Ole Johnson finished building his house at 2220 S. Woodward St. in 1885 - he displayed the date just under the peak of the roof line - but it has been through quite a few incarnations since then.
Today the warm and welcoming house, to be featured in the Saturday, Sept. 8, Bay View Tour of Homes, is owned by Michael and Cassandra Kadlec, but traces of those who once lived there still remain.
Just under the "1885" date on the gingerbread-trimmed exterior facing the street, for example, is the date "1994." That's when a prior owner moved in and began doing extensive renovations on the home.
"Before he bought it, it was a boarding house and it fell into disrepair," Michael said.
By the time Michael and Cassandra purchased the home about four years ago, its 13 rooms had been given new life.
Secrets of an old house
Like many Victorian-era homes, this one has its endearing quirks.
Push on a panel in the dining room and the panel pivots to reveal the entrance to a "secret passageway," which is actually the home's back staircase.
"Kids like it," Cassandra said.
It's also perfect for grown-ups who want to amaze family and friends. When some friends of the Kadlecs and their children were visiting, Michael stole down the back stairway, pushed the panel open and suddenly appeared in the dining room.
"He came right through the wall!" one of the children said.
"They spent the next three hours running up and down the stairs," Michael said.
Making the most of a home
The back stairway leads upstairs to an airy, Zen-inspired master bedroom, where the Kadlecs' 18-year-old black cat, Biko, loves to lounge. Cassandra said she purchased one of the serene Asian paintings in the room from the Future Green shop on South Kinnickinnic Avenue. Two other examples of Asian art in the room were discovered at a Kinnickinnic Avenue antique shop.
Although the home is old, there is plenty of room for storage, thanks to the armoires installed by a prior owner and a loft-like space in the attic of the house.
In the winter months, there is a bit of a lake view from the bedroom's east window, Cassandra said.
In the summertime, though, the Kadlecs like to sit in their backyard and watch fireworks from the South Shore Frolic, Summerfest and Festa Italiana, she said.
One of the too-good-to-miss features of the Kadlec home is its hardwood floors, done in basket weave and unusual parquet patterns.
"Because it's an old house, the floors are not completely level," Michael said. In one of the rooms, he added, the floor is particularly uneven. Being in that room, he said, "is kind of like being in a Tilt-a-Whirl."
Just atop the home's main staircase is a comfortable library lined with books and inviting places to plop down and read them.
In love with neighborhood
During the Bay View Tour of Homes, original works of art by a member of the Bay View Arts Guild will be on exhibit in one of the upstairs rooms, which the Kadlecs use as home office and studio.
Just down the hall, a spacious upstairs bath features a claw foot tub, which Michael painted to match the cheery blues and yellows of the room's décor.
Cassandra said when she and Michael were looking for a house, they visited 15 homes in one day. This was the last one they saw during the marathon.
What sold them? Cassandra fell in love with the updated kitchen and the sunroom, where her collection of plants is now thriving.
"When we walked in here, it was like, we could do so many things with this house," she said.
What clinched the deal, however, was the feeling they had about living on South Woodward Street.
"We were smart enough to walk around the neighborhood," Cassandra said. "There were about four major renovation projects going on here on this block."
When some of the neighbors stopped to talk with them on that first walk, the Kadlecs were impressed.
"Everybody (in the neighborhood) looks out for each other," Cassandra said.
Michael said the urban setting has another major advantage - a lot of good things are a short walk away, like "a really good cup of coffee, or homemade sausage and a bookstore, and for the most part, it's all local."
Nan Bialek can be reached at email@example.com or (262) 446-6632.
Take the tour
WHAT: Bay View Tour of Homes
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8
WHY: benefit for the Bay View
Community Center, 1320 E. Oklahoma Ave.
HOST: Fuel Milwaukee, a group of young professionals affiliated with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
NEW: "Art in the Homes," coordinated by the Bay View Arts Guild, puts guild member's work on exhibit in homes on the tour.
• 2425 S. Superior St.
• 2828 S. Pine St.
• 2070 S. Mound St.
• 701 E. Lincoln Ave.
• 316 E. Stewart St.
• 2220 S. Woodward St.
• 2121 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
• the garden at 3117 S. Vermont Ave.
WHAT'S MORE: The lineup includes new construction, renovation projects and a home that is a century old. Among the features in the homes are a secret passageway, an outdoor spiral staircase and Italianate tile floors.
TICKETS: $12.50 in advance and $15 on the day of the tour; purchase at the Bay View Community Center or by phone at (414) 482-1000.
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