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Last updated: Sun. Aug. 03, 2014 - 12:41 am EDT

Built to last on North Anthony

1920s touches married with modern style

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This is a time of year that Fort Wayne homeowner Beth Didier loves.

“The garden is so pretty,” she says.

Yes, it's hard to miss the curved front walkway lined on both sides with pink and white impatiens, or the big pots brimming with even more of the shade-loving annuals sunk under a nearby tree at her home along North Anthony Boulevard.

The backyard, visible because of the location at the corner of Forest Avenue, overflows with drifts of perennials, from daylilies and black-eyed susans to roses and hydrangeas. A showy coral-colored hibiscus plant flowers in a pot on the back patio.

The Didiers' garden provides an eye-catching foil to one of her neighborhood's notable homes, built while the 1920s still roared and first occupied by members of two prominent Fort Wayne families who had been recently united in marriage.

Beth says the home was family-built after Irwin F. Deister of the Deister Machine Works family wed Martha Irmscher, a daughter of Max Irmscher, the German-immigrant president of Fort Wayne Brick & Tile Co. and founder of Irmscher & Sons, builders involved in the construction of major Fort Wayne edifices, including what is now the Embassy Theatre.

The latter family's connections explain the Tudor Revival-style home's solid construction – it's made mostly of brick, with its tall chimney featuring unusual cantilevered brickwork that provides a striking, textured appearance.

Around this time last year, the chimney was the bane of Beth and her husband Mark's existence because of needed tuck-pointing.

“We had a construction lift parked in our front yard,” Mark Didier says.

But that was a minor inconvenience compared with the joys of living for the better part of two decades in a home inching up on its nonagenarian years without having to make many other structural upgrades, Beth says.

 The quality of the home's 1920s construction, she says, has never been in doubt. The quirks, are, well, quirks.

“One of the things we really liked about the house was that there was nothing that really had to be done,” says Beth, a travel coordinator with Travel Leaders in Fort Wayne. “We had looked at other houses in the neighborhood. … And they all had very dated kitchens or other things you would have had to redo. This house did not have anything that needed to be done initially.”

And for Mark, who works as an engineer in the field of wastewater treatment, the place already had memories when he and his wife saw the “For Sale” sign pop up in the yard on a drive-by. He grew up just a few blocks away.

“I used to ride by this house on my bike,” he says. “I never thought about living there someday.”

The Didiers say they were impressed when they opened the front door and were greeted by a Tudor-style mosaic-tile entryway floor and an elegant curved wooden staircase leading to the second floor's four bedrooms.   

Built-in bookshelves and cabinets are included in the living room. A massive plank-style door divides the living room from the dining room. Both features, as well as a fireplace fronted with decorative white plaster, have a rounded, arched top. 

The master bedroom features a telephone table built into in one corner, and there are built-in under-eave drawers in what was designed as maid's quarters in the back second-floor bedroom. A half-bath is tucked under the left front entryway, while a closet – with a window – occupies the other side.

“We have no idea what that (window) was for,” Mark says. “It's in a closet.”

One of the nicest surprises came when a member of the Deister family brought the Didiers the original blueprints made by Fort Wayne architects Pohlmeyer & Pohlmeyer and showed off some little known features, including where a coal chute used to be.

Beth says she's tried in her decorating style to respect the period of the house, while adding contemporary furnishings and colors, such as the white leather sofa and chair set in the living room against dark green walls. She's placed a large Craftsman-style table and chairs in the dining room.

There have been some changes. New windows were installed, marrying the small-paned style with more energy efficiency. A wall dividing the kitchen prep area from a casual-eating nook was removed and replaced with a breakfast bar.

The main bath was remodeled.

When the couple became empty nesters when their son Andrew, 28, left home, they made his bedroom into a guest room with a soothing blue color scheme.

But in the kitchen, Beth kept the original white cabinetry, while redoing the floor in dark green tile reminiscent of pre-World War II color schemes.

After growing up with 10 brothers and sisters in one of Fort Wayne's notably large families, Mark says the thing he appreciates most about the house is the space.

He remembers being instantly won over by the master bedroom, about double the size of most. His favorite room: the living room. “It's just so beautiful and open,” he says.

 When the home was featured on a tour several years ago, Beth says, “I remember some people when they came through commented, 'I like the way you modernized stuff while you still kept the 'old' feel,' ” Beth says. 

“I don't love old stuff – I'm not one of those people. But I know my house is old, so I try to match stuff, to make sure it goes,” she adds. “I try to make it a comfortable house.”   

rsalter@jg.net


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