A message of hope
By CONNIE O’CONNOR
Special to the OBSERVER
For nearly 10 years, one of Westfield’s most elegant homes has stood empty, beautiful but neglected and slowly deteriorating. The historic home at 120 East Main Street was built in 1868, 30 years before Dr. Thomas Welch built his first grape juice plant, and just as the new Westfield Academy was opening its doors across the street. The building was home for more than 50 years to Judge Ottaway, one of Chautauqua County’s pre-eminent leaders. In 1945 it was purchased by William and Cornelia Mollard who lived in it and operated an antique store there until it was finally sold in 2003.
The home is Italianate in design and boasts 10-foot ceilings, large scale rooms, and a carriage house. The home has now been given a new lease on life. The Herr Family has purchased it and will transform it into a family home once again.
The house is in need of many things. The kitchen has been torn off, the grounds are overgrown, and the heating, plumbing and electrical systems need to be entirely replaced.
All of this proved too much for a long line of potential buyers, but not for the Herr family. New owner David Herr is primarily a pastor, who serves the Lighthouse Christian Fellowship in Westfield and also serves as chaplain at the county jail. He and his wife Wendy have seven children, ranging in age from 26 to 12. The three oldest children currently do mission work. Two girls attend Fredonia State, a son is a student at Westfield Academy, and the youngest, Grace, is being home- schooled until she is ready for high school.
Pastor Herr is a carpenter and contractor as well as a minister and has previously completed other major house renovations. The family recently restored an 1840’s house in Andover, N.Y., after it had stood empty for 30 years. Most of the work planned for the Westfield home will be done by David and his wife Wendy, with assistance from their children and others in the community. When asked about his motivations for undertaking such a huge project, Pastor Herr provided this statement:
“This House is to be a message of Hope when dreams have died and vision is buried underneath. There is the Resurrection and Hope of Jesus Christ He can Make all things new especially our lives and our community. This house was once new. Then it became a house full of beautiful antiques. We want to restore the old, add the New and make it into something that it never was before.”
Much of the credit for this new beginning for one of Westfield’s most elegant and historic homes must go to Howard Hanna Holt agent Lisa Barber, whose persistence in marketing the property will benefit the entire community. The house had been listed on the market for more than nine years. Beautiful as the home is it was not easy to sell it is not well-suited for most types of businesses, and no one wanted to see this magnificent structure seriously altered. As a family home it poses an array of different problems there is no longer a kitchen in the house, the plumbing and electrical systems must be replaced, and many repairs and updates are needed to make it into a comfortable family home.
The Herrs have moved into an apartment across the street from their new house, anticipating that it will not be possible to live in it until at least the fall of 2014. During the fall and winter of this year they will work on the interior tearing down the ceilings while preserving adjacent moldings, then fitting in new ceilings and installing radiant heat in the floors.
The plumbing and electrical systems will be completely replaced, and next spring an addition will be built in the rear, to house a kitchen, family room and laundry, and another bedroom on the second floor of the addition. The Herrs plan to preserve and restore the main parts of the house. The original hardwood floors are largely intact. They will be covered during renovations, and then sanded and refinished when other interior work has been completed.
The family has a general goal of having the home ready for a graduation party for their 16- year-old son, who is on track to graduate from high school in June of 2015.
The Herrs seem to be just the right people to make this crumbling structure into a home once again and as Pastor Herr put it, making it into a message of hope.