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Buyers give 1892 farmhouse new life

Oregon landmark bought with vow for rennovations

  • amstutz-foreclosed

    Jason and Kelly Amstutz in front of the foreclosed home they recently bought in Oregon, Ohio.

    The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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  • amstutz-living-room

    Jason and Kelly Amstutz's living room in a foreclosed home they recently bought in Oregon, Ohio.

    The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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Jason and Kelly Amstutz in front of the foreclosed home they recently bought in Oregon, Ohio.

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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Profanity is spray-painted on the front door. The gray paint is coming off the porch, and some of the wooden boards on the roof are rotten.

On the same street, one house looks like a mansion. Another, light-blue-sided, house has a turret; others have well-manicured lawns.

But something about the dilapidated 120-year-old farmhouse speaks to Kelleryn Amstutz. She focuses on the living room with its stone fireplace and dark-stained wooden ceiling. The large porch is the kind that is perfect for sitting outside in the summer and surveying the country.

"I can imagine it lit up with people," said Mrs. Amstutz about the house at 4696 Brown Rd. in Oregon.

The Amstutz family purchased Gray Gables, a house well known in the Oregon community, from the Lucas County Land Bank on March 7 for $30,900 with the promise they will spend about $150,000 to renovate it.

The purchase agreement requires that to keep the house, the buyers must make it livable within the next year.

With the rehab project under way, strangers often drive by slowly or come up and ask what's going on. Many know Gray Gables by name -- after all, it is written on the two stone pillars by the road.

"Everyone looks twice," said Mrs. Amstutz's husband, Jason, 32, a former mechanic who assembles floors for a living. "It doesn't stop."

Gray Gables' previous owner, Edward Peiffer, owed about $18,000 in real estate taxes dating back to 2009 on the property he had purchased in 2004 for $212,000. He moved to Florida.

Over the years, the abandoned property was vandalized and neglected.

David Mann, the land bank's executive director, said of the house, "We probably found it in the worst condition it's ever been in."

Mrs. Amstutz, 31, noticed the house, which her family had admired for years, falling into disrepair.

Wade Kapszukiewicz, Lucas County treasurer and chairman of the land bank, said, "In the old world, before the land bank, this thing would have sat there for years and years. We had our eyes on it for a number of months."

amstutz-living-room

Jason and Kelly Amstutz's living room in a foreclosed home they recently bought in Oregon, Ohio.

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
Enlarge | Buy This Image

The land bank's mission is to seize control of tax-foreclosed property and demolish dilapidated buildings, sell empty lots, or offer homes to be renovated, as is the case with Gray Gables. The land bank aims to re-energize blighted neighborhoods and bring properties back onto the tax rolls, officials said.

The land bank has control of 150 parcels, primarily in Toledo but also in Sylvania, Oregon, Whitehouse, Springfield Township, and other communities.

Mrs. Amstutz said she had a personal attachment to the house most of her life and owning it "feels like it was meant to be."

But now there is much to do.

Install new windows and a roof. Sand the floors. Paint. Remove dead and overgrown trees. The Amstutzes hope to move in within eight months with their children Kameryn, 3, and Kaitlyn, 11 months.

Helping them get ready will be Mrs. Amstutz's parents, Ken Brown, a Toledo firefighter, and Sherrie Brown, a retired Toledo city employee, and her father-in-law, Glen Amstutz, who is retired from the U.S. Post Office. They all live in Toledo.

Land bank officials say they believe it is a happy ending for Gray Gables, a property with "good bones" but in need of serious love.

"The entire city of Oregon, in one way or another, knew of this property and was hoping to see something happen," Mr. Mann said. "It's not just a win for the people who bought it or the people who live next door."

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