The Historic Alfred J. Armstrong House was designed with the front door facing south, casting rainbows through the interiors, via the hand cut stained glass windows. Our eyes are drawn up to the second floor tower, wrapped in patterned shingles, mingling with intricate millwork at the windows, gables, roofline and eaves. The tower is topped by a cast iron crown.
The grounds are established with blooming trees, shrubs and sculpted hedges. From the first spring bloom of the tulip magnolia, to the pink cherry blossoms, then the ancient lilacs, followed by the rhododendrons, next an applause of roses leading to the butterfly bushes and hydrangeas— blooms are continuous through the summer. Lastly the maples begin to change color and the Heritage Monkey Puzzle tree stands as a proud docent during a symphony of colors of the grounds. This monkey puzzle is a historic sentinel from the 1905 World’s World Fair. The seedlings were given as souvenirs to attendees.
The covered front porch wraps around two sides of the house with an era-appropriate haint blue ceiling and invites a place to admire the decorative millwork accenting the porch, which has been completely restored in the last 35 years.
The striking front door, with stained glass diamond pane, a lower asymmetrical sunburst panel, and three small raised panels at the top, are all accented by a stained glass transom window and set the tone for the specialness awaiting inside. The stained glass windows are masterpieces restored and replicated by local stained glass artisan David Schlicker, Each window is a kaleidoscope of colors, accented with faceted Povey stained glass jewels. A brass mail door completes the front wall, as does second diagonal stained glass window.
Stepping inside we are charmed by a tapestry of architectural details that transports one to an era where quality and details reign supreme. Old growth fir millwork, which has been refinished in place, an open staircase with era-appropriate paneling punctuated by a handsome newel post and embossed Lincrusta wall covering are graced with awe inducing fir millwork A wide doorway with custom French doors with inset stained glass Schlicker panels with similar geometric designs found at the front door while incorporating a waterlily design, open into the expansive great room.
The living room, with coved plaster ceilings accented by a plaster chandelier ceiling medallion where intricate picture rail molding meets the pigment dyed plaster walls with hand stenciled thistle motif are just the beginning of the intricate era-appropriate details found throughout the home.
A cast iron coal firebox has been converted to gas for convenient ambiance. This required newer masonry chimney—a-la-Victorianesque, constructed in 2002. Pratt & Larson tile surrounds the “coal” box fireplace and a custom Queen Anne style wood surround was created. A forward thinking great room layout lends a modern feel and function, not typically found in your average Victorian with small parlors and closed off formal rooms. Two bay windows, one each in the living and dining area brings light in and offers views of the established grounds.
This entertainer’s delight measures 30’x 15’ and refinished and reclaimed oak floors run through the public rooms. The transom window over the dining room bay has the original multiple panes, varying slightly in color depending on how much iron and manganese was in the glass at the time the panes were crafted. The two side windows in the bay capture exterior architectural details—cutaway corners with jigsaw brackets and acorn pendants found at each bay on both the front and side of the home. The home boasts six plaster ceiling medallions, each unique and different from the other. The dining area’s medallion complements the tinted plaster walls and has dragonflies incorporated into the intricate design.
The dining room has a set of pocket doors which leads to what could be used as a main floor family room— a perfect place to relax and spread out with a good book, a work or school project or binge watch Downton Abbey. This room has a side door, that matches the front door, and connects to the wrap around porch with steps to the side lawn. The main floor family room has the third of the six ceiling medallions. This accents a light fixture that would have originally been a dual gas and electrical fixture—when electricity was a newfangled invention and deemed unreliable. Fun fact: As of 1925 only half of the US homes had electricity. Apparently electricity was still an uncertain invention 20+ years later.
The family room connects to the kitchen, as a proper family room should. The kitchen received an update in 1926. The cupboards and cabinets have been carefully stripped to reveal that gorgeous old-growth fir. The countertops, backsplash and sink are slabs of soapstone—brought in 30 years ago. The Marmoleum floor has a border with a flower at the corners. A Wedgewood gas stove—complete with functioning task light and original salt and pepper shakers, has 4 gas burners, a center griddle and two ovens with a warming drawer at the bottom. The walls are finished with glazed plaster and a hand painted frieze embellishes above the stove. Modern amenities like a garbage disposal and an electric refrigerator, in the pantry (once an enclosed porch) wouldn’t have been there in 1926, but have been added for today’s ease of convenience. The newer items have been thoughtfully chosen and masterfully worked in, blurring the line between what's 100+ years old and what is new. The era-appropriate details conceal the updated/modern electrical and plumbing upgrades.
The kitchen has a back door, with transom window, that leads to a sweet covered porch. The driveway pulls up to this door for convenience of unloading groceries. Old-fashioned hydrangeas flank the three steps.
Next to the kitchen is a main floor bathroom, with linen closet, an Asko stackable washer and dryer and a laundry chute– from back when the laundry was in the basement. Per the Historic registry application, this space was likely converted to a bath in the 1926 renovation, but all fixtures, millwork and surfaces were installed roughly 30 years ago. The owner has taken great care to respect the original integrity as much as possible. This main floor bathroom has a claw foot tub with porcelain rain-head shower sprayer, tub diverter and pedestal sink. The glass used in the doors and windows is ornate privacy glass that lets the natural light in.
Adjacent to the main floor bathroom is a bedroom, situated in the northwest corner of the house. This room has fir floors and millwork and glazed plaster walls with a hand-painted frieze above the picture rail millwork. This ensuite bedroom is perfect for the occasional overnight guest.
Back to the entry staircase to see the other three bedrooms of the home on the second floor. A plaster medallion suspends the foyer chandelier which beckons attention of all who ascend the staircase. At the top of the staircase is the light and airy tower room. This Catbird seat charms with a corner nook with two double banks of windows topped with stained glass transom windows, which complement the plaster ceiling medallion painted in true Victorian style. Here the cherry tree really shows off for those who take a moment to appreciate her full unabashed glory.
This level boasts three bedrooms with fir floors and spacious walk-in closet. The main hall is finished with Lincrusta wall paneling and old-growth fir millwork and floors.
At the end of the hall, and closest to this bedroom, is the full bath for this level. This space was created off the back of the house at the same time the kitchen underwent it’s remodel—in 1926. The current owner brought in historically accurate fixtures for this bathroom, and include natural fir bead board wainscoting, built-in linen storage, kept the laundry chute, and added a medicine cabinet and period-appropriate fixtures including a pedestal sink, claw foot tub and toilet.
THE GARDENS are just beginning their seasonal show. This yard is a flower lover’s dream and full of established and well maintained plantings including old-fashioned hydrangeas, lilac with four variations of color from deep violet to white, Annabelle hydrangeas, two shades of pink camellias, a hedge of roses, a row of mature rhododendrons, majestic tulip magnolia, a showy cherry blossom and a sweet butterfly bush, which arches over the stone and gravel patio area off the back of the house. A side lawn offers privacy on the east side of the house. A stone pathway meanders around the home and connects to the driveway.