Ron & Linda

Living in a Victorian house is a history lover’s dream

 

By Max Efrein

Prescott Courier

 

Bay windows, round towers, steeply-pitched roofs with wood shingles: all classic features of Queen Anne-style Victorian homes.  Such structures were built between 1880 and 1910 and several still sit in beautiful condition along Prescott’s Mt. Vernon Avenue.

One of the oldest belongs to Ron and Linda Woodward.

 

The couple was living in Scottsdale when they took a particular interest in antiques.

 

 

Ron and Linda Woodward stand on the front porch of their Victorian Queen Anne home on Mt. Vernon Avenue right before heading to a Victorian Ball.

 

When they found that the value of their Scottsdale home had increased significantly — during what was later known to be the housing bubble — they considered selling.  Around the same time, they saw a newspaper article about Victorian houses that featured a stunning photo of one. They cut out the photo and hung it on their refrigerator. It stayed there about six months.

 

“And then one day we said maybe we should just sell this Scottsdale house and go look for a Victorian,” Ron said.

 

Not long after, they had acquired the largest antique of their collection: a more than 100-year-old home in Prescott.

 

The purchase did come with some insecurity, however. Ron said they were initially “scared to death of it,” fearing there would be aged electrical wiring, plumbing, etc. that would cause them to regret such a decision.

 

To their delight, no such problems arose, thanks to a full restoration that was done on the home in 1987. Bill Otwell, a local architect who specializes in preservation and solar-heated homes, led that project.

 

“It was amazingly intact,” Otwell recalls of the home when he first laid eyes on it.

For that home, Otwell said he was instructed to do a restoration — when the home is brought back to its original condition — rather than a rehabilitation, which is to modify to make it work for a modern use.

 

Over the years, aspects of the home have been altered to fit a modern lifestyle, but one could hardly tell without turning over rocks and taking a close look inside.

The old-fashioned fireplace grill can be removed to reveal an electric fireplace; the oven appears impractically old and small but is in fact a brand new, full-sized piece of equipment complete with touch screen settings; and although the home stays moderately cool on its own due to a subterranean basement, individual air-conditioning units sit in the top three stories of the building.

 

“It’s quite remarkable that you can live in modern times with all of your devices while sitting in a perfect little nook in an arts-and-crafts house,” Otwell said.

 

Soon after moving in, Ron — a self-proclaimed history nut — began researching his home.  He soon found the home had first been built by a successful businessman Olaf Hesla and his wife Minnie Belle on land they had purchased for $300.

Olaf, an optician by profession, opened a specialty store where Frozen Frannie’s now sits in downtown Prescott.

 

“His store sold jewelry, watches, fine china, fine glassware and cameras,” Ron said. “And this was not a time when everybody had their little Kodak.”  After mapping out the history of his home, Ron couldn’t help himself; he had to find out about all of the homes along Mt. Vernon.

 

“I know about them all,” Ron said. “I’ve given tours of the block.”

 

A pale green house across the street was built in 1877 and belonged to the Bashfords — of downtown’s Bashford Court fame, among other business ventures.

The house right next door was Frank Lloyd Wright’s home.

“Not the famous architect that happened to have the same exact name,” Ron said.

Rather, Wright owned the local gas company, electric company and the street cars that used to run along Gurley Street.

 

A small gray house right across the street was built in 1894 and was owned by William Ross.

 

“He owned the town drug store and his daughter ended up being the one who christened the U.S.S. Arizona,” Ron said.

 

Despite their pleasant nine years in the home, Ron said he and his wife are picking up and leaving to be closer to family.  As they make their way out, Ron said one thing he and his wife would be particularly hard-pressed to forget are the legendary Halloween nights Mt. Vernon Avenue has become so well known for. Not all of the homes participate in the trick-or-treat bonanza, but the Woodwards were game from the start.

 

“We went all out,” Ron said.

 

What they’ll perhaps miss the most, though, is the old-fashioned etiquette that an antique home naturally attracts.

 

“We would sit on our front porch in the morning and pedestrians walking by would be friendly and start up conversations like an old-fashioned town; like this town used to be,” Ron said.


We will miss it too Ron….. thanks for the memories.

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Halloween 2015



And for many happy Elks Opera House Guild Victorian Teas….

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                                                                     © Michelle Young 2012