Airbnb Tour: This mid-century house pays homage to the 1978 film “Animal House”

The Summit City is making a name for itself as a tourist destination. Last year, the city made Better's international list of five of the best places to visit in 2022 as an up-and-coming Midwestern town. So if you’re visiting where do you stay?

Fort Wayne is home to many hotels, including a boutique hotel Downtown, but some visitors are choosing to live like the locals do through Airbnb rentals. With more than 300 Airbnbs listed online, ranging from high-end carriage houses Downtown to rustic cabins in the woods, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Dining room details in a Fort Wayne Airbnb, which is a recreation of Fawn Liebowitz's childhood home from the movie "Animal House."This week we’re exploring the inspiration behind a 1958 ranch house on the North side of Fort Wayne, Fawn Liebowitz's 1958 Childhood Home. The property creatively pays homage to the movie “Animal House,” Summit City history, and 1960s Americana.

Owner Mike Kelly sits down with Input Fort Wayne to tell us more.

Input Fort Wayne: Tell us about yourself.
Mike Kelly: I’m Mike Kelly, owner of manufacturing company Caliente, LLC, and now owner of four Airbnb's, including the Fawn Liebowitz Home. They are managed by Jeremy Kirkwood of Kirk Hous Properties, LLC.  I grew up an hour north of Fort Wayne and moved here in 1995, and Jeremy came from North Carolina. 

Property owner Mike Kelly, in the living room of his Fort Wayne Airbnb, which is a recreation of Fawn Liebowitz's childhood home from the movie "Animal House."IFW: How would you describe your Airbnb?
MK: Due to the mid-century modern architecture, the house has a very Mad Men vibe, but we also pay homage to “Animal House” with easter eggs throughout, and the city of Fort Wayne circa 1962, when the movie was set.

I’ve always loved mid-century modern homes, so it was fun looking at different options. But it was also important that the property have amenities that guests want, like a working kitchen, outdoor space, and multiple beds. 1654 Colony Drive was a perfect match for what we were looking for.

Given that it celebrates a unique Fort Wayne story, it’s a fun getaway for a date night or for those who want a glimpse into what it would be like to step back to the 1960s. The location is also perfect for heading Downtown for dinner and entertainment.

The office area features a colorful room dividing wall.IFW: Your Airbnb is called the Fawn Liebowitz Home, an ode to the 1978 film “Animal House.” What inspired that connection?
MK: We were joking about the movie’s tie to Fort Wayne and what Fawn’s house might look like. Then I thought, “That’s a great idea for an Airbnb.”

Fawn Liebowitz was an unseen character from the movie. We only know that she was: 
  1. From Fort Wayne, Indiana, 
  2. Was killed in a tragic kiln explosion, and 
  3. She and her friends were into folk music, modern art, and civil rights. 
That gave us largely a blank slate to craft what would have been her childhood home.

The coffee mug in the kitchen is from the movie "Animal House."IFW: How would you describe the design style of your Airbnb?
MK: The house is the epitome of the mid-century modern ranch, built in 1958.

IFW: What is your favorite space on the property?
MK: There are several– the living room is California cool with its warm wood planked ceiling, the kitchen with original mint green cabinets, the tangerine orange dining room with requisite bar cabinet, and the Cherokee red den/office with the multicolored room divider.

Dining room details in a Fort Wayne Airbnb, which is a recreation of Fawn Liebowitz's childhood home from the movie "Animal House."IFW: How long did it take you to renovate the house?
MK: It took about two months. We were intentional about keeping much of the original character of the house while modernizing it a bit. It was a challenge finding new carpet that looked like it was from the 60s, but think we hit the mark there as well. The main challenge was how to artfully blend the three main elements of the movie– the mid-century modern feel, and the odes to 1960s Fort Wayne and Jewish history.

Living room details in a Fort Wayne Airbnb, which is a recreation of Fawn Liebowitz's childhood home from the movie "Animal House."IFW: In addition to your space, do you offer any other perks to guests at your property?
MK: As part of the Fawn experience, we created a scavenger-treasure hunt quizstravaganza for our guests. It features 10 questions that take them from room to room, with props and questions from the movie, that ultimately lead to a prize hidden in a secret location.

IFW: How long have you been managing properties on Airbnb, and what made you decide to give it a try?
MK: Most of the houses have gone live within the past few months. The inflection point was finding the right manager - Jeremy has been a fantastic partner.

One of the bathrooms features interesting lights and details.IFW: What has your host experience been like so far?
MK: The host experience has been great so far and the feedback has been great. There are a lot of fine and functional Airbnbs out there, but this one oozes character!

IFW: What makes Fort Wayne a great place to live and visit?
MK: Jeremy and I both appreciate Fort Wayne for its Midwest hospitality and work ethic, fantastic local food, vibrant trail systems, and affordable housing that has made for an excellent investment.

One of the bedrooms features green accents and art.
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Read more articles by Brittany Smith.

Brittany Smith is Input Fort Wayne's Managing Editor. Previously she served as Assistant Editor and participated in the College Input Program. She also volunteers for Northeast Indiana Public Radio.