Walking into the gorgeous home of John and Lynn Nicholson on the corner of Ann and 13th Streets in Parkersburg is to encounter the perfect blending of historic charm and modern comfort and functionality. And the beauty of it for the Nicholsons is that they didn’t have to do tons of work to make it that way. What little work they needed to do was cosmetic. Already lovers of antiques and all things historic, the furnishings they owned all felt like they were made for the cozy yet deceptively sprawling space.

According to the official brochure of Julia-Ann Square, the house, known as the Leach-Mallory-von Westerholt House, was built circa 1840. Lynn stated that the living room is in the “new” part of the house. New is a relative term, obviously, since it was added around 1860. Undoubtedly the most memorable owner throughout the years had to be Anna Leach who, in the words of the district’s brochure, “considered herself a part of New York Society…” She is alleged to have been the mistress of the famous author Jack London, though that has not been confirmed. Another entertaining legend about her is that she wrote a steamy semi-autobiographical novel intended to blow the lid off of Parkersburg’s upper crust. No such volume has ever been found, however.

As we sat and visited in the living room, light flooding in from the bay window behind me, the couple told me the amusing tale of how they came, almost accidentally, to buy the house. Ironically enough, they had already gone through the process of renovating a fixer-upper, John’s family home. They had spent so much time and money on the house that family and friends constantly asked if they were planning to sell the place. Lynn, sitting beside the fireplace that instantly became her favorite spot over the winter months, recounted how she had often told John she wanted to move into a historic home, to which John would always jokingly replied that she could move there with her next husband. John said he would never sell the family house unless his brother was the one who bought it and they both agreed that it would take an awfully special place to get them to even consider it.

And special it was. Lynn, a confessed realty site junkie, showed John a picture one Friday of a lovely pink house right in the heart of the district. “I showed it to him as a joke. I said, ‘I found it.’” She didn’t realize how much he would like it too. It had, they discovered, been on the market for nearly two years and the owners, burned by two failed sales already, were only interested in showing to serious buyers. They were serious enough to take a tour on Saturday, which convinced them to offer to sell the family home to his brother the very next day. John’s brother and his wife said they would be happy to buy the place, so, after one last tour just to make absolutely certain, the Nicholsons put in an offer early the next week.

As we wandered around the place, which honestly does seem to go on forever, everywhere we looked was something that triggered an affectionate story from Lynn. One shelf contains memories of her beloved father. His WVU beanie and tie are accompanied by a photo of him on a fishing trip, wearing his trademark hat. The desk and cabinets in the library, again appearing to have been built to live exactly where they were, are also family heirlooms.

All of the people who live in Julia-Ann Square seem to take seriously the idea of promoting the area as the true gem of the city.

A happy surprise to the Nicholsons was that they didn’t just get a house. They were blown away by just how friendly the neighbors are. In good weather, it is their habit to take a walk every evening, and the first time out, they were welcomed to the neighborhood by nearly everyone. All of the people who live in Julia-Ann Square seem to take seriously the idea of promoting the area as the true gem of the city. Walk by with a brochure from the district, said John, and you are likely to be invited in to at least one house for an impromptu tour.

One of the reasons they were just a tiny bit hesitant about moving was that they were afraid their two adult children, Kelly and Alex, wouldn’t like the idea of their folks moving out of the family home. To their great relief, Alex stated that the new place felt more homey than their previous house. So, with the blessing of the children, John and Lynn are happily living in the place they both seem comfortable with being in for the rest of their lives.

X