Janet and Ronald Rasch didn’t know what they were going to do with her maternal grandmother’s nearly 150-year-old house at 154 W. Division St. in Sparta when they finally were able to buy it in 2015.
What Janet did know was she wanted to save the house that had been the location for her family’s gatherings for decades before it was sold in 1980.
"The previous owner did the best she could to keep the house up but didn’t have the money to do it right," Rasch said. "The best thing she did was keep a good roof on the house so inside stayed dry."
What the house has become after extensive remodeling is the first bed-and-breakfast in the village and the only paid lodging facility in Sparta Township.
The house was built in 1873 by the Rodgers family. In 1940, Rasch’s grandparents, Revel and Tena Kutzli, bought the home and the five acres it then sat on. They raised their 12 children there and as their children grew and had families of their own, each Sunday became a family day where all 12 returned with their families for Sunday dinner.
Rasch said there were lots of children, including herself, who played everywhere in the house on those Sundays. "It was great fun," she said.
After Revel died, Tena lived there by herself but eventually sold the house in 1980. After her death, she was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery across Division Street from her former home.
Over the next 35 years, the house was home to many, eventually becoming an unofficial rooming house.
Janet said the house had been chopped up inside and bedrooms added willy-nilly. The walls were randomly painted and dropped ceilings put in the once high-ceiling rooms.
"I would drive by the house and see it going down and think to myself that we should try to buy the house if it ever comes on the market, but it never did," she said.
Finally in 2015, Janet said she stopped and knocked on the door. "I introduced myself and told the owner that my family used to own the house," she said. "I asked if she would be interested in selling, but she said she wasn’t."
Rasch said even standing on the front porch that day, she could see inside the house was not in good shape.
"I decided to just keep stopping by and talking to the owner when I had the chance over the next few months," she said.
Slowly Rasch earned the owner’s trust and after several visits, was invited in.
"When I finally got in the front door and looked up the stairway to the second floor, there on the wall behind other things was my grandmother’s wallpaper," she said. It was seeing the wallpaper that convinced Rasch that she had to buy it.
It took several months, but Rasch was finally able to persuade the owner to sell.
Janet and her two sisters, Barb and Kris, spent the next couple of months getting the house cleaned out.
Once the house was emptied, it was obvious that it needed a little more than just repainting and new flooring to bring it back. Walls were rebuilt, new wiring and plumbing installed, hardwood floors brought back to life and many of the windows replaced.
Rasch said she had an aunt living in Florida at the time and as the house began to take shape, she thought it would be the perfect place for the aunt to live because she wanted to return to Michigan.
"We bought the house in the summer of 2015 and told everyone in the family we were going to have the family Christmas here that year," Rasch said.
The timeline was tight, but Rasch got the aunt moved and the family celebrated its first get-together in the house since 1980.
The aunt lived there for a year and a half before she died, leaving Janet once again to ponder what to do with the house. She and her husband have a home in Alpine Township.
Rasch’s friends suggested she turn the house into a B&B and that was when she approached village officials about the idea. "Tena’s Place" is set to open in April.