Decking Concord’s historic halls

Heather Taylor and Kate Lentz are connected and separated by a century.

Taylor, 38, of Concord lives in the same house that was built for Kate in 1899 by her father, Aaron Greene Lentz. The pine floors under Taylor’s feet that once hosted the steps of Kate Lentz have been revived to their original beauty.

The balusters that held Kate Lentz secure on the narrow stepped staircase now keep Taylor steady. The carved wooden door that welcomed Kate Lentz home 100 years ago now secures the family of Heather Taylor as she tries to recapture the details and life of both the home and its original owner.

The Aaron Greene Lentz home, at 235 Union St. N., will be featured in the 2014 Holiday Tour of Homes in downtown Concord.

The tour, presented every other year by the Residents of Historic Concord Inc., offers visitors an opportunity to tour seven historic properties, each chosen to represent different architectural elements, styles and formalities from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

This year’s theme, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy,” will include the Aaron Greene Lentz House as well as the St. James Lutheran Church at 104 Union St. S. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on tour day.

The self-guided strolling tour will be open 1-7 p.m. Volunteers will be stationed in each house to share the history and showcase the unique features of the residence.

With downtown Concord merchants participating in the event, visitors are encouraged to walk Historic Union Street and wander back to holidays from yesteryear.

Taylor, who purchased the Aaron Greene Lentz House in 2013 with her husband, Troy Taylor, 36, and their daughter, Mina, 14, fell in love with the house when they first saw it.

“It’s tough to articulate why we connected so instantly,” said Heather Taylor, who initially toured the home when it was on the market in 2005.

“The Queen Anne-Victorian style has always been my favorite. When we first saw this house in 2005, it needed work and felt lonely to me, but also felt like home.”

Taylor maintained a sketch pad with drawings and ideas of what she would do to the house if they bought it. Citing a list of rational and practical reasons not to buy the property, Taylor and her family resigned themselves to let go the house they affectionately referred to as “235.”

For the next eight years, the family continued their search for a historic home on Union Street.

“We looked at so many but would always wind up saying, ‘It’s not 235,’ ” Heather Taylor said. “In 2011 I finally threw away the sketch book I’d kept since 2005.”

One day in 2013, Taylor received a phone call from her husband announcing that her Victorian home was for sale again.

“I was stunned,” Taylor said, standing in front of the intricately carved parlor mantel with her hands wrapped around a large coffee mug. “It was the first one and only one we wanted.”

From the moment Taylor first turned the doorknob of the century-old home, she embraced the preservation and restoration of the historic site.

“I hope we can spend our time getting it back to where and what it used to be,” said Taylor, who researched the history of the home and tracked down Kathryn Wilson Mansfield, daughter of Katherine Lentz Carpenter and granddaughter of Kate Lentz.

“She’s been as gracious as she could possibly be and we were so thrilled to hear from her,” said Taylor, who displays the photographs that Mansfield provided of Kate Lentz and the home.

The house was built for Aaron Lentz’s youngest daughter while she attended Salem College, in a time when women rarely attended college. Graduating in 1902 from the all-women’s Moravian college, Kate Lentz moved into her home with her husband, Charlie.

One evening at age 36, Charlie felt ill and retired to the bedroom to rest, saying he felt like eating an apple. Kate Lentz used her neighboring sister’s telephone to “order” an apple.

When she returned to his side, she discovered her young husband had died. Married only three years, Kate Lentz was widowed and living in the house with their young daughter, Katherine.

Mansfield shared a photograph of Kate Lentz, in black mourning wear, after the death of her husband. In the photo, Lentz and the young Katherine are at the railing of the wrap-around porch on 235 Union St. N.

“I know the house was white with green shutters,” said Taylor, whose next project will be returning the original color scheme to the home.

Among other tidbits of information collected from Mansfield, Taylor has also learned that at Christmastime, the Moravian star – a signature item made in the Moravian community of Old Salem, now part of Winston-Salem – was hung on the porch.

Besides incorporating the Moravian star into her holiday décor, Taylor also learned that the original Lentz family displayed their Christmas tree in the front window of the parlor, which Taylor will honor.

“Each room has developed its own personality,” said Taylor, whose family traditions will forever be blurred with those from a century ago, whose lives will overlap, not in time, but in spite of time, with a family much like her own.

Thinking back to the eight years of longing for this home, she recalled the moment her hand clasped the ornately engraved doorknob and she first entered her life at “235.”

“I can always look back,” she said, “and remember how it felt to finally come home.”