William Huff House an OctoberTour jewel
Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 6, 2013
Anne Lyles used to pass by the house at 409 E. Bank St. and think it looked dark and dingy.
“Little did I know that one day I’d live here,” she said recently while standing inside the restored Italianate-Victorian house.
Before Lyles bought the William Huff House in 1991, it had been split into an apartment building. She purchased it after it was transformed back into a single-family home.
“You know how sometimes a house will just talk to you?” she said. “”When I walked in, I could just see myself living here.
“It wasn’t anything like I remembered it from the late 70s; I just saw the potential of this house being a home.”
The daughter of an architect, Lyles said she was drawn to the house’s unique features, which include a half-barrel ceiling as well as original hardwood flooring and wainscoting.
“I think because of my exposure to architecture all my life I kind of have a feel for houses,” she said. “I don’t brag saying that, it’s just the way it is.
“I used to tag along with my father when he was going to look at houses, so that’s really when it started.”
Lyles’ decision to leave behind her comfortable ranch-style house on Rosemont Road perplexed some of her friends.
“They thought I had lost my mind,” she said. “They referred to me as an urban pioneer.”
That’s a title Lyles, a retired family and consumer sciences teacher, quickly earned as she helped revitalize the Brooklyn-South Square.
After purchasing the house she had little work to do except painting over the gray and mauve-colored walls with colors that are a bit more uplifting, so Lyles started working on other projects.
“We maybe added light fixtures or ceiling fans, but we didn’t do any actual overhauling,” she said.
Since then, Lyles and her family have rehabilitated nine historic properties.
“You get caught up in the neighborhood and wanting to make it a neighborhood,” Lyles said. “It makes you feel good to see these houses come alive again.”
Lyles’ son Preston Sale and friend Ken Weaver jump-started the family’s interest in renovating historic homes when they purchased the house at 425 E. Bank St. back in 1990. Later son Karl Sale, bought the property at 313 S. Shaver St.
“The fact that we were all living in this old neighborhood that had so many wonderful old houses spurred us along,” she said. “One thing just led to another.”
The first thing to notice when walking up to Lyles’ house is the meticulously landscaped yard that includes a giant tree surrounded by ivy and a variety of colorful flowers.
The front porch that spans the entire front of the house features turned balustrade and posts.
The wide, pediment front door, which is original to the house, includes stained glass panes. The door opens into a long hallway that plays host to a wooden spandrel, a feature used to separate the formal hall from the back of the house.
“I think the entrance hall is particularly grand, everybody remarks on that,” Lyles said.
The house has six fireplaces, including one in the kitchen.
The mantels are made up of unique types of wood including tiger oak and are adorned with ornate carved details.
Lyles, whose parents are of Danish descent, has a number of antiques displayed throughout the house, including figurines and decorative plates from Royal Copenhagen.
Grocer W. H. Huff built the house in 1892 and occupied it until his death in 1921. His widow operated a boarding house out of the dwelling into the 1930s.
In 1981, it was moved slightly to the east on its lot due to the widening of South Long Street. Although much of its original exterior wall siding was removed during its relocation, the interior retains many of its original features.
The house sits on the site of a former Confederate prison, which spanned about 16 acres of the neighborhood. Lyles said the lot where her home was later constructed was the spots for the hospital.
“We’ve found tons of old medicine bottles and glass stoppers,” Karl Sale said. “Every time we got to plant something or bury an animal in the pet cemetery we find a treasure.”
Lyles sad it’s still hard to believe she lives in a house seeped in so much history.
“I remember when I first moved here and I’d be coming down the stair getting ready to go to school and I’d think ‘This is my house,’” she said.