A piece of history-Family moves to old Historical Society House

The former Venango County Historical Society, also known as the Hoge-Osmer House, was built in or around 1866 by Thomas Hoge and changed hands several times before it ended up as the county's historical hub in 1981. (By Richard Sayer)The former Venango County Historical Society, also known as the Hoge-Osmer House, was built in or around 1866 by Thomas Hoge and changed hands several times before it ended up as the county's historical hub in 1981. (By Richard Sayer)

By MARISSA DECHANT – Staff writer

Many a Venango County resident has likely set foot inside the home of Kipp and Candida Walton at 301 S. Park St. in Franklin.

The couple moved into their home, the former location of the Venango County Historical Society, just last month after a house hunt that spanned around 30 residences.  They had previously lived in Franklin Heights.

The Historical Society had put the house up for sale last year as the move next door to the Egbert-Mullins-Koos House was completed.

Candida and Kipp Walton pose with their daughter Sarah at the bottom of the stairs in their new home, the former Venango County Historical Society on the corner of South Park and Elk streets in Franklin. (By Richard Sayer)

Candida and Kipp Walton pose with their daughter Sarah at the bottom of the stairs in their new home, the former Venango County Historical Society on the corner of South Park and Elk streets in Franklin. (By Richard Sayer)

“It was the last home we looked at,” Kipp said. “We put money down the day we viewed the house. We walked in and fell in love with it.”

Kipp, Candida and their 17-year-old daughter, Sarah, have since been making the 152-year-old house their home with a collection of antiques and artwork including a Victrola, cuckoo clock and ceramic teapots.

Kipp, who has spent most of his life in Franklin, is an avid collector of antiques and once lived in the former elementary school building on the corner of Fourth and Liberty streets, now the Studio 22 Performing Arts Academy.

“I love old things. I’ve been collecting them since I was a kid,” he said.

Candida, a native of Greensburg, has grown to share her husband’s love of “dirty old things,” she joked.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be done adding pieces to the house,” she said.

The family has found an appreciation for features that set the home apart from others – art deco chandeliers, sliding glass doors, five gas fireplaces and a small downstairs bathroom with a functioning porthole window.

“I love my room and all the old fashioned appliances.  It felt like home the first night to me,” said Sarah, a senior at Franklin Area High School.

In renovating Sarah’s bedroom, which was originally the servant’s quarters, the family found a signed piece of plaster from June 11, 1932.  They painted around the signature and plan to frame it, Kipp said.

While the Waltons are required to adhere to certain rules in renovating the house – the exteriors of homes on the historical register must be preserved to set standards – they do want to replace several windows and landscape around the property.

The family also wants to build a bigger dining table to accommodate their large combined family.

“We want to build a dining table that is built for this space.  It’s one of the things we’re grateful for and look forward to,” Candida said.

Kipp said he “absolutely” knows it is the last house for the family.

“We never thought we’d live in town again, but we decided our lives were about community and family, and this house has all of that,” he said.

Some history

Built in or around 1866, the former Venango County Historical Society, also known as the Hoge-Osmer House, was built by Thomas Hoge and changed hands several times before it ended up as the county’s historical hub in 1981.

Attorney Newton Osmer owned the house for a period of time in the mid-1900s.  He and his wife raised their children in the home, and Osmer’s office was also located inside the residence.

J.P. Eichholtz and his wife bought the home in the 1960s before the historical society was contacted about purchasing the house for its new headquarters.

Previously housed on the third floor of the Franklin Public Library, the historical society was dislodged from the space during the library’s remodel, effectively closing off the third floor area.

Lois Minnigh, the society’s president at the time, held a fund drive in order to purchase and remodel the Hoge-Osmer home. The house sold for $80,000.

“It was a good location for us and a good property….Lois was excellent at decorating and worked with Maison Decor in Oil City to get the right wallpaper and curtains,” said Carolee Michener, a historical society member and local author and historian.

The Egbert-Mullins-Koos House, located at 307 S. Park St. beside the Hoge-Osmer House, was partially bequeathed to the historical society in 2009, after its sole occupant and owner Caroline “Kitty” Koos died.

Koos left half the house and its contents to the society, and the other half was split amongst four beneficiaries that accepted a cash buyout from the historical society.

“The board made the decision to move.  We moved here because this house was more grand,” Michener said.

The Egbert-Mullins-Koos House boasts over a dozen rooms, seven fireplaces, a skylight and two large hallways on the first and second floors.

Ninety percent of the items in the home belonged to the Mullins-Koos family, and displays include photos taken by William J. Mullins, grandfather of Koos, a toy soldier collection and an array of books.

The historical society completed the move last year and continues to curate displays.

“We want to preserve the house as much as possible. It was always Kitty’s wish to make the house a museum,” Michener said.