It was one of those bargaining moments familiar to so many people who buy a house.
The sellers wanted to keep their glass dining-room chandelier and the kitchen refrigerator. The buyer really needed the refrigerator.
“So we compromised,” Linda Kirby says. “They got the chandelier, and I got the refrigerator.”
But Kirby thinks she really came out on top. The sellers mentioned the house’s original chandelier was stashed in the home’s attic, and the piece now hangs happily in the dining room, perfectly in sync, Kirby says, with the rest of the Fort Wayne home’s pre-World War II period.
Kirby’s home on East Drive in the Northside neighborhood is that kind of place. A solid, yellow brick-and-stone bungalow built as a retirement house in 1942 by Frank A. Kintz, a well-known Fort Wayne building contractor and a founder and president of Old Fort Supply. The house isn’t a mansion or old enough to cause shivers to the history bone but, like many other homes in the neighborhood, Kirby’s is a house with character.
Or, might we say, quirks.
A definite quirk, Kirby says, is a hat room the size of a coat closet that opens just off the front door – complete with a lighted mirror and built-in vanity.
“That’s what it says on the plans – ‘hat room,’ ” says Kirby, who bought the home in 1997 and is part of the neighborhood’s upcoming house and garden tour. “That’s what everybody says – that they’ve never seen one before. But when you think about it, that’s where you sat in 1942 to put on your hat and gloves before you went out – the hat room.”
Then there’s the telephone station, a built-in desk under a plaster archway in a hall alcove that separates the kitchen from a bath and living quarters that were once a first-floor bedroom.
And then there’s the first-floor full bath – which is tiled floor to ceiling on all four walls with cream-colored tile accented by deep maroon tile trim. The floor is also tile, in an octagonal mosaic pattern.
“(Kintz) was in building supply, he probably had access to (sales) reps and could get whatever he wanted,” Kirby says.
Not to mention the stairway to the second floor, which is hidden behind a door, possibly because the Kintz’s wanted one-floor living, even though the upstairs holds two bedrooms and a bath.
A retired certified public accountant, Kirby says she’s hasn’t touched any of the house’s unusual features. But she has given parts of the home a going-over.
She’s ripped up downstairs carpet to reveal hardwood floors underneath and converted that downstairs bedroom into a comfy family/media room hidden away from the main living area.
She also renovated the kitchen in 2009 with a new floor, reconfigured layout, new countertops and cabinetry and an updated sage-green wall color.
“We took it down to the studs,” she says of the kitchen. “I was a wreck. They started in mid-September and finished in mid-November, and the refrigerator was in the garage for a couple of weeks. I had to go out there to get my breakfast.”
But her traditional decorating style – spiked with family antiques – fits the home’s traditional contours.
A carved Craftsman-style dining set, with a side table decorated with examples of her grandmother’s hand-painted china, looks at home in a room with crown molding, two built-in wooden corner cabinets and subtle, gold-embossed wallpaper.
A carved walnut armoire, also her grandmother’s, and a marble-topped carved table from her father’s family, settle nicely into the living room with its stone fireplace, traditional sofa and chairs, and a corner harp, on which Kirby takes lessons.
Outside are extensive, well-manicured front and back gardens filled with colorful geraniums, coleus pants, vinca, impatiens and petunias in reds, white, pinks and purples.
Large hostas – she estimates the 3- to 4-foot-wide plants must be at least 20 years old – line a landscape bed in the backyard that backs up to a fancifully painted garage, giving the yard a quaint New England flair.
The plants are tended by Linda’s companion, Jerry Hertenstein, a retired newspaper journalist who’s also contributed oil and acrylic paintings to Kirby’s collection.
Kirby says she likes living in the Northside neighborhood, which this year celebrates the 100th anniversary of its platting, because of its convenience to downtown, its mature landscaping and the variety of its architectural styles.
Her house on East Drive, for example, stands just beyond the mansions on Forest Park Boulevard, and nearby are American Foursquares, Dutch Colonials and an occasional Spanish-style home.
“It’s comfortable. It has a very warm atmosphere,” she says of her house. “It’s a pretty house.”