Say ‘Hi’ to some nostalgic landmarks as holiday decorations pop up

By NICOLE HENNESSY

AVON LAKE

Judy Kuenzel starts decorating for Christmas in October. For now, fall wreaths are up still, among littered antiques everywhere: ice skates and butter churns; a room wallpapered in old sheet music. Cats Meow figurines of local landmarks, and even one of her own home. Her husband, Hans, 83, jokingly refers to it as, “the rock pile.” Scattered throughout the house, Red Hat items are everywhere.

Judy, 80, is the Queen of the Crimson Crones Red Hat group, her crown proudly perched on a shelf in one of two upstairs bedrooms.

“It’s my time of year,” she said. She plans to put up holiday decorations slowly, from now until the end of the year.

The Satter Homestead — the Kuenzel’s lifelong love/hate passion project — at Walker and Jaycox roads, is a landmark. With stone walls inside and out, the house is a testament to its 1850s roots — a quieter time slowly swallowed by roads and traffic. For the Kuenzel’s, the homey, historic feel is well-earned.

Judy said for 13 years, she hung a wreath on a cement mixer that was constantly present. Twice, since she and her husband bought the house in 1968, they had no roof. Their two children — Penny Schaefer and Hans Kunzel Jr. — both lived at times with no floors or a roof.

“They survived and they’re tougher for it,” Judy said.

Hans brushes off some extreme living conditions they’ve dealt with over the years. Judy knows them by heart.

She remembers walking around on just the beams upstairs. Coming home to a giant hole where a fireplace would be built. Or falling through the ceiling.

“I caught myself by the elbows and got out,” Judy recalled.

“A mere flesh wound,” Hans teased her.

“You fell off the roof, too!” she reminded him.

“Oh, I slid a few feet.”

The two go on like this, egging each other on, and embracing near constant chaos.

When they moved in, standing water in the basement rose to the stairs. Also, they had no heat until November, so they used sleeping bags with little electric heaters.

“He had the vision,” Judy said.

Hans lovingly restored the home for more than 20 years. Sitting in the 25-year-old addition off the kitchen, added to accommodate his wheelchair in a handicap accessible bathroom and bedroom, he talks about the two-story house as if it’s an old friend.

Last spring, the property was designated as a historic structure through the Avon Lake Historical Preservation Commission.

Judy said her home was once a dance hall, a restaurant and candy shop. She added that there is a rumored scandalous past — “ladies of the evening” brought from Cleveland on the Lakeshore Electric Railway.

“It was a gentler time when we moved here,” she said.

Ambulance, fire and police sirens; cars honking, blaring music and even cars crashing. Traffic piling up in front of the driveway, the area is certainly no longer country.

Happy to see their labor of love completed, Judy said, “We always wanted to restore a home.”

People come up and knock on the door often.

“Can I look inside your home?” they ask.

The Kuenzels are always happy to oblige.

 

 


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