LIMA — Shirley Holmes had been looking for a project — something with stone and brick, something with character — that she could make her own.
“When I saw the sign for ‘The Castle,’ I said ‘stop,’” Holmes said.
A peek through the front window sealed the deal.
Some houses are just like that. They grab attention, but it’s the peek inside that offers a true glimpse into their potential.
Lafayette’s Eversole House
Few houses survive for more than 100 years. Even fewer flourish.
Driving south out of Lafayette on Napoleon Road in east Allen County, passersby might notice one such example. The 2,400 square-foot solid brick Eversole House stands on the west side of the road as a renewed reminder of Lafayette’s past.
Just a decade ago, the house had been split into a triplex, with a long iron staircase installed to allow outside access to the second floor, and many design features of the ’70s and ’80s — wallpaper and dropped ceilings — had masked much of the building’s former style.
But when Doug and Valerie Michael purchased the building in 2016, they wanted to bring the bones of the house back into view. The Michaels described the process like a treasure hunt. Old doorways were discovered behind walls, and when Dumpster-sized portions of dropped ceiling were pulled out, the place began to look like its old self.
Today, the building is reminiscent of those 19th century roots. Every room features high ceilings, and there’s a sense of groundedness due to its sturdy nature. Brick walls and wood floors are featured throughout, and upstairs, a number of the rooms have 19th century dimensions that create a coziness in the residence.
In other words, the Eversole house has a history, literally.
While the house was originally built in 1875, its story starts a little earlier with Lemuel Eversole. According to documents put together by the Lafayette-Jackson Historical Society, Eversole worked as a cabinet maker with his brother-in-law, Elijah Helser, in Thornville when Eversole got the idea to head out west and hit the California gold fields.
Helser loaned him $25 to make the journey, and via ship, he made it to San Francisco by May of 1850. Two years later, Everson returned to Thornville with a small fortune, and the two men split it between themselves. Not long after, they purchased some of the largest swaths of land in Jackson Township. The Eversole home was erected two decades later.
The Michaels have a picture of Mr. Eversole in the main room of the house. Faded and fuzzy, the portrait depicts a bearded Civil War corporal in a simple round frame. Another picture above it shows his extended family, including his wife Sarah and their nine children.
Today, the Michaels have brought the old house up to 21st century standards. While the re-invigoration of the old brick and wood designs are the more noticeable updates, some of the biggest changes were made to the house’s utilities. Now, there’s a television in almost every room.
Because the couple know the history of the house, Valerie said she had considered using a metal detector during the renovation process, but the sheer amount of work that went into the property meant that the task fell by the wayside.
“We didn’t find any gold nuggets, but they might be here,” she said.
Shawnee’s Neapolitan Gallery
A step into Debbie Lane’s home in Shawnee Township is like entering an art gallery. The place practically glows with natural light reflecting off sheer white walls and white oak floors to provide a space perfect for displaying the many art pieces Lane has collected throughout the years.
“My house is kind of like my diary,” Lane said. “Everything is tied to a memory or somewhere I’ve traveled.”
Built in 2017, Lane said she took the unique step of designing the building herself to include some of the architectural flourishes she has seen on 5th Avenue in Naples, Florida. Consequently, the house feels light and airy despite its location in a colder climate.
Lane also took the additional steps to create artful callbacks built into the house reminiscent of her time spent in the Florida panhandle, such as ceiling directions seen in a favored restaurant in Naples.
The central motif of the home, however, is the front door. The black steel door, an art piece in its own right, features a geometric design with clean straight lines. Similar shapes can be found on cupboards and countertops — all designed with a central motif in mind.
“Everything took shape from this design that I really love,” Lane said.
But while the house itself is unique, the extra oomph is provided by Lane’s art. Scattered throughout every corner of the 2,800 square-foot building, art pieces, sculptures, paintings and photographs of every shape and size make the space unique.
Lane said the reason for her artistic appreciation comes primarily from her family, starting with her grandma, a fashion-minded woman who never left the house without gloves.
“I remember walking around as a little girl with a Louis Vuitton purse. I didn’t know what it was then, but I know what it is now,” Lane said.
That appreciation moved down the line. Both her mother, who was a model, and her father, who was an artist, curated her own taste, and now, appreciation of beauty and color is built into her own home.
A French country house in the city
1421 Shawnee Road is a hard house to ignore. Located on one of the lanes lining the road just south of the Pony Keg, it joins a number of stately private residences along the drive that drip with curb appeal. It even caught Jon Kriegel’s attention as a child.
Kriegel recalled riding the bus decades ago as a student, and he would notice the property as he would look out the window. As an adult, when it came on the market, he and his father took a closer look, and he ended up buying it. If he hadn’t, his father would have, he said.
“I was like, ‘Damn, I got to have that,’” Kriegel said.
The reason for the attraction is due to its architecture. A French Normandy style house with some French country influences, the residence is uniquely symmetrical with two chimneys and two small wings flanking a simple brick two-story main area.
Inside, extensive woodwork is featured throughout with five different kinds of beechwood making up the rafters, walls and detail work. Of special note is the rarely seen wormy beechwood comprising the cabinetry, which is marked by unique patterns due to the many holes found in the wood.
“This was way before its era,” Kriegel said. “It’s a really timeless house.”
While the interior of the house is impressive, the exterior is also worth mentioning. The home sits on a 2.5 acre plot far enough from the road that traffic from Shawnee Road can’t be heard by anyone in the house. The backyard is also extensive, and a long, winding sidewalk leads to small pond set beside an outdoor kitchen area that could be used to barbecue a whole pig if desired.
As for the property’s history, the Holstine family started construction on the house in 1950, and it ended up being an engagement present for Sylvan Holstine’s daughter, Lois, when she married Burt Rubens. Both individuals have deep roots in the Lima community.
The Holstine family owned Lima’s downtown Leader store — a 70,000 square feet shopping mecca in the heart of the city, and Burt Ruben’s legacy remains as one of the original founders of Burton’s Ridge Assisted Living.
Van Wert’s Castle
Back in 1898, William Hughes took the old adage of “a man’s home is his castle” quite literally. His Victorian mansion, covered in grey masonry and religious symbols, demands attention from those driving past due to its Neo-gothic design features.
The look is so striking that it convinced its current owner, Shirley Holmes, to purchase the residence back in 2005 and renovate it. Holmes’ influence is apparent throughout the comfortable interior, as she’s worked to create a unique space without losing the building’s historical features.
For example, Mr. Hughes was a very religious man, and Holmes has kept much of the religious symbols apparent throughout the house. Fleur-de-lis and sculptures of the “green man” are featured throughout the main room of the house, and clover shapes are a repeated motif. All three symbols stem from Medieval Christian imagery.
The fleur-de-lis and clover both represent the Holy Trinity, and the green man, originally a pagan symbol, has been featured in old cathedrals as symbols of rejuvenation and rebirth.
The clover also is seen in some of the woodwork attached to the main bedroom’s fireplace, which sits in the building’s main turret. Holmes said she had wondered why the main fireplace had been so simple compared to many of the other ornate features of the house, but once she connected the clover with the Holy Trinity, it made more sense.
Such religious features can also be seen from the curb, with crosses topping the castle and clover shapes providing a repeating pattern in the detail work.
As for Holmes’s influence, she said she worked to give some callbacks to some of the original work done in the building. While much of the building has been heavily renovated, she pulled materials, such as ornate tiles, that had remained undamaged and incorporated the work where she could. Original work can also be found in the wainscotting and in the kitchen, where the old icebox is still functional.
The largest feature from Hughes’ day, however, has to be the building’s large staircase. Holmes said some of the railings had to be replaced, but the final effect is reminiscent of houses from the same period, with ornate woodwork featured throughout.
The staircase also wraps around what Holmes calls a courting bench. When young men came over as suitors, the young couple could sit down on the bench that can be clearly seen from all the main rooms, she said.
As for the history of the house, Holmes said she has been trying to dig up information on Mr. Hughes and his legacy, but with a common name like Bill Hughes, it’s been hard trying to pinpoint the right person. So far, she’s found out that he did serve in Ohio’s general assembly for two terms, but information has been sparse. A small gallery on the man is featured near the front entrance.
She has, however, found some information about the house. Built by a Mr. G. Rump for $15,000, the construction company took two years to raise the house, and materials ranged from French tiles to Italian marble.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.