New Neighbors in Old Houses

By on 7 July, 2016 in Karren Pell, Real Estate with 1 Comment

We are friends and neighbors here on North Lewis Street in historic Capitol Heights. We share potluck dinners, drinks on front porches, and cookouts on back decks. We look out for each other’s house, pets and, well, each other. So when Fred and Bobby delivered the news they were moving to Hazel Hedge, we were distressed. Not only were we distressed that Fred and Bobby were leaving, but of course there is some anxiety concerning whom might become the new owner of the beautiful and historic home at 103 North Lewis Street, known as the Belser House. However, I decided to put my best effort forward and write about the Belser House in hopes of attracting just the right neighbor.

The Belser House - Capitol Heights, Montgomery

The Belser House – Capitol Heights, Montgomery

Architect Richard Whaley designed many of the houses in Capitol Heights. Those of us who still live in his 100-year-old Craftsman designs appreciate the comfy spaces, the lighted rooms, the wood floors, and the big porches. Whaley designed 103 North Lewis for his family in 1908. Historian Jeff Benton said that the Belser house “is probably Montgomery’s finest Craftsman House.”  Although I do not have documentation to prove it, I believe he designed all four houses on this side of the block. If anyone has information on that, please don’t be shy about sharing. In fact, speaking of mysteries concerning Whaley, local lore has it that he moved to California. Well, California is a big state, and I have done a fair amount of research and I can’t find him anywhere. So if anyone has info on Richard Whaley feel free to let me know!

There may be questions about Whaley, but there is no question that the Belser House is one fine house. It is stucco with a high pitched roof and gables. The eves overhang the windows and keep the rooms cool in the heat of summer and protect from the winds of winter. The deep, comfortable front porch features a non-Craftsman style front door. Nonetheless, the front door’s oval beveled glass surrounded by classical molding is elegant. The first floor has a beautiful staircase to the second floor. The first floor has several comfy rooms, and a hall leading to back stairs, a new kitchen, and fabulous dining room. Guests enter the dining room through double doors. The room has a bay window, a fireplace, and a stained glass window. Oh, the fun parties we had in that room. Sigh.

Upstairs is roomy and comfortable with an open “great room,” several other rooms, and an enclosed sleeping porch. All the woodwork throughout the house is unpainted and the floors are gorgeous.

Richard Whaley sold the house to the Belser family who lived there until 1993. Neighbors living close by still remember the last Belser resident, Miss Dorothy. Miss Dorothy moved into the house after she inherited it from her husband’s two aunts. During World War I, her aunts had entertained soldiers training in Montgomery. And so, like the sisters before her, when the soldiers rolled into Montgomery to train at the bases for World War II, Miss Dorothy rolled out the red carpet. Miss Dorothy hosted many dinners in the formal dining room followed by dances in the upstairs ballroom. Streams of colored crepe paper crossed and stretched the length of the room’s ceiling and couples swayed to the big band sounds. Certainly, the soldiers, the young women of Montgomery, and their gracious hostess had a grand time.

It is a house made for grand times and for comfy stay at home night times, and for having neighbors over times. It’s just a great house for real life times. We hope the house has someone to love it and live in it again soon. We hope we have some cool new neighbors soon.  Come see it and us!

Karren Pell is a writer, teacher, and performer who lives with her husband, Tim Henderson, and an assortment of cats and dogs in Capitol Heights. She is the author of three books. Her musical compositions range from commercial songs to theatrical works, with five musical adaptations to her credit.

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  1. The Belser house is really, really fine! Someone wonderful will buy it because “like people buy like houses” and Fred and Bobby are wonderful!

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