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Posted on Fri. Dec. 06, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

Williams Woodland Park shows off community pride in holiday home tour

Love of old houses, south side, brought Joan McMillan to the neighborhood.

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Williams Woodland Park Holiday Home Tour

What: Six houses, two apartments, the Center for Nonviolence and the Rialto theater will be open for the tour.

When: 5-9 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Purchase tickets the day of the tour at Simpson United Methodist Church, 2501 S. Harrison St.

Cost: $12 days of tour. Free admission for children 10 and younger. For information on purchasing tickets online or in advance for $10 or $36 for groups of four go to the neighborhood's website at www.williamswoodlandpark.com.

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Joan McMillan has always loved old houses. Seventeen years ago, when a duplex went up for sale in the Williams Woodland Park neighborhood, she took the plunge and bought it.

A single mom at the time, McMillan and her daughter lived in the upstairs apartment while she worked on converting the house back into a single-family residence.

Today the 3,000-square-foot home built around 1896 has almost all the amenities of a modern suburban house, but with a lot more character.

McMillan will open her home to the public Saturday and Sunday for the Williams Woodland Park Holiday Home Tour, which features homes decked out for the holidays. This year the tour includes six homes, two apartments at Fairfield Manor, the Center for Nonviolence and the Rialto theater.

The neighborhood is just south of downtown, located roughly between Calhoun Street and Fairfield Avenue and Creighton Avenue and Pontiac Street.

"I've always been a south-sider," McMillan said. "For a very, very long time I just wanted a Victorian house."

In 1997 her dream came true when she purchased the house. Remodeling took several years, with the downstairs kitchen — her "dream" kitchen — finally completed in 2002.

McMillan faced several big changes the first few years she lived there. She got married in 2001 and her husband and his two daughters moved into the home. In 2003 he died of cancer. Her stepdaughters continued to live with her after their father's death.

During those difficult years and after her husband died McMillan knew she could depend on neighbors in the tight-knit neighborhood if she needed help with something. "We just do that a lot," she said, of helping each other. "We're very community-minded. That's just the way the neighborhood is and I love that."

She also has relatives who live in the neighborhood, including two nieces as well as a sister who lives two doors down. Although there's a common misconception that south Fort Wayne is a dangerous place to live, McMillan said, "I have never been afraid in this neighborhood."

Eclectic style

Over the years McMillan has blended bold colors and modern amenities with the more traditional accents within her home, such as natural bead board paneling in the dining room. She describes her decorating style as French country.

The floor plan is unusual in that the house doesn't have halls. One room just flows into the next.

The kitchen, which was extensively remodeled, boasts white cabinets, grey counter tops and an island. Off the kitchen is an office/laundry room/mudroom with storage.

The only thing missing is a garage, but it doesn't bother McMillan, who does have off-street parking. "I've lived a lot of my life without a garage," she says.

The exterior sports wood siding, which needs to be painted about every eight to 10 years at a cost of between $5,000 and $10,000, McMillan said.

She loves to cook and entertain, and decorates every room in her house for Christmas. The rooms have lovely arrangements and sparkling lights, but don't look cluttered. McMillan puts some of her everyday accessories away for the holiday season to make room for her Christmas decorations.

Asked the secret of her success, whether it be laying out a new kitchen or decorating tastefully for Christmas, McMillan has a simple answer.

"I just can envision things," she says.

clarson@news-sentinel.com


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