New lady in town

Published 9:42 pm Wednesday, December 10, 2008

There’s a new lady in town.

The beautiful Queen Anne Victorian home at 447 W. Washington St. has been through several incarnations. It was built in 1907 by James C. Causey and his wife, Marguerite Crump, on the former site of the Suffolk Collegiate Institute. When Causey died in 1930, his widow sold the house to I. Owen Hill, who operated a funeral establishment in the home. Most recently, it was the Parr Funeral Home until about a year ago, when the business moved to its new location on Robs Drive.

That’s when “the fun stuff” started.

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Heirloom Homes purchased the building in 2005, and began renovations when Parr Funeral Home moved out a year ago. Mickey Boyette and Jennifer Seebo, along with their spouses, have worked for the past year to restore the home. It now is taking on new life as an elegant events facility, and will host an open house Thursday-Saturday this week.

As they were restoring the house, Boyette and Seebo realized they couldn’t sell it – for numerous reasons.

“If we sold it, it was probably going to end up a law office,” Boyette said. “We kinda fell in love with the building as we were doing it.”

The home was restored as closely as possible to the way it looked when the Causeys owned it.

“The trick to these old homes is not to modernize it,” said Boyette, who has done many renovations over the years. “You actually go backwards.”

Boyette and Seebo said they got incredibly lucky when they bought the building. Most old homes have to have many months of repair work before they can even start doing the inside, Seebo said.

The old Parr Funeral Home, however, needed hardly any repair work. They were able to start right away on what Seebo calls “the fun stuff.”

“This was such a fun project because we have such a passion for the artwork and detail and craftsmanship,” she said.

Boyette and Seebo, along with Seebo’s husband Britt and daughter Elizabeth, did all the work themselves. They cleaned the original leaded windows, painted the inside and outside, ripped up carpet, refurbished the wood floors, removed an old pipe organ, redid the wall behind where the organ was, converted a closet into a bathroom, and much, much more.

Through it all, there was a surprise around every corner.

They found doors – no longer usable – inside walls. They had to patch holes in the floor where radiator vents once were. Another hole in the floor dated back to when the Causey family owned the home. It housed a button, located under the dining room table, that the lady of the house could press with her foot to call the maid.

The 8,800-square foot structure, which includes 17 rooms, four full bathrooms, two half bathrooms and a service area, is ideal for formal events, Boyette and Seebo said. The two envision weddings, receptions, anniversary parties, reunions, birthday parties, holiday celebrations and more in the building’s future.

Already, the building has hosted several events. It was the location of Mayor Linda Johnson’s victory party on Nov. 4, and also has hosted a bridal tea party and other smaller events.

Several aspects of the building lend themselves to the perfect wedding, Seebo said.

The chapel, which is the former dining room of the house, can seat about 100 people. A slightly raised stage at the front would be perfect for the minister and bridal party. An elegant set of stairs leads directly to the “bridal dressing room,” which includes a couch and several chairs, a full bathroom and plenty of room for the entire bridal party to get dressed. A bride also could have her reception there, Seebo said. Although The First Lady doesn’t do catering, they will be happy to recommend a caterer or accommodate the bride’s choice, Seebo said.

“If I were a bride, I’d want my wedding here,” she said.

For smaller, more intimate events, a formal parlor with a gas fireplace and plenty of sitting room is perfect for teas or small get-togethers, Seebo said. And although the third floor is not refurbished yet, its cozy rooms and view of the surrounding area would be perfect for a little girl’s birthday party, she said.

“The size of the rooms is perfect for that.”

Boyette said he is pleased with the building, and looks forward to the many uses of the unique facility. He’s also the one who came up with the building’s name.

“Queen Anne Victorian homes are usually known as ladies,” he said. “With it being on West Washington Street, The First Lady was perfect.”

Events at The First Lady range from $345 to $1,895, depending on the day and time of day. However, Boyette said the restoration process was reward enough for them.

“It’s like putting jewelry on a lady.”

The open house begins tonight at 4 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., enjoy homemade goodies while listening to special entertainment, “Home for Christmas with Elvis.” The celebration will continue Friday and Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. All open houses are open to the public. For more information, call 646-5152 or 646-5152.