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Go discover Westside yourself during home tour


It’s considered the oldest and one of the original neighborhoods in the city of Lansing. It boasts exquisite architecture, a richly diverse population and old-fashioned values about home, family and being a good citizen. This hidden gem, known as the Westside Neighborhood, was discovered, quite by accident, by Terri and Brad Wittman on Memorial Day Weekend five years ago. They were out for a nice holiday excursion when they found themselves on North Genesee Drive admiring a large stone English cottage-like home with a “for sale” sign in the yard.

“The house called to us,” Terri Wittman said. “We had no clue this neighborhood existed.”

Isabella Rowan/City Pulse
The 9th Annual Westside Home Tour
1 to 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 12, 2003; $15.
Tickets available at Diane’s Hallmark, Gift and Bible; The Mole Hole; Mr. Toad’s Paper Co.; October Moon; Roberts Wallpaper and Paint; or directly from Advent House Ministries, 743 N. Martin Luther King Blvd., Lansing. Beginning at 12:30 p.m. the day of the tour, tickets can be purchased at Sexton High School or the Fire Station at Saginaw and Jenison. For more information, call Advent House Ministries, (517) 485-4722.

The Wittmans were 14-year residents in East Lansing and had been toying with the idea of moving to a more peaceful and stable living environment. The grand home at 1306 N. Genesee Drive is the first and only home they viewed before moving.

This stately residence is one of those houses that when you drive by you wonder what type of people live there and what it looks like on the inside.

“It’s kind of a curiosity in the area,” Terri Wittman said. “If I’m out working in the yard, people will stop and ask to see it.” For those of you with that voyeuristic curiosity, the Wittmans’ home, along with eight others, will be open to the public from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 12, as part of the Westside Home Tour.

The couple who lives here has been married for 31 years, have no children, but do have three German shepherds, and several nieces and nephews who visit regularly. Terri is a graphic designer who loves to cook and collects cookbooks, hundreds of which are shelved in a nook off the kitchen. Her husband, Brad is director of Information Services at the State Elections Bureau and is the “meat guy” for the culinary gatherings hosted by the couple for family and friends.

Brad and Terri Wittman will open their home at 1306 N. Genesee Drive for the Westside HomeTour.

The Wittmans have been steadily working to improve and restore both the exterior and the interior of their home. The entire yard has been replaced with concrete and flagstone with decorative landscaping and an inviting pergola added for entertaining. The extensive interior walnut woodworking has been completely refinished. The kitchen, which took 18 months to renovate, is a source of pride. It has a unique half-moon shaped walk-through pantry that used to be two closets. The stone floor isn’t really stone at all. Each “stone” is concrete, individually formed, poured and dyed by hand. The countertops are also made from poured and dyed concrete.

The credit for the quality workmanship of the renovations goes to Jesse Keys of Keys Construction.

Check out the Wittmans’ house at 1306 N. Genesee Drive.

“He’s a Renaissance man, an Old World craftsman,” Terri said.

Keys started out with a degree in business administration from Michigan State University but has always enjoyed working with his hands and has long since been doing historic renovation and high-end construction full-time.

“I don’t do anything typical,” he said. “I like my work to tie in with what’s already there.”

Keys also has a home on the Westside Home Tour. The duplex at 605 Bartlett St. is owned by Keys and Greg Whitehead. It is by no means the traditional rental property.

“We put it on the tour to show that rental properties can be nice,” Keys said.

The majority of the proceeds from the ninth annual Westside Home Tour will once again benefit Advent House Ministries. (A small portion goes to the Westside Neighborhood Association.) The program, which was started 17 years ago by Westminster Presbyterian Church, provides services to the homeless, including a weekend day shelter, employment training programs for displaced adults and extensive programs for at-risk children and youth.

“The residents of the Westside Neighborhood are very generous and feel so strongly about not just building a good neighborhood, but a good city,” said Susan Cancro, director of Advent House Ministries.

“They are opening their homes to help people they may never see,” she continued. “It’s a wonderful way to support us and to raise awareness of homelessness in a really positive way.”

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