needed.”

There were no indoor bathroom facilities in the early years of the home.

Another unique feature in the home are two large oval stained-glass windows built on the exterior wall facing Madison Street. Both windows have the same pattern, a single blue flower with an orange circle in the center surrounded by white panes.  There’s a thin oval of green sandwiched between the white glass and a 2-inch edge of red.

One of the windows has designs stenciled on the glass and the other window was left plain. When the sun hits the oval window just right, the colors shine downstairs in the hallway, Bice said.

At the rear of the house, a plain narrow stairway leads to the servants’ quarters on the second floor.

An addition was built onto the original home and for many years, the house was divided into apartments. Renters left behind a saddle stand, a kitchen table and three chairs in what would have been the living room, he added.

“There are so many different remodel jobs (in this house). A movie was filmed in this house and used it for some props, that’s what I was told,” Bice said. “It would take a lot of time and money to restore the house and bring it up to code. I don’t have enough years left to do all the work needed. I wish I did.”

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