By Mary Wakeford| June 20th, 2019
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Terry Swartz wasn't sold on the vacant, red-brick home that his wife, Shannon, spotted some two decades ago.

But he came around and the family has created an eclectic pet sanctuary and urban farm on the large property in central Glendale. 

The Swartz home is nestled on an irrigated acre in the historic neighborhood of Thunderbird Estates/McDonald Addition near 59th and Northern avenues.

Shannon spotted the vacant home first.

“Don’t even think about that house. Just get it out of your mind," was Terry's reaction to the home with the untended yard and all of the interior redesign challenges that go with a home built in 1948.

Shannon quietly persisted and not long after that a family member of the home's deceased owner contacted them. The phone call ended with Terry asking them to get back to him with a number, hoping the asking price would exceed their budget and put an end to the discussion.

A few days later, the family got back to Terry with a price he couldn't pass up. Terry, steeped in residential construction, knew the numbers worked and would allow them to make the home their own. Shannon was ecstatic.

That was June 1997. 

Today, the Swartz family of six count their blessings each day, for the bounty of healthy food that comes from their nurtured plot of earth and the animals kept in the large yard that bring delight to their hearts.

Great bones perfected

The Swartzes enlarged the living space of the 2,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath home by enclosing the patio, which doubled the width of the living room.

A  32-foot glulam stress-rated laminate beam was brought in to support the great-room redesign. It entered the shotgun-style home through a bedroom window to accommodate its length and inflexibility. 

The couple installed nearly floor-to-ceiling viewing windows to take in the large, lush acreage surrounding the home.

Canned lighting and energy efficient window replacements brought an abundance of light into the 71-year-old midcentury-modern architecture.  The windows, paying homage to the era, feature crank turn handles.

The couple kept the solid-maple interior doors that are original to the home. But they added crown molding to the walls and hardwood floors to replace the wall-to-wall Argyle woven wool carpeting.

The master and guest bathrooms hold original tile work in light pink, trimmed in baby blue. A pedestal sink in the guest bathroom was replaced with a vanity for storage to accommodate their four children.

The galley kitchen, common for the time period, wasn't going to work for the family, Shannon said. The couple reconfigured the space to accommodate high-end appliances, expanded counters and storage space.

A two-seat breakfast bar added dimension. Kitchen cabinets were refaced in white Shaker style.

It was during the kitchen demo that Terry discovered his great-grandfather built the home. Roy Swartz's name was scribbled on lumber later made into a kitchen drawer. Building documents and an elder uncle confirmed the discovery.

Pet sanctuary and urban farm

An eclectic aspect to the Swartz home is their eccentric pets, full of personality.

There is Annabelle, an  Arabian mini-horse procured from Oregon for her svelte lineage. The unabashedly adorable little girl has free rein of the property and, on occasion, the house. Her mini-corral and designer barn for sleeping and containment during irrigation is poised midyard.

The family shares Annabelle's antics on Instagram at @AnnaBelle_the_mini_horse

Annabelle’s sidekick is a large sulcata tortoise named Shelly. They graze together and bunk down in the minibarn each night.

Steve, an African Grey parrot, flew into the Swartzes' sanctuary a few years back and stayed after attempts to locate his family were ineffective. He now shares the great room with two finches.

Steve possesses quite the vocabulary. Based on his wheezing cough imitation and “Grandma, where are the keys?” “Mean kitty” and “Meow” outbursts, the family surmises Steve previously lived with elderly cat people afflicted with emphysema.

Rango the dog has fallen for Steve’s uncanny door knocking imitation too many times and is starting to catch on by not losing his mind barking at nobody. 

Mr. Blue, a peacock, and Mrs. Peahen stroll the back property eating seasonal blackberries from a 70-year-old vine much to the chagrin of the family berry lovers.

Peach-face lovebirds nest year-round in large trees at the back of the property. The flock visits a backyard fountain on occasion for a quick bath. 

Fresh, organic produce

The family was ahead of the curve in organic farming before it became trendy.

Shannon’s sizeable vegetable garden and additional raised planters grow an assortment of root vegetables for family, friends and the pets they adore. The larger garden has an automatic watering system wired to a motion sensor to keep four-legged freeloaders from high-jacking their crop of eggplant, squash, peppers and prize tomatoes.

The yard has more than 16 fruit-bearing trees, from apricot to an original kumquat.

Two expansive chicken coops stand at the back of the acre lot. A bevy of free-range hens provide eggs. Hen procurement and sales created a side business and learning opportunity for the Swartz children as egg production and boutique farming became popular.

Two tree houses, one sporting a ceiling fan, lights and windows framing its front door, provide a whimsical element to the yard.   

A free-standing guest house/private patio sits opposite Annabelle’s barn and is offered as an Airbnb under “The Orchard Casita” in Glendale.

Know of a unique home in metro Phoenix that is not on the market that should be featured? Email [email protected].

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