The Streissguth House, built in 1903, will be back by popular demand.
The Streissguth House, built in 1903, will be back by popular demand.

Lenny Rich became the owner of a stately but derelict home very visible to anyone passing by on Monroe’s Main Street when he was just 26 years old.

He had promised himself he wouldn’t purchase a house that needed work in more than two rooms, and had hoped for a modest rambler. He took out a loan to cover the costs of ripping out moldy windows and worn carpet throughout the two-story structure. The kitchen was remodeled, the exterior repainted and a rotting cedar tree had to be cut down.

“Every single day I questioned it,” Rich said laughing.

These days the 28-year-old says he doesn’t regret a thing.

The public will have the chance to inspect his handiwork during the Monroe Historical Society’s third annual Historic Homes Tour 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 28.

A half dozen other historic and vintage homes will be open and on display in addition to Rich’s home. The event will go on rain or shine.

“Spend a Saturday touring some of Monroe’s beautiful old homes and meet some of the dedicated owners who are committed to restoring and preserving them,” according to a historical society news release.

The event has previously been held in the fall. During its 2016 inaugural year, more than 200 people turned up at the former Monroe City Hall building at 207 E. Main St., the site of the historical society’s headquarters and museum. Tickets for the tour will be sold at the museum at $15 per person.

MHS board president Tami Kinney said poor weather likely affected the numbers during the second tour, but she thinks it was still a huge success. This time around the group of volunteers decided to schedule the tour so the community can also see the flourishing gardens and landscaping projects homeowners have taken on, she said.

Back by popular demand this year is the Streissguth House, built in 1903 at 522 S. Lewis St. Wendy Keene and Tim Schultz renovated the home.

The couple has redone the backyard and carried out other exterior projects in the past year. The outside of the iconic home received a fresh coat of paint, and the garden’s fence was repurposed, according to the release. They put in new sod, designed walkways using repurposed materials, added plants and put a new pump in the pond.

“Inside, Wendy added an antique pump organ to the entry, where a grand piano stood for years during the Streissguth’s ownership, a vintage desk and other items,” according to the release.

Original features have been kept intact throughout many of the homes.

That includes the Dishmaker House, “one of Monroe’s most well-known and loved landmarks,” according to the release. George Dishmaker built the home in 1928. Jeff and Kristie Amsberry, owners of Monroe’s Amsberry Painting, have most recently taken over maintenance.

Flooring, woodwork, tiled surfaces and the greenhouse are all the same from when it was first built, according to the historical society.

Rich’s renovations included refinishing the original fir floors, painted molding white, and turning the old barn into a shop, which was infested with rats and filled with garbage when he moved in.

“This four-bedroom home features a wrap-around porch with turned columns,” according to the release. “Inside the front door is an elegant foyer, with a curved stair railing leading your eye up to the second floor.”

Once much of the work was done, his mother went to the historical society museum to see if she could find any information on the home. Shortly after, Kinney showed up at Rich’s doorstep and talked to him about getting involved in the homes tour.

Rich said she was so kind and enthusiastic that he couldn’t turn her down. And the idea intrigued him.

“I want to see somebody else’s house too, so it’s only right,” he said.

Kinney said it is rare that younger homeowners will commit to such a massive undertaking. Rich said he is proud to have one of the oldest homes on Main Street. He said he has seen a number of older houses torn down in the city, and hopes that will change; that more historic structures will be saved.

All of the proceeds from the homes tour will go toward operating the historical museum, Kinney said. The museum is open noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is free to the public.

The organization is run entirely by volunteers, Kinney said. Fundraisers like the tour allow the dedicated group to make all the resources available to the public without charge, which remains an important goal of theirs, she said.