Pictured is 1010 East Washington, former home of Henry Ignatius Fiesinger. Built in 1873, Fiesinger purchased the land on which it sits in 1864 and had the home built nine years later. Henry and his wife Theresa would later move to Catherine Street.
The house has changed hands several times since it was built over 140 years ago. It remains standing due to work of Ian Nitschke, a former physics professor at Syracuse University, and his then wife Walda Metcalf. Metcalf worked as the editor-in-chief of the Syracuse University Press.
In 1989, Carmela Monk of The Post-Standard wrote that the couple purchased the home in the mid-1970s after persuading city officials to leave it standing when it was set for demolition. They paid $1 for the home. In the 1980s and into the 1990s, Ian fought with developers and the city who attempted to purchase the home and demolish it for a parking lot for a medical office complex in the name of “urban renewal.”
Ian and Walda worked vigorously to restore the home to its former glory. They renovated the structure while maintaining all the original features including oak and walnut woodwork, a marbleized slate fireplace, a ceiling medallion and an original bathroom. Local author, Evamaria Harden wrote that during renovations a plumber discovered wooden piping that hooked up to the city’s sewer system.
Before leaving the home, Ian Nitschke was able to get the property protected status by the city Landmark Preservation board which gave him the promise that it would never be torn down. Soon after, Nitschke told a local reporter, “We’ve done our part to secure a little piece of Syracuse’s history. Now it’s time for someone else to do it.”
After originally posting this story in October, I was contacted by Sanya Popovic of New York City, a family friend of the Nitschke’s. Sanya stated that she remembers her mother felicitously describing the walls after Ian and Walda bought the house as – askin to the frescoes of Ravenna, referencing the interior that had been covered with graffiti, mostly faded due to rain that had seeped through the walls.
Interesting enough, Sanya is the daughter of Nenad Dusan Popovic. Nenad was a leading economic expert in Tito’s Communist Yugoslavia who defected in 1961 to teach and write in exile at Syracuse University. His book, ”Yugoslavia: The New Class in Crisis,” published in 1968, was edited by Walda Metcalf. You can read his obituary here.