House of the Week: Finished in 1953, Syracuse home’s second owner is “so glad” he got a chance to preserve it

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – In the spring of 2014, when a realtor brought John Anson and his wife Laurie to the house at 3518 West Seneca Turnpike in Syracuse, she was not very optimistic that a sale was in her future.

“She brought us to the front door,” Anson remembered, “and said ‘I’m not going back in there.’”

While the realtor might not have been very enthusiastic, John Anson certainly was.

The one-level home, with no stairs whatsoever, had been built in 1953 by local architect Milton VanDusen, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from Syracuse University and worked for several local firms. He built just one house during his career, where he and his wife, Vivian, lived until his death in 1990. She continued living there for another 23 years.

Although the home’s interior looked like it had been locked inside “a time capsule,” for Anson it was just about “perfect.”

“Oh my God,” he remembered saying. “It is beautiful.”

He made an offer.

Anson works as the Facilities Director at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse and he owns Second Nature Design, a company which creates “peaceful spiritual places that combine art, architecture and nature.” His new home would all him to explore his passions of architecture and design.

“Its universal design is for anyone, for any age,” he said. “Mr. VanDusen was ahead of his time.”

Anson loved the old-growth redwood walls and the Pennsylvania bluestone fireplace in the living room, the way the trees were laid out in the “park-like” backyard, and how the home’s interior design grabs your attention as soon as you enter the front door.

“You do not know which direction to look first,” he said.

But the home was in desperate need of updating. The redwood walls in the living room had ghostly imprints from photographs and art which had hung in the same place for 60 years.

The kitchen and bathrooms were old-fashioned.

He launched into a multi-year project, opening the house up and bringing it into the 21st century. But he did so with extreme care.

“Things that should not be touched,” Anson said, “were not touched. Some things had to be preserved.”

He kept the cast-iron tub in the guest bathroom, the turquoise cabinets near the front door were considered “good luck” and preserved, the redwood walls in the living room were oiled and restored.

He used a snow shovel to tear up old carpeting in the living room before putting down all-new Brazilian redwood flooring.

With the fireplace, the warmth of the wood, and radiant heating in the ceiling, which makes the space feel like “you are sitting in the sun,” the room is warm and cozy on even the coldest winter day.

In the kitchen, one of the rooms that the realtor was least enthusiastic to show, everything was replaced, right down to the “wiring and the plumbing.” New tile, backsplash, and hood over the stainless range were some of the upgrades.

A baker’s kitchen, where his grown children run an online bakery business, Joyful Bakers, created more workspace.

The all-new owner’s bedroom is spacious, and its adjacent bathroom has a new shower unit and deep soaking tub.

On what was once a back open porch, which was used to hold firewood, Anson built a beautiful sunroom, which his family enjoyed using all year long.

During the entire process, one idea was in his thoughts always.

“Be respectful, be respectful,” he thought.

He used materials that were just as high-quality as VanDusen had used when he built the home 68 years ago.

“This place was built like a fortress,” Anson said. “This house should be preserved and I’m so glad I made that happen.”

“Someone will fall in love with it,” he predicts.

Anson bought a cottage on Cross Lake, finished in 1967, and he says it needs “a lot of work.”

He sounded excited to begin a new project.

“If I could live forever, I would do my work,” he said. “It is thrilling to preserve these places.”

He jokes that when he finishes “maybe” he will “give golf a try.”

For more information about this property or to schedule a private showing, please contact Realtor John Sweeney, of John Sweeney Real Estate Inc. His contact info is below.


Address: 3518 West Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse, N.Y. 13215

Price: $299,000

Size: 1,920 square feet

Acreage: 2.52 acres

Monthly Mortgage: $992 (based on the national average rate of 2.87%, according to Freddie Mac on September 1, for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 20% down payment. Fees and points not included.)

Taxes: $6,144 (Based on assessed value of $165,000)

Built: 1953

School District: Marcellus

Kitchen: The kitchen has been completely remodeled, “right down to the wiring and the plumbing.” New stainless appliances, tile, backsplash, and hood are just some of the upgrades. All-new Brazilian redwood flooring was put in. The kitchen offers a lot of cupboard and counter space. Owner John Anson’s grown children, Mackie and Shaughn, run an online bakery, Joyful Bakers, out of the kitchen and the adjacent baking kitchen.

Living areas: “Bigger is not always better,” John Anson said during an interview. “Better is better.” This 1,920-foot ranch was built in 1953 by a prominent local architect and it has stood the test of time, along with some updating by Anson, just the home’s second owner. “This place is a fortress,” he said. Visitors enter into the front foyer and are given glimpses of the bedroom wing, kitchen, and impressive living room. The open living room has huge windows, old-growth redwood walls, which have recently been restored, and new Brazilian redwood flooring. The Pennsylvania bluestone fireplace in the living room creates a lot of heat and when it is combined by the radiant heat in the room’s ceiling, it makes for a very cozy space. The warmth from the ceiling Anson describes as like “sitting in the sun.” “Wow, this is great,” he said when he first experienced it. He enjoys eating meals at a table near the windows. An all-year sunroom was built onto an open porch. It has mahogany flooring. There are no stairs in the home and the convenient laundry room is separated from the hallway by stonework. There is a walk-in storage basement. The home’s “universal design” is perfect “for anyone, for any age,” Anson believes.

Bedrooms: There are three bedrooms in the house. The bedrooms are in their own wing. They are spacious and feature mahogany flooring.

Bathrooms: The two bathrooms are remodeled and updated. The owner’s bathroom features a deep soaking tub and new shower unit. The guest bathroom’s old yellow tile was removed and replaced but the original cast-iron was kept.

Outside: The home sits on just over two-and-a-half acres of quiet and peaceful land that Anson compares to a park. The private lawn is open and wooded with stands of pine trees. Sycamore and honey locust trees were laid out just so by the home’s builder to enhance the home’s features and let natural light in. Anson appreciates that the builder insisted on having no decks which might spoil the landscape. Visitors arrive and cross a small bridge over a creek before going up the 250-foot driveway which has been paved with extra parking spaces. There is a two-car garage which includes extra space for a shop.

Agent: John Sweeney

John Sweeney Real Estate Inc.

Address: 5100 West Genesee Street, Camillus, N.Y. 13031

Phone: (315) 415-7500

Email: [email protected]

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