Gary and Cathy Edwards are not new to saving old homes, so when they spied the three-story historic brick home located at 615 W. Broadway Blvd., they kept their eye on it, finally purchasing it in March 2014.
“One house that we did in Festus made the front page of the (St. Louis) Post-Dispatch,” Gary Edwards, who is the Sedalia city administrator, said. “It just so happened, that we were selling the house, and the day of the open house it made the front page of the Post-Dispatch. We had 200 people go through the house because of the article. We like old houses. Frankly, Cathy is the one who does the work; I help her.”
The stately home is a century old, but has been well cared for by all five of the former owners. The Edwards plan to carry on this tradition of care and maintenance.
“We’ve always loved this house,” Cathy Edwards said. “It’s just a gorgeous house and it was the right opportunity and the right time and we just decided to go for it.”
Information and research provided by Cathy Edwards said that former owners include Edward H. Harris Jr., former president of Third National Bank, who built the home; Clarence E. and Isabel D. Ilgenfritz, who owned the Commerce Building; and their nephew William M. Ilgenfritz, who was a Sedalia City Attorney.
A family property dispute brewed between William M. and his brother McNair Ilgenfritz, an internationally recognized pianist, over the home. The dispute also included Hollywood actress Dorothy Belle Ilgenfritz, who was born in Sedalia. Dorothy Belle’s stage name was Dorothy Dwan. She was known for playing Dorothy in the silent movie version of “The Wizard of Oz,” and in several western-themed films.
“This is the family tree I have for the Ilgenfritz’s,” she said. “(Dwan) was in the original ‘Wizard of Oz’ … McNair Ilgenfritz recorded a lot of his own compositions. He was a composer and a performer as well. So there was a lot of music in this family.”
Cathy Edwards said the home probably saw a lot of music and entertaining over the years. The Edwards family has brought music back into the home. Cathy Edwards plays piano and the couple’s son, Nathan Edwards, is a vocal music major at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
To have been built in 1914, the home has been maintained.
“It’s been kept well by all the owners,” Cathy Edwards said. “(It’s) an older home that celebrated its hundredth year last year, they all need, not just improvements, but maintenance. That’s a lot of energy and a lot of expense, but all of the owners have done such a wonderful job down through the years.”
William M. Ilgenfritz eventually acquired the home with his wife Goldie and it was sold in 1950 to Clinton Muller, owner of Donahue Loan Co. In 1980, the home was purchased by Sedalia resident and businessman James Callis.
The home sits on approximately an acre and still has original gardens, and Edwards said she loves the brick construction of the house and the roof.
“It’s very stately with the tile roof,” she added. “You don’t see a lot of tile roofs any more.”
“Mr. Callis, who is still alive, he had the roof replaced,” Gary Edwards said. “It’s one of the few (tile roofs) in the city. He put a lot of care into having the roof put on. He didn’t have to put a tile roof back on, but he did.
“A lot of times, you get a house this old and the owners haven’t taken care of it,” he added. “That has not been the case here. They have all been very conscientious about keeping it up.”
Gary Edwards maintains the gardens. He said in the back garden near a magnolia tree, original peonies bloom each year.
“They are pretty close to original, they are very old,” he said. “(The magnolia) is extremely old, it’s a very old tree.”
One favorite room for the couple is the dining room.
“The dining room is really pretty,” Cathy Edwards said. “We did a lot of work in the dining room actually.”
They removed wallpaper from the ceiling, painted the ceiling beams, added new draperies and wallpaper and refinished the oak floors. Work was also done on the master bedroom on the second floor and they added new vinyl windows in the home. A 1920s era chandelier has been added in the front foyer that belongs to Cathy Edward’s family, the Baretichs.
The home has three stories, with the third floor being the original servant’s quarters. A private staircase descends from the third floor to the kitchen. The house is also equipped with the original steam heat radiators and had a central vacuum system that was installed when the home was built in 1914.
“It was a central vacuum system, and I believe it was the same that was used in the White House,” Cathy Edwards explained. “It still technically worked but it took up a large space in the basement.”
The Edwards put the vacuum up for sale and it was purchased by a man in Chicago.
“A gentleman from Chicago drove all the way here to buy it, because he collects stuff like that,” she added.
“It’s apparently up in a museum now in Chicago,” Gary Edwards added.
Another favorite area for the couple is the outside screened-in porch.
“It’s really pleasant out here,” Cathy Edwards said. “Actually we come out here a lot to have meals.”
She feels like the home has a good atmosphere of family and togetherness.
“There’s kind of a feeling you get, not ghost-wise, but just thinking how many people have come through this house and had Christmases and holidays,” she noted. “(They had) good times and maybe some tragic times too, but all these families have lived all their lives here. It’s kind of comforting to know that you’re not the first person to be in this house with whatever you are celebrating or worrying about.
“I guess what I was struck by, when I was looking through some old issues of the Democrat, that how many people were here as far as some soiree or reception or getting ladies together,” she added. “People don’t really do that anymore.”
The couple agreed that older homes are worth the effort.
“Don’t be afraid to buy an older house,” Cathy Edwards said. “Older houses have so much character, they are much more stately and usually larger.”
“I wish more people in Sedalia would do that,” Gary Edwards added. “There are so many beautiful houses here in Sedalia. Sedalia is really blessed.”