PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — When Jenny Christopher purchased the house at 1001 Avery St., also known as the Kaltenecker House, in October 2012, she learned she had many unanswered questions about its history.
Christopher said while the house is on the National Register of Historic Places, she has been unable to find anything about it before 1905 from deed records in the Wood County Courthouse.
She said the earliest owner she can find had the last name of Masters. She also found a map from 1890 that indicates the house was there.
The Kaltenecker House was not owned by anyone from that family until 1974, Christopher said.
In the 1981 nomination form to place the house on the National Historic Register, it was noted the house "was built between 1860 and 1879, and is a two-story, frame house in the Eastlake-Carpenter Gothic style. Its roof has a complex composition of hips and gabled wall dormers, pierced by two brick chimney. The house features sawn woodwork that make it the most highly ornamented residential building in downtown Parkersburg."
Christopher said the house has a connection with a tragedy in Parkersburg's past, the 1909 Quincy Hill water tank disaster. In March 1909 a water tank on the hill burst, destroyed the one next to it and sent 2 million gallons of water, mud and debris into the city streets.
"We have a picture taken in front of the house showing three bodies being loaded into a hearse," she said. "There were three fatalities. Two have been identified as Mr. and Mrs. Wigal and for the third victim all I can find about her was she is listed as being an invalid, that could mean a host of things."
Christopher said she and Dominique Hickey are slowly restoring the house.
"When we moved in, it was in pretty rough shape," she said. "It's on its way back, it will take some time."
Christopher said the plan is to use historically accurate dark colors for a different look. She said the color scheme is three colors from a historic color collection, Lincoln cottage black, Cincinnati Olivia Hotel blue and white.
"It's going to be a spooky, fun dollhouse," she said. "The outside is so crazy so we decided to roll with all the gingerbreading."
Along with being a private residence, Christopher said one owner planned on making the house an ice cream parlor and one used it for an interior design business. Recently she spoke with a man who lived in the house in 1964 when it was a rental property.
"In the 1920s it was bought by a family named Mehl," she said. "Some friends of mine are distantly related to a Mehl family and they are trying to get more information from them."
Christopher said owning the house has been a dream of hers for many years.
"I loved this house ever since I was small; that's why I got it," she said. "For 10 years I've been waiting for this house and I'm willing to talk to anybody who wants to talk about it because there are so many unanswered questions."
Because of the look of the house, she is surprised few people know anything about it. However, she said she does know the one thing people have told her is not true.
"Many people told me this is a Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward house, it's a kit house that came off the railroad and put together her," she said. "That is not true because they did not start selling those until 1910, plus they didn't build a house with this type of woodwork. Even a realtor told me it was a kit house."
Christopher said she has looked at old catalogs to see if they had houses similar to 1001 Avery St. and there are none.
Since 2012 they have been working on the inside of the house trying to get the rooms back in shape.
"I've been told for many years there was no heating or cooling in this house and that's why the walls are in bad shape," she said. "The chimneys were not fixed and water got in.
"It makes me sad, why didn't someone care about this place — look at it — how could you not care about it."
Christopher said the house looks larger than it is. She said the house has two bathrooms, one on the first floor that was added in recent years, and one on the second. She said the second floor bathroom, which is not usable at this time, has a claw foot bathtub. There are also three bedrooms.
She found the attic ceiling and walls covered with newspapers from 1956.
Renovation is currently concentrated on painting the outside of the house. Christopher said they are also replacing decorative woodwork for insurance purposes.
Christopher said she is happy to own a piece of Parkersburg's history and she is glad it was not demolished.
"I was told a long time ago the Knights of Columbus wanted this as a parking lot," she said. "Can you imagine tearing down this house? It's kind of an eyesore right now but by the end of the summer we hope to have all the painting finished and the wood repaired."
Christopher said anyone with information about the history of the house or lived in it can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I just want to learn everything I can learn about this house," she said.
Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), http://www.newsandsentinel.com