If homeowner Sam Tornabene looks left or right from the front portico of 5116 Worth St., all he’ll see is a line of porches. Most of the homes on the tree-dense Munger Place street feature Prairie-style architecture (including the porches), but Tornabene’s 1909 Neoclassical home stands out with six demilune porches and Corinthian columns. The scene, he says, is idyllic. “It’s just very comforting when you drive up to it and see the beautiful columns and porches.”
The Munger Place Historic District was established in 1905 as the city’s first deed-restricted neighborhood. Houses had to sit 40 feet back from the street and have water, electric, and gas hookups in the back. The homes had to be two stories and cost at least $2,000, according to the Munger Place Historic District Association.
While it’s been updated and the patio flooring has been replaced, Tornabene says the exterior of his house looks the same as it did 113 years ago. They have photos of the property from just after World War I, as the neighborhood’s kids returned from the fighting, he says. “The house has a flag prominently displayed in front of it, but the facade is the same as it was in these pictures from 1918 and 1919.”
The interiors, however, are another story. In the 1950s, like many other homes in the neighborhood, the house was turned into a multi-family property. A triplex, Tornabene suspects, based on the zoning and three heating and cooling systems. By the ‘60s and early ‘70s, the neighborhood had fallen into disrepair.
Then, famed chef Jean Claude Prevot, of the Jean Claude’s restaurant at the corner of Maple and Cedar Springs, bought the property. In the early ‘80s, he converted the house back into a single-family residence, completely overhauling the interiors. He kept much of the historic character, but it’s very much a chef’s home, Tornabene says. There’s a wet bar in the primary suite. There’s access in the back of the home for catering to come in and, natch, a large kitchen.
As a result, Tornabene isn’t sure which interior details are original. The layout certainly isn’t. The rooms are too big, he says. But the new floor plan is primed for modern living. “On the first floor, you can pretty much walk in a circle,” he says. The downstairs rooms flow easily into one another, making crowd control during parties a breeze. On the second floor, the guest rooms are separate from the spacious four-room primary suite. And the home has plenty of nooks and crannies perfect for holiday decorating. They’ll put up three or four Christmas trees, Tornabene says. “You can do a lot of things that just make it magical.”
Tornabene loves living in a historic home—”knowing that history makes you feel more in touch with the house”—but after 10 years, he says it’s time to move on. “We will be sorry to leave this house,” he says. “It’s been such a great place to live.”
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