The house at 2628 Broadway does more than whisper Look at me!
It’s a Queen Anne, painted in tan accented by cream and maroon, and it sports enthusiasms befitting its late-Victorian era: a wrap-around front porch held up by triple columns and accented with carved garland trim; a massive carved-oak front door with leaded glass sidelight panels; and a huge front bay window.
It’s a life-size version of many a little girl’s idea of a perfect dollhouse, and it’s Linda Burrell’s idea of home.
Burrell and her husband, Robert, a Fort Wayne insurance broker known to friends and customers as Gus, bought the property in 1986 when it was suffering from many years of neglect.
They’ve been restoring – and re-restoring – ever since, while furnishing the house with Linda’s well-scavenged collection of antiques.
Well, I guess every old house is always a work in progress, says Linda, 52. We’re not finished yet.
Nonetheless, a lover of Victoriana can cast a gaze toward any corner of the house’s interior and find something interesting on which to rest.
Look at me! says the ornate Moroccan-style brass chandelier in the entry, likely original. No, look at me! says the parquet flooring, its pattern varying by room, revealed when worn wall-to-wall carpeting was pulled up.
And look at me! says Burrell’s collection of Eastlake furniture, which includes a settee, chairs, washstand and a burled-maple secretary desk. With a curved, slide-back cover and overtopping glass-doored bookcase, the piece is a prized heirloom from her husband’s family.
Burrell says she hasn’t had a particular scheme in mind when selecting pieces for the house. She buys what she likes, puts them where they seem to fit and sometimes forgets their origin.
A lot of these pieces are from auctions, and we would go to so many auctions in a year, I don’t remember which one I got something from, she says.
For the first few years in the house, Burrell adds, she and her husband lived upstairs while the front rooms downstairs served as the office for Robert’s insurance business.
The arrangement was convenient because of the house’s unusual layout. Instead of being laid out in a linear fashion – living room, dining room, kitchen – each room has a smaller, companion room next to it, with most of the rooms separated by pocket doors.
When their family grew – the Burrells have three children, Zachary, 24, Natalie, 19, and Nick, 17 – the couple decided they needed the whole house, which has five bedrooms. Gus moved his business to East State Boulevard.
It’s a little difficult to decorate this house because it’s a lot of small rooms, Linda says, adding she hasn’t been able to figure out all the rooms’ original uses.
But she’s turned the spaces to advantage, converting a room off a central room between the living room and dining room into a comfy TV lair and making the kitchen’s companion room – once a butler’s pantry, perhaps – into a country-style breakfast room.
She painted the walls a cheerful yellow and added antique oak table and matching chairs, a distressed wooden cupboard and vintage tablecloths.
Burrell says she hasn’t yet touched the contemporary-style kitchen installed by a previous owner. She also hasn’t started a project she’s been hankering to do – tearing out paneling in the living room that apparently covers a fireplace, considering the beautiful green tiling still in the floor and an old picture of the house that shows a large mantel.
I don’t know where that mantel is or why they covered it all up, she says. I’d like to find out.
Thanks to research done by city preservationist Creagher Smith, however, Burrell does know a little bit about the home’s first owner. Charles Gale, with his wife, Mary, built the house around 1903.
Gale is listed in city directories from 1904 through 1917 as a wholesale merchant of wines and liquors. But in 1920, he and his family are listed as boarders at a nearby house; Burrell suspects Gale may have lost the house when his business fortunes were quashed by Prohibition, ratified in 1919.
So, when she saw a corkscrew with the name of Gale’s business on it listed at an auction, she was so determined to bring it home that she was willing to bid it up to nearly $100.
I didn’t care what it cost – it was mine. It belonged here, she says.