Couple's search for their dream home was only a step away

MILAN George R. Curtis is a familiar name to many people living in and around Milan. He was mayor of
Lori Koelsch
May 24, 2010



George R. Curtis is a familiar name to many people living in and around Milan. He was mayor of the city for 14 years, owned a thriving business and was a driving force in the community-at-large. The home he built on Front Street is one of the oldest Milan dwellings still lived in today.

Curtis purchased the property for $1,100 in 1882 and built the two-story, 12-room house at 10 Front Street in 1884. Since his passing, the home has had only four owners.

Jeff and Jennifer Kessler had decided to move closer to family. They had just built a new home in Macedonia, Ohio, but raising two little ones that far away from their families wasn't what they wanted for their young children, or for themselves.

And this was not the house they originally thought they would buy.

During her house-hunting efforts, Jennifer thought she would just look at the house, maybe get some ideas, but had no intention of settling on this particular property.

When she walked in and saw the staircase, she knew her search was over. Eventually convincing her husband and their families that this was the perfect home for the young couple and their two young children, Jeff and Jennifer purchased the period home in 1998. It was something "we always dreamed of doing", Jennifer said. And so they did.

Structurally, the house was in good shape. Previous owners had updated the electric and plumbing. All they would need to do was give the home their own touch. They tore down wallpaper, painted walls and slowly restored each room, some more than once, until they got what they wanted. "There's a lot of sweat equity in this house, a lot of sweat equity" Jennifer laughs.

The first thing that comes into view is a unique staircase, spiraled with landings. Not traditionally curved but with angles in all the right places. There is a small alcove below the steps. An antique table holds prominence with family photos. A white wicker chair and a decorative radiator share the small space.

The floors in every room other than the kitchen are the original hardwood. All the antique furniture in the house was purchased by the couple except for an A.B. Chase piano, made in Norwalk, which takes center stage in the living room. It came with the house.

Most of the windows have been replaced; however, the Kessler's kept the original stained glass windows intact. In the living room, there is an exceptional stained glass pattern to cast a brilliant rainbow on a sunny day.

Past the living room is the family room with one of the few concessions to moderninity, a large flat screen television with surround sound. However, it isn't garish as it is subdued by the gas fireplace and large overstuffed furniture.

The dining room is a step back in time. The original coal fireplace and the furniture used in this room are astute and glorious. Even the photos were taken to represent days gone by, with period costumes and genuine enjoyment. Jennifer painted the walls in this room in such a way that it heightens the colors of the flooring and tiles around the fireplace; burnt red, green and cream. It's distinctive and bold.

The kitchen, one of the most recently remodeled rooms, is breathtaking. The remodel took several months to complete. In gutting the space, the contractors made an extraordinary find behind one wall, the original staircase. Jennifer said they were surprised it was in such great shape, only a couple steps had to be replaced. The room was amplified in size by knocking down the walls and now has a large center island with a sink. A sizable corner bay for the kitchen table and an L-shaped padded bench provides a sunny spot in which the family can share meals.

At one time there was a pass-through that servants could use to serve meals from the kitchen into the dining room. The kitchen side is now a small mud room and on the dining room side is a half-bath.

There is an office downstairs as well. The room is contradictory in its old world charm in opposition to the modern update of computers, antique furniture versus college memorabilia and a golf ball collection.

Heading upstairs, the master bedroom is first. The golden walls accent the dark wood and the cream carpet. It's restful to be sure.

The master bath expounds on the theme of calm and relaxing. There is a spa tub separated from the commode by a half-wall. There are his-and-her sinks with a vanity area built in between. A separate shower stall completes the room.

Their son's room is a typical young boy's room with its collegiate theme, bunk bed, drums and a guitar.

And of course, their daughter has a room by which any young princess would be enchanted. A one-of-a-kind piece, hand made by her grandfather, sits against one of the walls. At first glance it resembles a dollhouse but upon entering the room it is apparent this is a two-story, six "roomed" house of shelves. There is even a wooden roof with a lamp as chimney.

The upstairs also hosts a guest room, gaming system room, a bedroom converted walk-in closet, and a bath.

The basement is mostly storage with the exception of a small game room with a pool table and a basketball toss game. Jeff and Jennifer also have a small workout room down here with an elliptical machine and a heavy bag.

Back upstairs, Jennifer shows off an expansive back yard. She notes a great little tool, regardless of the era; a clothesline on a pulley system. She smiles and laughs when she talks about how efficient it is, especially on lazy summer days.

Jennifer talks about how great it is to live in a small town and how happy they are there. "We're close to everything, the library, schools; everybody knows us." Her son is a frequent visitor to the nearby fire station.

What could be more old-fashioned? Working hard to make a house your home, being a part of the community, raising your family near extended family...that's what the late 1800's and early 1900's were about. This house may not have been the house they thought they were looking for, but sometimes it's about gut feelings. And they have happily found themselves in love with their decision.