Mature trees and a curving driveway give Anne and Jim Heger's English Tudor home in Wildwood Park a sense of presence, stability.
The elegant brick home, built in 1937, is part of the Wildwood Park Home and Garden Tour presented by ARCH this Saturday.
The house is quiet now, with the Hegers' four children grown and living elsewhere. But if those walls could talk, they'd tell the story of four boisterous kids tearing up and down the steps, running from room to room, and playing pingpong in the basement.
The Hegers' history with the home at 3235 N. Washington Road began in 1988 when Jim, a cardiologist, got a job in Fort Wayne, requiring the family to relocate from Indianapolis.
At the time, Sycamore Hills was just being developed, but Anne knew she wanted an older home. With four children, including a baby, “this was the only house I looked at,” she said.
Their real estate agent warned them it was in terrible shape, but that didn't deter the Hegers from buying the house, which sat on more than 2 acres of rolling property. Both tennis players, they found a spot level enough to build a tennis court. A sledding hill provided fun for the kids in the winter.
The neighborhood itself appealed to the Hegers as well, with its combination of large and small houses, winding streets, and creek that runs through it. “I'd say our neighborhood is very diverse,” Anne said.
The home had been owned by an elderly person who was bedridden, so it was somewhat neglected. Before the Hegers could move in, workers were hired to complete several projects, including removing a chair lift. The projects weren't completed by moving day; when they arrived in Fort Wayne, the house didn't even have a front door.
So the family moved into a hotel for an undetermined number of days. Jim remembers it being just two days; Anne, who was trying to entertain four young children in a motel room, remembers it being longer.
Anyway, the family soon settled in and life commenced in the big house, which they estimate to be about 3,000 square feet.
Over the years, the Hegers embarked on several major remodeling projects. They turned what had been a wet basement into a knotty-pine paneled area for games and recreation, and added a full bathroom.
Unhappy with the kitchen, they considered building a new home around 1994. They looked at property, but at the time Anne said she thought to herself, “Gosh, I really like living in the city. We both did.”
So they decided on a major remodeling/expansion project for the kitchen.
It involved knocking out a wall, rerouting a back stairway from the upstairs into the kitchen and adding a bright, sunny area for a table.
The project took nine months, during which time the kitchen was temporary moved to the basement.
One day, while Anne was doing dishes in the basement, a worker, trying not to startle her, told her to look up. There was his head, sticking through a hole in a wall from a room they never knew existed.
The Hegers speculate this underground room, with only a dirt floor, may have been a root cellar at one time. Their son had great fun down there with his friends, pretending to be miners.
Three years ago, the Hegers added a two-car, detached garage to the property so they'd finally be able to park their cars inside. The existing one-car garage is used for stowing lawnmowers and bikes.
Now empty-nesters, the Hegers like to spend time in the kitchen or on the screened porch at the back of the house, where they can watch wildlife that includes birds, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and hawks.
The tiny evergreen tree Anne's mom gave her when she and Jim got married, which got transplanted from Indianapolis, now towers over them in the front yard.
They don't have any plans yet to downsize, but sometimes when Anne is working in the yard, she thinks, “I'm ready.”
And if they decide to stay, the house will see more changes in the future. Looking at some floral wallpaper in the stairwell that has been there since they moved in, Anne says, “It's time to start over.”