New Castle News – November 20, 2019
A 140-year-old, once abandoned, home on the North Hill has a new look, and purpose.
After nearly a decade, Mariah Kakis and her partner, Dustin Moran, both from Arizona, have finished their renovation of the 101 E. Wallace Ave. house.
And what was once a repossessed property is now a bed and breakfast — Belladonna Inn.
The new look is attracting attention, Kakis said.
“We’ve had a lot of people appreciate the work,” she said. “We had the grandson of the original builder come to town, and he was very appreciative. He loved what we did with the house.”
Before Kakis and Moran bought the house and began construction on the historic home, they had only visited New Castle twice.
“I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it,” Kakis said. “I love the Victorian homes. My sister-in-law lives in Ohio and my family is from Ohio. Her son married someone from New Castle, and she knows I love Victorian homes, and she says, ‘You’ve gotta go check out the houses in New Castle.'”
After going online to view a few homes, Kakis contacted a real estate agent to view another house that was for sale. It turned out to be in worse condition than the Wallace Avenue house.
“It was way beyond my budget to fix it,” she said. “We’re talking half a million dollars to fix that house, minimal.”
After returning home to Arizona, Kakis began to look for other homes in the area that she could better afford the restoration. When she came back to New Castle, she met up with the real estate agent to see more houses.
“This is one of the ones she showed me, and I just fell in love with it,” she said.
The home was built in 1882 by John Wallace, who was a pharmacist.
The house, which had stayed in the Wallace family until 1986, had previously been a doctor’s office, apartments and a women’s shelter before it became vacant.
“You know, back then, houses went from father to son or daughter, well not so much daughter, but father to son,” Kakis said.
Although Moran and Kakis planned to have the house renovated and a bed and breakfast operating within two years after their purchase, the work has taken much longer than they expected.
“Everything takes longer than you think it’s going to take,” Kakis said. “When we first got here we thought, two years three years tops. That went into four years and then five years.”
“Things pop up,” Moran added.
When the pair first moved to the North Hill home, it did not have gas, electricity or running water. The roof even had two holes in it.
“They deteriorate quickly when they’re abandoned,” Moran said.
Kakis said upon moving in, the pair had three main projects they wanted to tackle: the utilities, the garage and an oak tree.
At the side entrance stands the original portico used for horse-drawn carriages. It was on the verge of collapsing due to a large overhanging tree.
“We had to find somebody to cut that tree down,” Kakis said. “That was also not so easy.”
One of the hardest challenges was locating contractors to do some of the work.
“Finding people to do renovations was probably the hardest part of this job. We did a lot of things ourselves,” said Kakis, who had experience in interior design.
One of the projects they needed to get outside help for was the roof.
“We had a slate roof, and we didn’t want to take it off. We wanted to repair it,” Kakis said. “Finding someone to do slate was like pulling teeth.”
Beyond the obvious repairs the house needed due to its age, another possible challenge were the ghostly occupants.
“We’ve had many experiences,” Kakis said.
“I was walking up the steps … and I saw a gentleman standing at the steps,” Moran said. “He was an older gentleman, tall. He had taken his jacket off. He was wearing a white shirt.”
Moran said he has seen what he believes to be Mr. Wallace on two occasions. One of which was at the top of the staircase. The other was Wallace sitting on a settee placed in the first-floor hallway.
Kakis has seen a little girl — and a gray cat.
The pair ran a coffee shop in Tucson before moving to New Castle, and Moran was also an engineer.
The home is on the corner of East Wallace Avenue and North Mercer Street and has 4,500 square feet of living space.
They began a catering business out of their kitchen, Tin City Catering, to earn the funds to pay for the repairs.
They now offer three bedrooms for rent through Airbnb under the name Belladonna Inn, meaning beautiful woman in Italian, which they believe exemplifies the newly renovated home. They will also soon open a wellness center, which will have massages, essential oils and yoga.
“If we can do it, especially somebody younger, they can do it,” Kakis said.