As closely tied as the Pennell family's house is to the birth of Phoenix, it feels nothing like the Arizona homes Phoenix residents have come to expect.
At 103 years old, the Arts and Crafts bungalow in the Roosevelt Historic Neighborhood is practically prehistoric in terms of Phoenix-area structures, and it reminds its owners of its age at just about every turn.
"If you make it to 100 in Phoenix, you deserve to have a birthday," Angel Jannasch-Pennell said of the house, which was feted a few years ago as part of the neighborhood's home tour.
Hooks are still visible on the home's front porch, used in its early days for outdoor sleeping when it was too stuffy to sleep inside. A slender, indoor catwalk above the front door offered an airy sleeping space as well, just under a window to catch the evening breeze. And a pint-size dumbwaiter on the second floor, used now to store cleaning products, harkens to a different era.
The 3,200-square-foot house mirrors its neighbors in size and architecture, but has its own story, as do each of the structures on the palm-lined street. It once belonged to J.A.R. Irvine, one of the founding fathers of Phoenix.
When the Pennells happened upon it about 20 years ago when they met a friend for lunch, it had been used as a group home.
"We were being totally nosy. We weren't buying a house," Angel said of their curiosity that day. "This was definitely a neighborhood in transition."
Soon after that lunch, the Pennells relocated from Ahwatukee Foothills and became active members of that transition. They spent about seven years renovating the structure, not moving into the home until about a year after purchasing it.
It needed more than a paint job. It needed everything, and a kitchen sink.
"It was very strange," Angel said of how the kitchen was missing a sink.
Other oddities included an unfinished production tub in the attic, referred to as a "soaking tub," without any reinforcements; a stucco and mirror-tiled fireplace hiding the "clinker" bricks beneath it; and a flat-topped addition where the floor was hanging on by a toothpick.
Even in the face of all of those needed upgrades, the Pennells found comedy and comfort in peeling back the home's layers, making new discoveries along the way.
Anything they couldn't salvage, they replaced with antiques from the home's era.
The couple transformed the home's first-level parlor into a full bath, using a cast-aside tub from the renovation of the home next door and pendant lights from 1915. And to filter more light through the home's hallways, Angel and Michael replaced a number of five-panel wooden doors with wooden doors with windows.
"It's such a dark hallway otherwise," Angel said of the slim walkway that connects the kitchen to the bathroom.
The Pennells were beneficiaries of serendipity a few times, as with the tub and a perfect-fit, built-in piece that was discovered curbside and required nothing but a little TLC. But, they also had to work to preserve the home's integrity, from waiting for the perfect dining fixture made from hammered copper and brass, to acquiring the petite three-foot tub they needed for the second full bath upstairs.
"I searched hard for that one because that's all the room we had," Angel said of the dainty bathroom, which once served as part of a massive master closet that stretched the length of the home.
One of the most consistent features throughout the Pennell home, besides an extensive collection of local artwork, are the crystal doorknobs.
Angel Pennell's childhood home in Indiana had crystal doorknobs, one of the features to which she was emotionally attached. So she made sure they graced every door in their Phoenix home, allowing for a purple variation on her tween daughter's door.
"I just love those crystal knobs," she said. "That was my thing."
The back of the Pennell home, accessed through a spring-loaded screen door off the kitchen or by a pair of French doors in the family room, mirrors the spacious feel of the home's interior. An elevated concrete patio runs the length of the home and leads to a grassy yard and a 500-square-foot studio guesthouse that Angel said is "usually occupied."
The family of four spends evenings out back when the weather is nice, enjoying a home that comes with so many stories.
Reflecting on the work it took to get the home to where it is from where it was, Angel said she knows it is where her family was supposed to be.
"It was definitely my calling," she said.
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