Local nonprofit still fixing up ‘unusual’ house

SPRINGFIELD — Few have seen the inside of the intriguing white house on East McCreight Avenue that sits on two acres and has a cemetery and an orchard in the backyard.

But what can be seen from the street — its peeling white paint — is the last part of a restoration project that’s already cost one local nonprofit $140,000.

“It’s one of the more unusual homes in town,” said Mike Calabrese, executive director of Opportunities for Individual Change of Clark County.

OIC — which puts low-income residents on the path to self-sustainability — was given the 4,000-square-foot house belonging to the late Mary Petticrew in 2008, and started restoring it with the goal of creating a community meeting place.

“Very few people had ever been inside this house. She was somewhat of a recluse,” Calabrese said this week of the woman he described as a quiet contributor to OIC.

Inside the house, built in the late 1920s, decorative moulding conceals a theatrical lighting system controlled by a machine in the basement that mimics sunrises and sunsets.

When Petticrew died in 2008 at age 95, stepson Stanley Petticrew Jr. donated the house to OIC.

“We accepted it with mixed emotions,” Calabrese confessed, explaining that sections of the ceiling were caving in.

Since it started, OIC has reroofed the house, replaced its windows, installed air conditioning and an alternative heating system, and replastered the walls.

“We’ve just done it a little at a time,” Calabrese said. “We didn’t borrow money. We just fixed it as we could.”

An auction Thursday of the home’s remaining contents raised $13,000 for new siding to be put on this year. OIC needed $11,000 for the work, Calabrese said.

“The consultants tell us this redwood will never take paint,” he said.

The auction featured hundreds of items, from a player-piano, a pool table with leather pockets and furniture to vintage Christmas decorations, old magazines and even leftover Coca-Cola, unopened in glass gallon jugs.

“I’ll buy whatever I can today,” said Shari Knight, a Springfield antiques dealer who scored the first item of the day Thursday, a chalk statue of famed dummy Charlie McCarthy, for $35.

Calabrese was pleased with the auction results.

“These are crazy times,” he said. “You don’t know what things will bring.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0352 or andrew.mcginn@coxinc.com

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