Inside Three Historic Bexley Homes

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Bexley's tree-lined streets and stately homes speak to the suburb's past. The enclave, located only a few miles from Downtown, is where families used to move to escape the crowded hustle of the big city. Bexley was incorporated as a village in 1908, and while the area isn't as rural as it once was, it still lures families with its natural beauty and friendly atmosphere.

When one such family (who wished not to be identified) was looking to move from German Village, they considered places like Grandview and Marble Cliff, but when those two neighborhoods didn't pan out, they looked into other options.

"We support public schools and wanted an area where our kids could ride bikes," the wife says. So, when their sons were 7 and 10, the family relocated to Bexley.

Fortunately, the couple had plenty of experience with historic homes. In the 31 years they have lived in Columbus, they have remodeled three homes in German Village, plus their current abode in Bexley. They worked to preserve the character of their home, and embraced a few surprises along the way.

When the family moved into their Bexley abode 11 years ago, they discovered something unusual and somewhat magical.

The wife went to the house immediately after the closing. She was in the kitchen when she saw something she hadn't noticed before-the outline of a door casing. "I ran upstairs to see where it led. I saw a door with a diamond-shaped window in it with a button on the wall next to it. It was an elevator!"

As it turns out, the elevator door had been dry-walled upstairs, but the casing on the first floor wasn't entirely covered, and it was clear something was there. She called the home's former owners to inquire about the elevator, and they told her it had been decommissioned years before. "They thought we'd be angry, but we were excited," she says. She then called the same company that had decommissioned the elevator, and the same man who had put the elevator out of service came to bring it back to life.

The elevator, which has a weight limit of 650 pounds, is adorned with wood paneling that lends an art deco feel. Beyond its novelty, it has come in handy over the years when family members suffered injuries or needed surgery by making it easy to travel between floors.

The neo-classical home, built in 1920, offers nearly 5,800 square feet of living space. "When we bought the house, there was a huge hedge in the front, and you couldn't see the house from the street," the husband says. "The people who lived here before us had been here 30 years. The house has fantastic bone structure because they hadn't done a thing. It was in a blank, pristine historic state." The home underwent extensive renovations lasting six months when the family moved in.

"Everything was done from top to bottom with respect to the history of the house," the wife adds. "We believe we are caretakers of the house and have to balance the period of the house with our own needs. Houses have a language, and we like to respect that."

The couple fell so in love with the generous size of their home's lot, an unusual finding in Bexley, they didn't pay much attention to how much work was required to the home's interior. "Every wall covering, every door knob … it just multiplied," the husband says. "We didn't truly understand how much work was needed."

And the couple wasn't done renovating their home after the initial six-month project. Despite the house's generous size, its kitchen was small and cramped. They enlarged it and added a built-in dog feeding and water station in the new mudroom. A funky Aga stove became the focal point of the kitchen. The double-broiler convection oven pairs modern convenience with an antique appearance. Counter seating at the maple butcher block island that sits mid-room offers casual space to sit and chat, as does the oversized cozy chair in the kitchen's corner.

The couple agrees Bexley proved to be the right place for them to have raised their sons. "It's a small community where it's easy to tie in and find connections, whether that means being involved in the school system or riding in Bexley's Pelotonia team," the wife says.

When Scott Razek was growing up in Bexley in the late '70s and early '80s, he used to ride his bike past a particular house and wonder what it was like inside. Little did he know that years later, he would end up living in that house.

Scott and wife Kara have been married for 14 years and have a high-school-aged son. They bought their current home in the northern part of Bexley in 2006. When Kara, a native of Kansas City, Kansas, was a student at the Columbus College of Art and Design, she too would drive by the house and admire its beauty. As fate would have it, she eventually met and married a Bexley native who had also fancied the house his entire life.

Scott's father called to give him the inside scoop that Scott's dream home would soon be for sale. As often happens in Bexley, the Razeks toured the house before the listing even hit the market and fell in love with the inside as well as the exterior.

Kara describes the home as "a storybook cottage with unnecessary architectural quirks." But, she says, those oddities are intrinsic to the home's beauty and character.

The couple has renovated the home extensively while still honoring the unique architecture. For example, when the Razeks' architect discovered an unused cone-shaped attic space above their kitchen table, the couple asked their design team to capitalize on it. They broke into the space and installed hand-hewn wood beams in the castle-like spiral ceiling. Shelves displaying family mementos, including art pieces created by their son Miles in his younger years, adorn the shelves around the table.

The home's stone exterior and reclaimed terra cotta roof tiles (they date to the late 1800s) also add to the home's charm. Kara's favorite room in the home is the kitchen. "I like the cheerfulness of the room and love to see the activity on the street," she says. Scott, meanwhile, favors the living room, which features a large wood-burning fireplace and artwork by Kara. A stately wooden desk commands attention and beckons guests to sit and ponder.

Scott says he never added up exactly how much the updates cost the couple. "We built it with the intention of never moving again, so we over-improved it," he says. Kara agrees, but feels it was well worth it to create their dream home. "We'll never get our money out of it, but we are enjoying it more than we even imagined."

"As soon as I walked into the house, I knew it was for us," says Linda Reister, who has lived in her Bexley home with husband Fred for 30 years. The home is thought to date back to the 1880s, and it is believed the Reister home, one of three farmhouses built close to one another, once provided local residents with fresh foods and served as a foundation to nearby Capital University.

Originally, the home had just four rooms, but extensive additions have expanded its footprint to include four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and a powder room. However, Linda says the historic charm of those original rooms is still evident in the home. For example, an intimate front room that was the home's living room still welcomes guests to its cozy confines.

In fact, the front room proved especially valuable in 1990, when a fire in an upstairs bedroom caused enough damage to require the couple's daughter to move out of it temporarily. "It was dead of winter. We stayed in that front room with the fireplace on," Linda says.

At the time, the family had just completed the home's first renovation project, and while the fire had been contained to the one room, the entire building sustained extensive smoke damage.

The kitchen had just undergone its first update, and the couple had a screened-in porch enclosed. Other renovations followed. In 2004, the couple installed granite countertops in the kitchen and added a family room just two steps away from the kitchen. Family heirlooms and Fred's favorite chair adorn that room.

The Reisters love to garden, which is immediately evident in their corner lot. When the couple moved in and Fred removed voluminous landscaping to make room for a new garden, neighbors jokingly asked whether the couple had just moved the house there from elsewhere, Linda says.

Even though their daughters are grown and out of the house, the Reisters say they still love the neighborhood. With its close proximity to Downtown and its various cultural offerings, Bexley provides plenty to keep the couple busy. They patronize neighborhood eateries and shops within walking distance of their home and enjoy watching movies at the nearby Drexel Theatre.

Fred and Linda also enjoy the "porch chatter" that so often occurs when they sit outside on their inviting front porch. Neighbors walking by often stop to chat. "When we moved here in 1985, we were the youngsters of the neighborhood," Linda says. "We are close-knit neighbors who watch out for one another. That feeling of community has enriched our lives.