Seeing Zionsville from a cozy front porch

When John and Solveig Fiene started looking for a house in central Indiana some 30 years ago, they were really searching for a sense of community, a place where they could get to know their neighbors and raise their kids with friends close by.

They found the community they were looking for in Zionsville—and they found the right house in the middle of the village. Yes, it had shag carpeting and it was small for a family with four children.

But the house at 670 Pine St.—built in 1912—had high ceilings, plenty of light streaming in the windows and—maybe most important—a big, welcoming front porch, the perfect place to sit and talk to people walking by. So they bought it.

“Today, we live in such a sterile, air-conditioned world that people don’t get out” and socialize with neighbors, said John, a Lutheran pastor who had come to Indiana to start a church. “But the people in the village have maintained that social lifestyle. We’ve had some very wonderful neighbors that we’ve been able to get to know.”

The renovating started right away. Initially, the Fienes knocked down some walls and created a bigger kitchen, including a center island. “Before, the kitchen had five doors that went in and out and there was virtually no space for anything,” John said. “It was kind of crazy.”

Later, they added on—creating a family room off the back of the house that walked right out to the backyard, making the outdoor space more accessible.

They also renovated bathrooms, added landscaping, and decorated and redecorated rooms. But all the while, they kept the history of the house in mind, making sure the windows they installed in the addition matched the original ones and making custom storm windows for the entire house.

The home was built during the Arts and Crafts movement and as bungalows were becoming popular. But the architecture is not set in any one style.

So the Fienes were able to decorate with a mix of furniture, including comfy leather couches but also a church pew that came out of a congregational church in Salt Lake City, a gift from a congregant who told John it had been hauled by horse-drawn wagons from the East Coast to Utah a century before. The Fienes used it as a bench at the dining room table.

They bought an enormous oak hutch from an antique salvage store that John believes was used for storage in a church or rectory. The same salvage store was the source for a fireplace surround and mantel that is more Victorian in style but lends a bit of historic charm to what could have been a sterile addition.

The family room addition proved to be John’s favorite spot in the house.

“It was a place that gave us access into the backyard where we would have family gatherings,” he said. “And we loved being out there all winter long. Almost every night, we’d turn on the fireplace—it was a gas fireplace—and watch our shows and the kids were back there.”

Solveig, a retired teacher, said she spent a lot of time by that fireplace, grading papers. But she said her favorite spot in the house was the living room, with its big windows looking out onto trees and bushes and birds eating at a neighbor’s feeders.

But the heart of the house, she acknowledged, is probably that front porch.

“It’s high enough, so that you have privacy from the people who were down the street,” she said. “But you are in a position that you can choose to say hi to whoever was walking by. So it was a beautiful place to sit and enjoy each other and enjoy your neighbors.”

Now, with all four kids moved away, the Fienes have moved to Colorado, where John has come out of retirement to work in university campus ministry, and they’re selling the Zionsville house. It’s on the market for $620,000, listed with Gary Angstadt with Century 21 Scheetz.•

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