Homefront: Couple preserves 106-year-old home

Over the years, homes see a wide variety of families come through and can pass from owner to owner several times, but Don and Angie Dire are only the second family to live in their 106-year-old Dickinson home.

Over the years, homes see a wide variety of families come through and can pass from owner to owner several times, but Don and Angie Dire are only the second family to live in their 106-year-old Dickinson home.

A railroad family from Chicago built and moved into the house located at 309 Fifth Ave. W., in 1904.

The family's only child, Mary Servis, also married a railroad man and lived in the home until 1977, when she sold it to the Dires.

They signed the papers on April 28, 1977, began renovations in May and moved into the home just before Thanksgiving of that year.

Over the past 33 years, the Dires have updated the home and redecorated, but the original design and features of the two-story home remain intact.


"When we bought it, it was still in its original state, nothing had been changed," said Angie, who owns and operates The Village in downtown Dickinson. "So we updated it completely, but ... we want to keep it in the integrity of the home, so we kept it in its original state as much as we could."

The main floor has a sitting room with some original furniture, a formal dining room, kitchen, library and the only room in the home structurally changed from the original: A dining and sitting area attached to the kitchen that was once the back porch.

The home's original dark hardwood floors span the home, accented by country-blue rugs.

The Dires also updated the kitchen when they moved in.

"Of course the kitchen was still in its original state," Angie said. "It still had the old Monarch Stove and the old refrigerator and there was a wall-hung sink."

Now the room features an oven mounted in a brick wall and a gas range on a granite island. The sink area also features the same light brown speckled granite under a light-giving bay window.

An original wood and glass cabinet holds Flow Blue china Angie collects, though she said she pulls it out for use with company.

The top level has three bedrooms and two bathrooms; one, formerly a walk-in closet, is attached to a bedroom through a dressing room that Angie said was once a nursery.


Large closets uncommon of the time the home was built fill each room, and warm-brown dressers accented with burl wood which the original owners brought from Chicago add a classic touch.

The walls of the home feature clocks and artwork Angie and Don have chosen, with Victorian vignettes and floral motifs lending a sense of country charm to the decor.

Blue and yellow accents add a splash of color throughout the home, flowing the design from room to room.

The Dires also updated the basement of the home, which was just a cellar when they moved in, adding another bedroom, tiled bathroom and sitting area.

Perhaps one of the most unique features of the home is separate from the main house.

The backyard holds the former carriage house of the original property, though the Dires have repurposed it.

"It was in the back of the property, and when we bought it we had the house movers come and put it on a foundation and it's now our guest house," Angie said.

She added they use the house in the summer to cook all their meals, as it leads to a patio area in the yard.


Aside from a full kitchen, the guest house has a loft bedroom and bathroom, sitting area and additional half-bath under the stairs to the loft.

It is decorated in a summery Americana motif and features a wall-hung quilt sewn by a friend of Angie to match a print hanging in the sitting area.

When the Dires first moved in, the yard wasn't landscaped and all the sidewalks behind the house were made from railroad ties.

Now it features new trees, landscaped gardens and areas for potted plants, which Angie said fill the yard in the summer.

Some original features have remained in the yard though, like a small wooden wheelbarrow used to hold plants.

After 33 years, Angie isn't sure if she has just one favorite thing about her home.

"I like it all," she said. "I like that we were able to keep the house in its original condition, but I think my kitchen and my family room are my favorites. This is where we're at all the time."

Don said he likes that they have retained so much of the authenticity of the home.


Servis chose the Dires specifically to buy the house, and they've taken that commitment seriously, truly enjoying the original beauty of the design and architecture.

One more thing hasn't changed since the Dires moved to their home on Fifth Avenue West. The original owner was a railroad man, as was his son-in-law, Don is a retired railroad worker and the Dire's son and son-in-law are railroad engineers.

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