With home makeovers all the rage on television these days, it seems a perfect time to visit Dayton’s Designers’ Show House and Gardens.
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Thanks to the Dayton Philharmonic Volunteer Association and 500 enthusiastic volunteers, folks in the Miami Valley once again have an opportunity to get up-close and personal with the designs and designers that can turn an ordinary room into a showcase.
Celebrating its 40th year, the biennial project kicked off on Thursday, May 2, and runs through May 19. This year’s historic home is the Leland Manor, adjacent to Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark. The 23-room mansion with servants’ quarters has been transformed by 23 Dayton-area interior designers.
In addition to touring the rooms and gardens, visitors can dine, shop and attend a variety of special events.
“I hope our patrons walk away with some appreciation for the designers and what you can do in spaces in your own home,” says the organization’s president Carole Endres. “I hope they’ll learn something new if they come during one of our special presentations. I also hope they’ll leave with an appreciation for what our organization does to help support the orchestra and music education. The Show House project has raised more than $2.2 million since its inception.”
About the house
The DPVA has featured a wide variety of fascinating homes over the years, but none has been filled with richer Dayton history than the Leland Manor.
Built on four acres in the Tudor Revival style, the original home was built between 1926 and 1932 by inventor George Leland and his wife, Hazel. Leland, responsible for more than 100 patents over the course of his career, came to Dayton in 1918 and took a job at Delco, the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company. While there, he designed a winding machine capable of the mass production of coils for Boss Kettering’s new aircraft carrier.
The family raised six children in the house that overlooked the Stillwater River and is now adjacent to Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark.
When you visit the Show House, you’ll be parking in the Wegerzyn parking lot. Be sure and allow time for strolling through the beautiful gardens and delightful Children’s Garden. They are Miami Valley treasures.
In 1966, the Lelands donated their home to the Dayton Museum of Natural History. Later it served as the headquarters of the Dayton Montgomery County Park District, now Five Rivers MetroParks.
In a fascinating turn of events, David Spitler, who was asked to build some shelves in the house when he took a job as manager of Englewood MetroParks 22 years ago, now owns the home with his wife, Barbette.
Mrs. Spitler says she loved the home immediately and could see its potential. “When we first saw it, it had mold, asbestos and every room had been made into corporate headquarters with florescent lighting,” she recalls. “It had no kitchen and the bathrooms had been changed or shut down completely.”
Her husband and his father, it turns out, had experience as general contractors, so since 2015 the family has been doing much of the work on the house themselves. “We did all the electrical, plumbing, bathroom restoration,” she says. “We moved in quickly in 2017 because the house we were living in sold. We had no kitchen at the time and we showered in the basement between what had been the turtle habitats and the alligator pit in the natural history museum!”
The Spitlers are looking forward to sharing their special home with the community. “I thought the history of this home lent itself to being a show house,” says Mrs. Spitler. “Both the Museum of Natural History and MetroParks are icons in our community and have history in this house.”
Visitors will tour rooms ranging from a breakfast room and nursery to a library, playroom and powder room. Music will reverberate throughout the home, thanks to the efforts of committee member Marilyn Balsamo.
“Since we promote music education, work with all of the youth orchestras and provide scholarships, I think it’s important to hear from different groups of musicians and different kinds of music,” says Balsamo, who is responsible for scheduling musical performances in the home’s living room. “We need music to represent who we are and what we do.”
The new Food Truck Night on Fridays will also include music — the University of Dayton’s Oompa Band and the Fairborn Improvisation Jazz Ensemble. Seventy eight musicians in all will share their music.
Shopping and dining
Designer show house boutiques have always been great places to purchase Mother’s Day gifts. Marcia Wood, a volunteer with the DPVA’s in-school educational programs, also coordinates the boutique.
“We have gifts ranging in price from $1 for notepads to $500 for works of art,” she says. “We have jewelry, beautiful glass art, wood sculptures. We also have lotions, tea, stationery, as well as china, pottery and garden stepping stones.
You can have lunch at the show house for less than $10, with options including sandwiches, salads and side dishes. The Bach’s Lunch Cafe, operated by Bernstein’s Fine Catering, will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
“Restaurants throughout our area are donating desserts and we’ll also be selling those,” says co-chair Bella Freeman. “We’ll have sit-down areas in both the garage and a tent.”
Endres says another new addition is presentations and demonstrations. “It’s something we used to do and we’ve decided to do it again, ” she says. “Visitors can listen to a paint discussion by Sherwin-Williams or learn about the difference between granite and quartz with representatives from Cambria.”
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