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Published: Tuesday, 5/28/2002

Volunteers are taking a Victorian home back

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Troy Richey, 83, of Napoleon, works on the ceiling of the brick and yellow-trimmed Victorian home in Napoleon. Troy Richey, 83, of Napoleon, works on the ceiling of the brick and yellow-trimmed Victorian home in Napoleon.
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NAPOLEON - With white primer covering a small paintbrush and kneepads strapped to his legs, Troy Richey is meticulous and determined while at work.

He sits on a wood floor as he carefully applies the primer to an old wall, making sure he doesn't smear the color on the recently refinished woodwork.

After all, the 83-year-old - like others in this Henry County community - is proud about preserving historical detail.

In recent months Mr. Richey and about a dozen other volunteers have been helping to restore a brick and yellow-trimmed Victorian home, which was built in 1879 by a Napoleon doctor.

On Tuesday nights members of the county's historical society gather to remove old wallpaper, strip and stain oak trim, and pick out Victorian-area paint - deep colors such as green and burgundy - for the home's walls.

Some of the jobs have been far from glamorous.

Volunteers have removed a garage from the property, plastered ceilings, and done seasonal yard work. At times, the projects seem tiring and endless, and it will be years before the entire home is finished.

The home is being restored by about a dozen volunteers through the Henry County Historical Society. The home is being restored by about a dozen volunteers through the Henry County Historical Society.
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But Mr. Richey said he doesn't mind the effort, knowing what the end product will be.

“We're making progress. It just takes time,” he said.

Rose Wiemken, chairperson of the historical society's house committee, said historians want to return the home to its original 19th century state. When that's achieved, they plan to turn it into a museum with period d cor and exhibits set up in each of its rooms.

Several years ago the historical society began discussing options for the house after the new owners, Napoleon residents John and Grace Ann Reese, approached them with a proposal.

The Reeses asked the community members to restore the home with the intention that they would donate it to the nonprofit group after some of the work was done.

Mr. Reese said he and his wife came up with the idea after getting their first glimpse of the home's interior, which they originally bought to help preserve the neighborhood.

The original gas lighting fixtures in the Victorian house have been converted to electricity. Residents will have an opportunity to view the work done to refurbish the house during the Henry County Historical Society's second annual Victorian Days, which is scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. June 29 and 30 in Napoleon. The original gas lighting fixtures in the Victorian house have been converted to electricity. Residents will have an opportunity to view the work done to refurbish the house during the Henry County Historical Society's second annual Victorian Days, which is scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. June 29 and 30 in Napoleon.
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He said they were taken by the interior, which has tri-fold wood doors, large windows, and original gaslight fixtures.

The outside includes an original brick sidewalk and a carriage house that was most recently used for apartments. “We did recognize it as being a hidden treasure in the town,” Mr. Reese said. “We thought it was worthy of preserving.”

Historical society members started the project by discussing how to go about restoring the home. It wasn't until the fall that they began the bulk of the manual labor.

But Mr. Reese said he noticed their progress after leaving town for the winter and returning last month.

“From the time we left last winter to the time we got back, it looked like a nice volunteer group had evolved,” he said.

Residents will have an opportunity to view the home during the historical society's second annual Victorian Days from 1 to 5 p.m. on both June 29 and June 30.

Its first floor will be on display for the celebration in addition to another Napoleon home and three local gardens.

The house was open for the same event last year, but Ms. Wiemkin said this year's tour should be much more impressive.

“Last year we opened as we acquired it,” she said. “But we wanted to say, hey, come back next year and see what we've done. We wanted to tease them a bit.”



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