As a young man, Gene Riedy assisted his father in the maintenance of the house next door to his aunt. The Huffman family owned the house on Milan Road and Scott Street. Gene Riedy loved this house and dreamed of being its next owner.
The lots in this area made up the site of the original Erie County Fairgrounds. In 1900, the fairgrounds moved south and the lots went up for sale. The Huffman family, owners of Huffman Coal Co., purchased one of the first lots.
According to a framed photo from the early 1900s that appeared in When You Build magazine, the address of the home at that time was 928 Hancock St. The address now is 1103 Milan Road.
The home stayed in the Huffman family until sisters, Ruth and Gladys Huffman, passed away. Riedy and his wife, Brenda, purchased the home in 1989.
Gene recounts, "Ruth Huffman died while she and Gladys lived here. Gladys then went to live with another sister in Milan, but the house couldn't be sold until both sisters had died." The house stood unoccupied and was "used pretty much as a storage facility." It was laden with antiques. However, the entirety of the contents was sold at auction before the Riedy's could take possession. "Even the hanging light fixtures were taken down and sold", Brenda says.
Brenda was thrilled with the size. Even though they had to live on only the main floor of the Milan Road home for the first two years, it was still much larger than the house they and their small children were leaving.
But why live downstairs? "The upstairs was a wreck", says Gene. That, and there was no electricity upstairs.
The house was without a doubt a fixer-upper. A major project they both looked forward to with anticipation and excitement.
There was about to be an extreme home makeover.
Gene and Brenda agreed that the casings and sliding doors were in good shape and needed little work. The original hardwood floors and ceilings were another story. It all had to be renovated, top to bottom. And, of course, Gene had to wire the upstairs.
The heat in the family room was a gas-coal burner. They put in a small corner fireplace. The room is quaint with only a few pieces of furniture, including a table, chair and couch. The real focus in this room is the family; pictures are placed on the tabletop, on the mantle and hung on the walls.
The centerpiece of the parlor is a high-gloss vintage piano. The antique furniture in this room, as in the rest of the house, are pieces they have acquired slowly over time. Some pieces are "new" while others are "hand-me-downs" once belonging to loved ones.
The formal dining room is the epicenter of family celebrations. Classic timeworn wooden furniture provides an aged atmosphere. The bright sunlight pouring through the old-world lace curtains warms the room.
The kitchen is a unique room. Gene handmade all the cabinets and used the doors from other old kitchens; three other old kitchens, in fact. The room has a rustic feel. And, even though the modern day major appliances are stainless steel, there are early-century small appliances adorning a countertop which help maintain the room's old-time charm.
There is a old-fashioned bathroom on this floor. The original bathtub is still functional. Brenda has a small medicine bottle collection in a low-lying cutout cupboard, and an antiqued wooden-framed mirror hangs over the sink.
Heading upstairs to the bedrooms and Gene's office are unique embellishments. Old suitcases stacked one upon another creating makeshift tables, stacked antique hatboxes and books, and an old 5 Jennings Chief slot machine and Edison phonograph which both belonged to Gene's aunt.
The master bedroom is breathtaking. Gene created a domed ceiling and angled a couple of the walls to create a beautiful visual contrast that complements the original hardwood flooring. The furniture is all antiques that have been given to them. Another set of stacked luggage, a trunk at the footrail of the bed, an old sewing machine desk, vanity dresser and wardrobe, and a rocker work together to take you back to the era in which the house was built. Small distinctive touches include small baskets hung on walls, a set of champagne glasses sitting beside wedding photos, a pair of ladies white gloves, and most romantic, Gene's aunt's lace wedding gown hanging from a closet door. It's a step back in time.
The master bath, on the other hand, is noticeably up-to-date. The built in spa tub with candles, plant, and garden fairy statuette, and the separate shower stall shout 21st century. However, an old fashioned water cabinet, even with its modern update, keeps the room from veering too far into the future.
The spare bedrooms that once were home to their children are also reminiscent of a time gone by with their chenille bedding, embroidered throw pillows, heirloom furniture and lace curtains.
Back downstairs and beyond the kitchen is a back porch. The screened in patio, with its white wicker furniture and incandescent sunlight, is the ideal spot, Brenda says, to sit and read or just relax and think. A small caf table and chairs sit in one corner, a perfect breakfast nook. Brenda has added a whimsical touch, hand painted ceramic words dangle from the ceiling, "Celebrate", "Dream", "Hope", "Believe", "Laugh" and "Smile". They characterize this home and its owners well.
This is a couple who, like their home, aren't too serious. They are enjoying the journey. They still have a lot of things they want to do to the house. Some rooms still haven't been completed; some not started. There's no timetable, no set plan, things will happen as they will.
Young Gene Riedy wanted this house to one day be his. With his wife at his side, his dream house is now their much loved shared pleasure.