Heritage Preserved: The LeVeque Farmhouse Gets Updated

In southern Delaware County, the former LeVeque farm has been modernized to accommodate a family of five.

Laurie Allen
A former aqua-colored iron stairway was repainted in black as homeowners attempted to modernize the historic dwelling.

A modern family of five is honoring the past and protecting the future of a historic Westerville home that once was a stop on the Underground Railroad and more recently was owned by the late Katherine LeVeque and her husband, Fred.

Homeowners Beth and Josh Fenton worked with Steller Construction last year to complete a major kitchen renovation and 2,900-square-foot addition to the 6,000-square-foot home, which they purchased in 2016.

“It was love at first sight,” says Beth, upon seeing the home in southern Delaware County. Not typically a fan of older homes or farmhouse style, she finds this one quite engaging. Now located at the end of a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood of high-end homes built more recently, the historic house has its own distinct style, as well as an interesting history. It was built in 1841 by anti-slavery activist Samuel Patterson and at one time functioned as a United Methodist Church in addition to being a refuge for individuals who were fleeing slavery.

Patterson often invited known abolitionists to speak at his services. His activities eventually led to the naming of nearby Africa Road. The LeVeques purchased the property as newlyweds in 1955 and added several hundred acres in subsequent years. After she spent a lifetime preserving and updating the space, as well as selling off some of the land, the last 5 acres and the home were sold after Katherine LeVeque’s death in 2014. (Columbus real estate icon Fred LeVeque died in a plane crash in 1975.)

When they purchased the home, the Fentons wanted to keep many of its original elements while making it a warm and functional space for their family of three boys, one dog and three cats. The couple, for the most part, chose not to knock down walls or long-standing features such as wooden doors and fireplaces. As a result, exposed brick walls, wood paneling and original doors and hardware add layers of intrigue that contrast with its modern updates.

Beth acknowledges the house was large to begin with but says her family “pretty much uses every room, every day.” Even most of the seven fireplaces are used on a regular basis.

The centerpiece of the renovation is the kitchen, which previously had served as the home’s dining room. The room’s original, large fireplace—believed to have been used for cooking at one time—lends a historic feel to a thoroughly modernized kitchen that now has a large island, light-colored cabinetry and top-of-the-line appliances, including a 35-cubic-foot stainless refrigerator. Because of the refrigerator’s size, “the kitchen was pretty much designed around it,” Beth notes.

White, custom cabinets feature shaker doors and sleek brass hardware that give the room a clean, modern appearance. The large, custom-stained oak island doubles as family dining space. The cabinets, crafted by Dearing Cabinetry, LLC, are at the top of Beth’s list of “favorites” in her new home. “They are so solid, and the carpenter spent weeks here, working on the little details [to achieve] perfection,” she says.

Floors are a premium, select grade of Appalachian oak hardwood finished with Mystic Taupe High Gloss stain. The color provides a lighter contrast to the slate hearth at the fireplace and flooring in the adjacent sunroom, and it solved a design dilemma. The house has various types of wood used in its original construction and the LeVeque updates. “There is so much wood in this house, there was no thought of matching it,” Beth says.

Steller also transformed what was the original galley kitchen into a butler’s pantry, a secondary messy kitchen and a family foyer, also known as the mud room. An original fireplace and door add historic character, there, but the dark and cramped feel has been eliminated and replaced with a picture window, plants and a spacious locker area featuring white cabinetry and benches.

The Fentons widened a doorway between the kitchen and sunroom, making the kitchen appear larger and filling the space with abundant light and views of the property, including a greenhouse that Katherine LeVeque added to the property. With decorative windows and a large spiral staircase, the sunroom has a conservatory feel, and is where the former lady of the house’s influence is very much present, explains Beth.

“Some of the things she did I just marvel at,” Beth says, noting a grand light fixture in the sunroom. LeVeque transformed an old gas lantern by turning it upside down and having it wired to become a functioning, one-of-a-kind statement piece. A teal-colored wrought-iron staircase with a scroll pattern of blooms and petals is another LeVeque trademark. The Fentons have updated it with black paint.

Relics from the historic LeVeque Tower appear in the solarium at the opposite end of the house. There, ornate bronze panels and metal wall decorations from LeVeque Tower elevators add visual texture and interest. With its domed glass ceiling, round windows and brick walls, the room harkens to another time and place, yet was used as the family hub during the recent kitchen renovation. It now serves as dining room and homework space.

The new, two-story addition begins near the kitchen area and includes a large, walk-in-pantry with brick accent walls; a spacious, windowed laundry room; two full bathrooms; a home office; a four-car garage; and a yoga studio. Beth, who is a yoga instructor, envisioned the space as a classroom, but the COVID-19 pandemic altered those plans. She still hopes to use it for its intended purpose but has taken advantage of its openness and light for her own practice at home.

Her husband’s office occupies the second floor, with a large, open work space and seating area. Josh, who owns a security software and consulting firm, has a “designer’s mind,” says his wife. He built a large light fixture for the domed solarium when they couldn’t find exactly what they were looking for. He also was responsible for choosing a unique light fixture in the addition’s hallway area, as well as the Dacor kitchen appliances. “He’s the true chef in the family,” she says. “When it comes to cooking, he’s the fun one.”

The couple delights in the unique touches—light sconces, a blue delft tile fireplace surround in the piano room, a demi-lune niche in the main living room—found throughout the house. Beth is especially fond of reliefs built into the brick wall surrounding the outdoor pool.

“There are so many fun little quirks here,” she says. “We love this house so much.”

One of her favorite features is the Dutch door in the family foyer, with its original hardware. “My husband keeps saying we need to get rid of [the door] because it is so drafty and not energy efficient, but I love it,” she laughs. “I’m holding out.”