The eye-catching small ornate window, or oculus, in the front gable of 603 6th St NW, is an arresting architectural element. The home’s decorative facade also includes dentils along the porch roof, and fish-scale shingle siding, which are classic features of the Victorian architectural style.
Historic homes like this are recognized not only for their beauty, but also for the personal narratives attached to them. The owner of this Victorian, Richard Lewis, likes to envision his home’s history and connection to its previous occupants. As he explains, "I imagine how people have sat in the living room, or dined in the dining room … people have sat in probably some of the same places, had the same conversations maybe, had children running around in the same way. And just to have a house that's as sturdy and solid as this, with generations that have come through the house … that's what you get with an older home, is you get that kind of breathing character, that life that keeps going, and it's not a one and done, it's a home that has a lot of memories stored into it, and family histories stored in it as well."
The original owner was Hamline Hurlburt Freer, a former student, professor and academic dean at Cornell College. He graduated from the institution in 1869, and went on to be broadly admired for both his generous character and his progressive approach to education. He was an early advocate for professors of higher education to receive pedagogical training. His work was recognized by The Carnegie Foundation.
The inside of this home reveals many connections to its character and the lives of former owners. When the wallpaper was removed in one of the rooms, hidden messages and drawings were discovered. The family who resided there in 1974 had listed the names and ages of “The Arnold Tribe,” including "Pebbles, the best dog in the world." Written in bold lettering are also the titles awarded to family members based on their work, “Best Wallpaper Strippers,” for example.
The home bears another story as well. At the bottom of the staircase, drilled into the newel post, is a wooden ball, known as a “mortgage ball.” Once the mortgage was paid off, banks traditionally gave this to homeowners to display as a proud sign of ownership.