Input Home Tours: A historic Colonial Revival filled with books, creativity, and moody lighting

While many lovers of history might dream of living in a home listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Catherine and Scott Hill and their family are making that dream a reality in Fort Wayne’s 05 neighborhood.

Their Colonial Revival home, dating to 1910, was designed by Fort Wayne’s first female architect, Joel Ninde, and built for Lincoln National’s first actuary, Franklin B. Meade. Along with its local significance, the home was later owned by television pioneer, Philo Farnsworth, from 1948-1967, landing it on the National Register in 2013.

This week, the Hills give us a tour of their historic residence, the Philo Farnsworth House, in the 730 block of E. State Blvd. complete with moody lighting and creative touches, like a kitchen table made from reclaimed bowling alley wood.

The sign from the street in front of Scott and Catherine Hill's home on E. State Blvd. marks its place on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves. How long have you lived in your home, and who do you live with?

We’re Scott and Catherine. Scott is an English Teacher at Homestead High School, and Catherine is the Client & Community Relations Director for PNC Bank. We moved into our home in August 2000 with our son Birk (17) and our daughter June (19), who is off to college in Portland, OR, now, so she’s a part-time resident.

The breakfast nook at the Hill house.

A breakfast nook in the kitchen.

Tell us about your house.

Our house was built by Joel Ninde, who was a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. It has three bedrooms, three baths, and tons of closet space, as well as built-ins and a master bathroom. These touches give us clues that Ninde was thinking about convenience and comfort when she designed this home.

The living room is filled with books and local art.

Our house was originally built for Lincoln National’s first actuary, Franklin B. Meade. He loved gardens and collected irises from around the world, so the home was called “Iriscrest” when he lived here.

A look at the Hills' garden.

What inspired you to move into this home, of all places?

It wasn’t on the market when we were looking, but our realtor got us in because he had insider info that it was about to come up for sale. We made an offer that was accepted before it ever hit the market. “Impulse buy” might be an overstatement, but it did happen very quickly.

Scott and Catherine Hill in the TV room of their home on E. State Blvd.

Tell us about your neighborhood and what you love about living there.

The Rivergreenway is three blocks South, which takes us easily to Downtown or West to the Franke Park mountain bike trail. Northside Neighborhood is an excellent walking neighborhood with nice neighbors, huge shade trees, unique homes, big front porches, Lakeside Park, the Rose Garden, and we have Northside Park literally across the street.

Plants and natural light fill the entryway patio area.

During COVID-19, at a time when so many Americans are spending more time in their homes than usual, have you found yourself making design updates to your space? If so, what are they?

The house is ALWAYS a work in progress. Our most dramatic change was painting the living room (and even the ceiling) a deep blue where it had been off-white before. We are always moving grasses and plant material around the yard, too. We also paid a lot of attention to improving the bird habitat around our house.

Interesting decor details including lighting and art in the living room of Scott and Catherine Hill's home.

How would you describe your design style?

In general, the rooms tend toward a kind of bookishly-disheveled maximalism that’s generally warm, and the walls are covered in art and plants hogging the daylight.

Books line the shelves at the Hill house.

Where do you find your design inspiration?

We love the Instagram feed for the New York Times T Magazine, blogs like Subtilitas and Convoy, magazines like Apartamento and Dwell, books featured on the shelves in the Arts and Media department at the Allen County Public Library, “Van Life” tours, The Hobbit, and The Cinder Cone—even Scott’s childhood bedroom. Oh, and we try to give a design nod to Catherine’s first boss in Fort Wayne, Barb Baekgaard (of Vera Bradley).

Creative pot and pan storage in the kitchen.

The kitchen table was created using reclaimed bowling alley wood.

Have you faced any design challenges in your current space, and if so, how did you overcome them?

Almost every room—even two of the bathrooms—has more than one doorway, and the living room has four. As a result, tucking furniture into corners is not an option simply because there are so few corners. We have found that floating furniture in the center of the room can still feel cozy and grounded.

The cozy, conversation-friendly TV room at Scott and Catherine Hill's home.

What is your favorite space in your home?

It depends on the time of day because the house’s best feature is its many old windows. The best room is the one with the sunlight making rippling shadows through the windows’ wavy antique glass. And because we have big windows and open space on all sides, we enjoy mornings in the kitchen and the nook. Then we slowly make our way toward the West side of the house as the day moves along.

Moody lighting courtesy of the wavy glass in the Hill house.

What is your favorite piece of furniture or décor in your home?

That would probably be our newest bookshelves. We designed them ourselves (one for fiction, and one as a blanket library), and our builder friend fixed our bad math to make them a reality. It’s nice to have so many of our favorite books right in front of us, so we can glance at the shelves and think, “Oh hey, that book….”

Books add pops of color to shelving in the kitchen of Scott and Catherine Hill's home.

We also love all of the artwork on our walls that we’ve purchased from Fort Wayne area artists. A few of our favorites are Nathan Ables, Jerrod Tobias, Eric Tarr, E4, David Birkey, Marie Gardeski, and Seth Harris.

Local art hangs on the wall, including family portraits from artist Jerrod Tobias in the living room.

What advice do you have for others looking to update their space in Fort Wayne? Any local shops or resources you would recommend?

We love Reclaimed Fort Wayne and House to Home for furnishings and the wonderful Young’s Greenhouse on Lake for large and unusual plants. The Honey Plant is delightful, too.

Lavender hangs from the wall.

Any fun tips or tricks for home updates on a budget?

One of the easiest ways to change the feel of a space is to concentrate on lighting. Overhead lights can make a home feel a little like a RediMed waiting room. Don’t be afraid to donate, recycle, or throw out stuff. Keeping only things in your home that make you happy is a good start.

Scott and Catherine Hill in the living room of their home on E. State Blvd.

Last, but not least, tell us what you love about Fort Wayne and why you are choosing to make your home here?

We have strong ties to family and friends here, which of course is what makes it home, but also it’s almost the perfect size for a city. It’s large enough to provide a wealth of dining, entertainment, and recreation options, but small enough that you can drive to most destinations in less than 20 minutes (a little more by bicycle). Plus, living in a big historic home like this on a large piece of property would be out of our price range in most cities, but in Fort Wayne, it’s doable.