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The Suburbanite
  • Postcard from Plain Township: 1820 house waits for life as a home

  • The brick farm house at 7995 Middlebranch Ave. NE sits on the corner at Diamond Street NE and seems to want to speak, tell stories, reveal its past.

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  • The brick farm house at 7995 Middlebranch Ave. NE sits on the corner at Diamond Street NE and seems to want to speak, tell stories, reveal its past.
    Its life is a lengthy history — it has existed since 1820, according to the Stark County Auditor’s website. The Italianate-style home, once the focal point of a family 240-acre farm, now is on about a half-acre of property, owned by John Variola.
    That farm, which once occupied both sides of Diamond, was settled in 1814 by Anthony Housel of Pennsylvania, whose wife was Mary Hoover. The Housels “were one of the more prominent farm families in the township,” notes an Ohio Historical Society inventory, made available by the property’s previous owner, Joseph Caplea.
    Caplea, Variola’s brother-in-law, had purchased the property in the mid-1980s with a partner, Neil Baasten. The two developed the adjacent outdoor soccer complex from much of the farm, and then, about 1990, Caplea purchased his partner’s share and built the indoor soccer complex.
    The home? It survived on its corner as progress surrounded it.
    “It needed a lot of tender loving care,” recalls Caplea, who has an appreciation for such homes and lives in a 100-year-old house that he has worked to restore over the years. “It calls out for someone to come in to give it that tender loving care.”
    To stem the tide of deterioration that had occurred before Caplea and Baasten purchased it, they replaced one of two furnaces, put on a new roof, and did some minor interior repairs.
    “It’s got the big, old ceilings and a brass chandelier and fireplaces,” said Caplea, who said the plumbing is intact and the electrical work was updated at some point. “The structure is there. It needs a lot of painting.”
    The age of the home still is evident by its exterior wear. A house can be vacant but a home needs to be lived in to maintain a vitality of its own.
    Bricks, once painted white, now are peeling, leaving, a mottled appearance on their surface. Some of the bricks are falling near basement windows, but most still seem sturdy enough to say, “We are dependable; clean us and we’ll stand strong.”
    Slightly weaker in structure, but still salvageable, are the home’s appendages. A trio of porches, also in need of paint, connect sidewalks to entryways. Cellar steps now are covered by two metal sheets instead of a pair of old-style wooden doors.
    Variola bought the home from Caplea a handful of years ago. Now priced at $99,900, the home is fronted by a sign that lists Ray Hanley of Diamond Realty Group as its salesman and offers a telephone number to call — 330-606-7081 — to inquire about the structure.
    Page 2 of 2 - Actually, it is four structures. Three unpainted outbuildings give the property the look of a farmhouse, sans barn. Once a shed was filled with tools, a summer kitchen was cooked in, a smokehouse was used.
    Now those buildings stand empty, save for a few political signs that have been cast aside within them.
    The house itself sits devoid of the furniture of a family. But curtains still cover most of the first floor windows, discouraging the curiosity of passersby and keeping visible the last threads the house has tying it to its past.
    This is a home that wants to speak of the activity that once took place there. It needs someone to listen.
    “We tried to fix it up so it didn’t deteriorate any more,” said Caplea. “Now all it needs is someone to come in with some TLC and make the house a home.”