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Tornado-damaged home named Ottawa historic landmark

This red brick Georgian style house at 215 E. Prospect St., built in 1930 and now the home of the Pentecost family, was designated as a historic landmark by the Ottawa City Council on March 20.
This red brick Georgian style house at 215 E. Prospect St., built in 1930 and now the home of the Pentecost family, was designated as a historic landmark by the Ottawa City Council on March 20.

The latest building to be designated a historic landmark by the Ottawa City Council is the home of Mark and Amy Pentecost and their two daughters, Megan and Brooke.

Their classic red brick Georgian style house at 215 E. Prospect St. faces north on the edge of the city’s south bluff where it overlooks the confluence of the Fox and Illinois rivers.

It’s a house with a rich past, which the Pentecosts discovered after relocating to Ottawa from Michigan eight years ago.

“When I started looking into the house, I found it has quite a history,” said Mark, who used his and his wife’s research to apply for the historic landmark status.

Built in 1930, the house was designed by Ottawa’s premier architect, Jason Richardson, and constructed by the city’s best tradesmen on commission from Dr. William Fread and his wife, Ellie.

The Freads were involved with every detail of the house. Luxury appointments abound, from the curved mahogany staircase to the marble fireplace.

They also concerned themselves with the more prosaic features. For instance, the home is equipped with Herman Nelson Invisible Radiators which were installed inside the walls with only the grills showing — a plus for the location of furniture and draperies.

Another feature was the top-of-the-line roof of Bangor slate, a long-lasting, smooth, finely-grained charcoal black slate impervious to fading.

The tornado that plowed into Ottawa last year played havoc with the roof.

“We were hit, although not as hard as others,” Mark said. “But it did take off a good part of the roof.”

“We found pieces of slate three and four blocks away,” Amy said.

Mark’s research on the house paid off when he worked with Sam Biggs, of Correct Roofing and Construction of Round Lake, a contractor who specializes in slate roofs, to get the roof restored.

An article by the architect specified the type of slate used and — courtesy of the tornado — one of the original product labels also was blown loose. With that evidence the insurance company, State Farm, paid for the quality replacement slate, all 40,000 pounds of which had to be mined in Nova Scotia.

Sometimes bits of their house’s past will surface from recollections of local residents and other times in unexpected ways.

Amy made the acquaintance of Helen Dondanville, who had lived in the house. She presented Amy with interior design plans for the house that showed color schemes and furniture locations that had been prepared by Marshall Field & Company of Chicago. Today those plans are framed and displayed in the dining room.

Mark, who is his own handyman, has explored the house from top to bottom, finding old light fixtures in storage that he restored and are back in service.

Both are appreciative of the home’s solid construction, and in particular its massive poured concrete foundation, one of the first of its kind in the area.

“If you know anything about old houses, you know that the walls crack and the doors creak,” Mark said. “But here all the doors still close and the windows work just as they should. It’s amazing.”

But beyond all the house’s features there is a strong sense of home and an appreciation of the location.

Across the street is a sledding hill the Pentecost girls enjoyed when younger.

“I like that you can walk to downtown,” Amy said. “And sometimes when you look out the window you see an eagle fly by. It’s a nice place to live.”

Does your building have a history?

The city of Ottawa is always seeking applications for buildings that qualify for its historic landmark designation.

For more information contact City Planner Tami Huftel at thuftel@cityofottawa.org or 815-433-0161, ext. 240.

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