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A day in 1914

Jan Hearne • May 14, 2012 at 9:26 AM

The Great War began in Europe and Old Rosebud won the Kentucky Derby. The Boston Braves won the World Series and a postage stamp cost 2 cents. The year was 1914, and Robert and Lizzie Evans built a house on Southwest Avenue in what was then known as Stump Town.

Generations have passed away and former glories have been forgotten, but the Evans house still stands. It will be open to the public Sunday, May 20 from 1-4 p.m. at no charge to celebrate the historic Tree Streets and “a day in 1914.”

Located at 1006 Southwest Ave., across the street from Veterans Park and South Side School, the brick Four-Square style house has been completely renovated and, in parts, updated.

The open house will feature music from the era, rooms re-created to suit the style of the time, and a display of artifacts representing the early 1900s. Refreshments will be served on the breezy side porch, and visitors who attend in period dress will be eligible for a door prize drawing.

The current owners, Robert and Elizabeth Bunting, who, interestingly, share the same first names as the original owners, moved into the house last summer.

The couple, who moved from Charlotte, N.C., picked the Tree Streets for its neighborhood feel and sense of history. It may be possible the house picked them. It was love at first sight for Elizabeth, but the house did not have a “for sale” sign out front. “I wish that house were for sale,” she said when she saw it on one of her drives, scouting the neighborhood for available houses.

Though there wasn’t a sign out front, the Four Square was listed online. Three days after it went on the market, the Buntings bought it, surprising the owners who didn’t expect a quick sale in a down market.

The house was move-in ready save for a chimney damaged by the April 2011 tornado. “The kitchen was redone in 2006. They completely gutted it and started from scratch,” Elizabeth said.

They did leave the original bead board ceiling, however. For Elizabeth, the kitchen clinched the deal — the house has all the charm of an earlier time but with modern conveniences.

As for Robert, he knew as he walked up the porch steps, “this was the house for us.”

Ken Harrison, Tree Streets historian, who is providing artifacts for the open house display, said the house has its original windows, doors, oak floors and trim, except for the kitchen. The double-paned interior doors still have the original glass.

Robert Evans was an insurance agent who had an office downtown, Harrison said. When the house was built, the development was only five years old, and the area called Stump Town because the developer had cut down all the trees to make the lots even.

Evans’ home sat in an expanse of vacant, treeless lots until the neighborhood built up around it.

“Some built houses from scratch, some from kits,” Harrison said of the Tree Street homes. From 1908 to 1940, Sears and Roebuck produced kits containing mass-produced, pre-cut materials, which were delivered to the customer’s lot, and built by whomever knew “what end of the hammer to hold.”

Harrison thinks Evans’ Four-Square was built by hand, however.

The Buntings are the fifth owners of the house; it stayed in the Evans family until 1988, when Robert and Lizzie’s youngest son John had to give it up because of advancing years.

Like many old houses, the Four Square has stories to tell, including a ghost story, Harrison said, “to be revealed the day of the tour.”

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