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Published: Monday, 5/4/2009

Piece of Waterville history going up for bids


For Brad Allen, the big yellow house at the top of the hill was a great place to grow up.

To Waterville residents with an interest in their village s history, that house is one of the most historically significant structures in town.

Built in 1854 by Waterville s founder, John Pray, the house at Fourth Street and Farnsworth Road is to be sold June 6 at public auction.

It s a lovely old home. It deserves to be lived in, said Mr. Allen, whose parents bought the house in 1959 when he was just 9. And it s got such a tie to Waterville.

Mr. Pray, who built the Columbian House in 1828 as a stagecoach inn and laid out the village in 1830, built the 3,200-square-foot home for his wife, Lucy, and their 11 children. He lived there until his death in 1872.

Interior features include hardwood floors, original woodwork, a maple staircase, and a marble fireplace. Interior features include hardwood floors, original woodwork, a maple staircase, and a marble fireplace.

Although in great need of restoration, the home has many of its original features hardwood floors in the formal rooms, wide pine flooring in the others. It has its original woodwork, a stunning maple staircase, a marble fireplace, and, Mr. Allen pointed out, lots of possibilities.

The house needs work, so it s a project, said Mr. Allen, who lives in Minneapolis. It deserves some love and care.

The Waterville Historical Society, which owns the nearby Wakeman Hall and two small houses on River Road, is hoping that whoever purchases the Pray house respects its history.

They can come right across the street to Wakeman Hall to see pictures of how it used to look, and we have a lot of information on John Pray, said Phyllis Witzler, volunteer curator for the historical society.

I think the house is very significant. The historical society, if we had unlimited funds, we would purchase it, she added.

Old photographs of the home show that it had several porches that have been removed, as well as a different roof line with a railing along the top that looked like a captain s walk, Ms. Witzler said.

She knows the historical society cannot take on the project, but she s hoping for the best when the house is on the auction block.

Somebody who s really interested in historic preservation and will return it to its original beauty and glory, and it would be great if it was a bed and breakfast, Ms. Witzler said. If it was just a home, it would be wonderful.

Mr. Allen said his family has not decided whether to set a minimum bid for the house, which sits on an 0.8-acre lot.

Lucas County Auditor s records list its value for tax purposes in 2006 at $197,500, although Jason Whalen, auctioneer/Realtor with Whalen Realty, which is conducting the auction, said he believes the house could bring $100,000 or less.

The house needs a lot of work, but one thing the house has is a lot of character, Mr. Whalen said.

Mr. Allen said that, to his knowledge, the house always has been a single-family home first for the Prays, then the Pittingers, then his family.

I was 9 when we moved in. It was Halloween day, I remember, and it was very exciting, Mr. Allen recalled.

His mother, Ruth, said she did not become aware of its history until after she and her husband moved there from Toledo with their young family.

I just happened to see the ad and decided after I went to see it that s where we wanted to move to, Mrs. Allen, 90, recalled. We had four children and we needed some room.

After 50 years in the family, Mr. Allen said it s time to pass the house on to new owners.

My hope is that somebody who really appreciates the history of not just the house but the town and has the time and willingness to make it whole again will purchase it, Mr. Allen said.

Whalen Realty and Auction Ltd. plans to sell the contents of the house, including antiques, books, glassware, and pictures, at 10 a.m. June 6.

The house is to be sold at noon.

Open houses are planned for4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 26 and June 1 or by appointment with Whalen Realty.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:jfeehan@theblade.comor 419-353-5972.

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