NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – An old Niles house in one of its oldest neighborhoods has been bought and restored by a man whose only link to the house was his ancestry. Not only was the outside cleaned up, but the inside was furnished much like it may have been in the 1930s.
In a Niles neighborhood of homes built over 100 years ago, the Pela House at 611 Fenton Street stands out because of its teal siding, gold trim and multi-colored porch. But it’s inside where owner Robrt Pela has worked to preserve the past.
“This would have been my great grandparents’ bedroom, and then it was my grandparents’,” Pela said.
Pela is the fourth generation of his family to own the house, which was built in 1897. It was bought by his great-grandfather around 1920.
“It was one of those houses that just kept getting handed down,” Pela said.
But in 1970, the house was sold, and for 30 years was a rundown rental, until Pela returned in 2000 and found it for sale.
“The fellow who lived next door said, ‘Well, I’m going to buy it and tear it down and just pave the lot and park my cars there,’ and I thought, ‘No, you’re not,'” Pela said.
Despite living in Phoenix most of his life, Pela took on the task of totally renovating the house, making the inside look like the 1930s.
“Don’t you think it looks kind of silly when you go into a house that was built in the ’40s and you get past the front door and everything looks like last year?” Pela wonders.
Check out the kitchen — the sink and the stove — where on the shelves there’s an Isaly’s container and an old can of Zud. In the living room, there’s an antique radio. In the bedroom, there’s a vintage brush and shoe horn.
There are family pictures everywhere of his great-grandparents, his grandmother and his father as a young boy. A woman on the couch holding a baby in one of the pictures was his mother.
“She’s just come home from the hospital in 1951 and she’s sitting right here,” Pela said.
Except for the front porch and foundation, the floors in the bedroom and a lone piece of trim to show how bad things were, everything else was replaced.
The plan is to leave the house to the Trumbull County Historical Society as an example of everyday people.
“Just ordinary people, working-class people — barbers and shopkeepers and carpenters, and this is how they lived,” Pela said.
Pela said it was his plan, from the day he bought it, to restore the house to look like the 1930s. He calls himself a preservationist. In fact, since buying the Niles house, he has also preserved a 1960s condo in downtown Phoenix and a 400-year-old house in the south of France.