ST. PARIS – Glenn Sullivan was in his senior year at Graham High School when he first stepped into Kiser Mansion.
A resident of St. Paris since 1968, he asked one day to see the house.
“I knocked on the door and said ‘can I see the house,’” Sullivan recalled. “(Mansion owner) Emma Lou (Rust) said ‘sure, come on in.’”
Decades later, in 2008, Sullivan would purchase the mansion he said he had wanted since he was 7 years old.
Built in 1913, the mansion, located at 149 E. Main St., is a Greek revival-style mansion built by John and Thyrza Kiser. Sullivan said the Kisers were active in the community, donating the building which would become the village’s library and land that is now part of Kiser Lake.
The mansion’s second owner was J. Harvey Crow, a lawyer from Urbana. Sullivan said Crow and his family owned the mansion from 1945 to 1968.
In 1968, the house was bought by Charlie and Emma Lou Rust. When the Rusts purchased the property, Sullivan said they rehabbed the mansion which had been empty for a few years.
The mansion was put up for sale in 2008 while Sullivan was living in Chicago.
“I always knew about the house and I knew that it came up for sale after 40 years,” Sullivan said. “I wouldn’t get another 40 years, I wouldn’t get another chance (to purchase the property).”
According to the Champaign County Auditor’s website, the property was transferred to Sullivan on June 30, 2008, at a sale price of $340,000.
“I knew that there would be issues with the house, typical problems, because I owned an old house in Chicago and I knew it wouldn’t be much different; it would just be bigger,” Sullivan said. “If the roof is a problem, it’s a bigger problem and if the basement is a problem it’s a bigger problem. I just knew I wanted the house.”
Improvements to mansion
Some of the things Sullivan had to address after purchasing the mansion were replacing both furnaces and repairing the roof. This work took place over a span of six years.
Improvements to the mansion Sullivan said he is proud of include landscaping the yard and painting.
“All of the rooms upstairs have been painted except for the main hallway upstairs,” Sullivan said. “Nothing (on the first floor) has been painted yet. That’s next on the list to paint.”
Throughout the mansion, various paintings, statues and other items are placed throughout different rooms.
“I like classic oil paintings, I don’t particularly care for abstract and stuff like that,” Sullivan said of the art selection. “I think part of it is just what would go with the house.”
A major addition Sullivan made was building a two-story, four vehicle garage next to the mansion. Prior to this addition, the mansion never had a garage.
Not far from the garage is a coach house structure which includes four apartments.
Last year, the garden around the fountain at the rear of the house was reconstructed.
“First thing we did was kill all the grass and then after we killed the grass that’s when we had mulch delivered and then we put these borders down so that we could keep the mulch in and the gravel and then we finally put the gravel in after we knew that other things were done,” Sullivan said. “I think we used 2 1/2 tons of gravel and over the whole yard last year we used over 25 yards of mulch.”
A long-term goal Sullivan has for the mansion is making it more energy efficient.
“My goal is to be able to have the house cost the next owner less in upkeep because then there’s a probability that it can stay in the community,” Sullivan said. “I’d like to get it to a point so that when I’m ready to pass the house on that it’s easier for another person.”
Sullivan said a Facebook page for the mansion was created to show different updates to the house and a group called Memories of the Mansion has helped provide an oral history of the mansion.
While Sullivan said he has held private events at the mansion he said he wants to be more involved in the community and eventually would like to have events on the lawn.
“I love this house,” Sullivan said. “I enjoy living in St. Paris and I like hearing people say things about the house and how much they enjoy it. I just love sitting on my porch and having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and people going by and waving. I like seeing people’s faces when they see the house.”
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.