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Historic house defined by art

Monday, February 4, 2008 | 11:05 p.m. CST; updated 11:49 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008
A greenhouse sits off the main sitting room of the house. Hank and Katy Ottinger were married in the greenhouse in 1983.

COLUMBIA — Hank Ottinger says there is no other home like his in Columbia.

What makes the home special is the artistry of those who have lived in the home both now and before him.

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Katy Ottinger, Hank Ottinger’s wife, was an art teacher at Columbia Public Schools for 25 years. She has her studio in the upstairs of the home, and her paintings are hung throughout the house.

Gladys Wheat, a former owner of the home, was one of the first female members of the art department at MU. Although she has not lived there in more than 30 years, copies of Wheat’s art, and one original, can still be found hanging throughout the house.

Katy and Hank Ottinger received news in early January that their house, at 511 Westwood Ave., was chosen as one of the 10 Notable Historic Properties in Columbia for 2008.

The Ottingers have lived in the house for almost 25 years. In 1983, they were married in the home’s indoor greenhouse, which is connected to a large open area at the center of the house.

A night-blooming cereus sits inside the greenhouse. The plant, given to the Ottingers by a friend, Sally Froese, is a bloom from the original plant that Wheat once owned.

Froese, a friend of Wheat, said Wheat used to have celebrations in the home on the eve of the plant’s blooming every year.

While remodeling the kitchen in 2005, the Ottingers uncovered a mural painted by Wheat. The mural had been hidden beneath a thin bamboo reed covering.

The Ottingers revealed piece after piece of the newly-discovered mural by chipping away at the covering. Now, all that remains is new Sheetrock and insulation, the mural itself gone.

An extension, built in 1966, was used as an art studio for Wheat. The room has two large windows that look out into the backyard and side of the home.

The backyard, a large wooded area, leads down to a creek. Hank Ottinger said that many animals, including deer, are found in their backyard throughout the year. Three decks surround the home, along with several doors that provide access to them.

Hank Ottinger described the house as looking dead in the winter but completely green in the spring and summer months. He said that in the summer, the trees in the backyard are so full that you can’t see through the woods to the neighbors’ homes behind them.

The outside of the home requires no painting because it is covered with gunite, a mixture of concrete that was used on older homes.

The history of the home begins with Edwin and Grace Branson who built the home in 1923, according to a article from the Columbia Daily Tribune. Edwin Branson, a former MU geologist, obtained cabinets made from wainscotting when a building at MU was torn down, and he formed the moulding that covers an archway in the home.

The Bransons only lived in the home a few years before selling it to Lou Wheat, who gave the property to her daughter, Gladys Wheat in 1937, the Tribune reported. The property was later sold in the mid-1970s to Randy and Vickie Faye Gross.

In 1983, the house was sold to the Ottingers, who will receive a plaque for the home Tuesday night.


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