Wittenberg Graduates’ Home Included In Best Old-House Neighborhood
Springfield, Ohio – The South Fountain Historic District was recently named one of 2011’s “Best Old House Neighborhoods” in the Midwest by This Old House, one of the nation’s leading resources for home remodeling and restoration on TV, in print and online. To represent the neighborhood on the This Old House website, the editors selected the home of Wittenberg alumni Jeffrey Smith, class of 1996, and wife Richele Shepard, class of 1996.
Smith and Shepard own a Queen Anne-style house in the district, which was a popular style from 1880-1900. The Queen Anne style, Smith explained, is typically distinguished by its asymmetry, and its use of multiple types of windows and sidings, along with “multiple gables, turrets, chimneys, dormers, scrollwork and projecting bays.” But the couple did not originally plan to buy a home in this style.
“We remember looking primarily at the brick Italianates,” said Smith, adding that the Queen Anne was recommended by the neighbors. “Because the house had been divided into so many apartments, I did not immediately see the appeal of this house. But the people who directed us toward the house knew what they were doing.”
The district currently has what could be described as “bargain” homes, but the district was once the home of the more affluent members of Springfield, including company presidents. The changes, Smith explained, started during the Great Depression, when the homes became too expensive to keep up as single homes and were instead converted into apartments. When Smith and Shepard originally bought their house, it contained six apartments.
The district had more ups and downs yet to come. While it was maintained fairly well through World War II, Smith said, it was neglected in the 1950s and 1960s. This was followed by a somewhat successful preservation movement in the 1970s. The district then hit another downturn in the 1980s when crack cocaine made its way into the district. The resulting crime left many houses “vacant, boarded or demolished.” Since then, it has been rehabilitated, though it is still perceived as unsafe.
On the contrary, Smith asserts, the district lives up to the claim in This Old House that it is a “village-style environment.”
“Primarily, the South Fountain Historic District functions as a neighborhood,” Smith said. “Because of the neighborhood’s proximity to downtown, however, many residents walk to the library, the Kuss Auditorium, Mela Urban Bistro, Seasons Bistro and Grille, the Buckeye Sports Lodge, and other downtown attractions. I think the combination of Springfield’s downtown and the South Fountain Historic District creates a ‘village-style environment’.”
Written By: Sarah Brode ’11
Photo By: Robert Gantt