When Weston and Ellen Cutter moved to Fort Wayne in 2011, they weren't interested in living in the suburbs.
Ellen, who is from Chicago, and Weston, who is from the Twin Cities in Minnesota, both wanted to live in town. But they had a short period of time to shop for a home while simultaneously planning their wedding and preparing to move to Fort Wayne from Iowa.
Doing some online research, they came across a house for sale on Webster Street, in the Williams Woodland Park neighborhood. They were interested; however, “on Google View it looked like a crack house,” Weston said.
As it turned out, that's because it was being rehabbed by the owner, who was in the middle of painting the exterior, hence the rough, unkempt look.
Fast-forward a year later, and Weston and Ellen are now living in that home, along with their 2-month-old baby girl, Josephine. And their home will be featured on the Williams Woodland Park Holiday Home Tour on Saturday and Sunday.
The Cutters moved to Fort Wayne when Weston accepted a job at the University of Saint Francis. Ellen, a city planner, is a partner in a community and economic development consulting firm in Atlanta. She telecommutes.
“I have a personal and career interest in community development,” she said, adding, “because I work from home I like to be able to walk places.”
When considering where to live, they had the opportunity to talk to the president of the Williams Woodland Park neighborhood association, who talked up the neighborhood.
And then the day they went to look at the house on Webster Street — the house they eventually bought — two neighbors were sitting next door on the front porch. They struck up a conversation and learned the two were working on a petition to close the block for a party for their high school seniors.
That sense of community resonated with the Cutters, who say there are eight families similar to theirs in the neighborhood. Several neighbors are employed in architecture and the arts.
In a year's time, they've made friends, and sometimes share home projects or a beer in the evening, or go out with friends.
Both are impressed with the city's efforts to revitalize downtown but wish for more citizen involvement.
“It was really clear the community was doing everything right” in terms of downtown development, Ellen said.
They are as pleased with the house as they are with the neighborhood. Built in 1910, it had been extensively rehabbed by the previous owner, who tore out a wall to open up the kitchen to a dining area. The Cutters did some landscaping and repainting, added a fence in back, and also added some ductwork to make the baby's room warmer.
The house has three bedrooms (there were four, but a wall was removed to enlarge the master) and two-and-a-half baths. The basement is an old-fashioned cellar, good for storage and the washer and dryer, but not the type of basement that could be finished into a room.
However, the previous owner converted the third story into a nice-sized room for watching TV or pursuing hobbies. Ellen pictures turning a nook up there into a play area for Josephine when she gets older.
The Cutters intend to stay in Williams Woodland Park and eventually will enroll Josephine in a local school. Weston is interested in Fort Wayne Community Schools' Montessori program.
“We plan to raise kids here,” Ellen said.