For several years, Sherry Wright hoped to relocate her family from Lincolnshire Historic District to the riverfront of Downtown Evansville. With each home that caught her attention, she called her husband Kirk and asked him to join her for a look.
Each time, he responded with a simple “no.” That was until Sherry went to lunch with a real estate agent friend, who first wanted to look at a home on S.E. Riverside Drive.
The Italianate 3-story brick home was familiar to Sherry — she tried to purchase it unsuccessfully back in the 1990s. As she made her way to the third floor of the 12,000-square-foot home — she knew it was meant to be hers this time.
“She had been wanting to move down here since 2000,” says Kirk. “We married in ‘97. She would come home and say, ‘I saw a home on First Street,’ and I’d say ‘no.’ That went on for the next seven years or so. Then that fateful day came, she actually called me and said ‘Bring your checkbook.’ That was it.
Designed by Henry Mursinna, the same architect who drew plans for what is today the Reitz Home Museum, the 1869 home was the residence of the Venneman family, who sold goods to river travellers. The connections to the Reitz family deepened as John Reitz Jr. married the Vennemans’ daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Venneman passed away before the turn of the century and for the next 60 years the house was owned by the Hughes family, who owned a department store on Main Street. The house changed hands a few more times, before the Wrights bought the home seven years ago. They moved from their home on Lincoln Avenue in the Lincolnshire neighborhood, which was featured in “Lived in Elegance” in the April/May 2005 issue of Evansville Living.
The Wrights renamed their new house “Casa Finale,” or final home, which they agreed would be the last home they would ever buy or want to live in.
With a 55-foot black and white checkered marble hallway, eight bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a fireplace in each bedroom and sitting room, three kitchens, including one in the adjacent carriage house, Casa Finale previously served as a bed-and-breakfast, the Oliver House, featured in Evansville Living in the March/April 2002 issue, in a story titled, “The Price of Preservation.”
The home currently functions as an informal bed and breakfast for the Wrights, although they never charge overnight guests. The family has hosted the guest artists of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra for the last few years, and many other guests over time.
“We have met people from all over the world that have blessed our community with their talents,” says Sherry.
The Wrights are taking the steps to operate Casa Finale as a bed-and-breakfast.
“When I first started homemaking or parenting, I wanted to treat my family like they were in a bed-and-breakfast,” says Sherry. “Now I am going to open that up for the rest of the world.”
When the Wrights moved in, Casa Finale already had a lovely restoration, but the family added some personal touches.
“We changed the color palette,” says Sherry. “It was more of an English style and it was simply gorgeous, but we changed it to a really intense Tuscan color. We used four colors in the whole house — terracotta, aubergine, mustard, wasabi.”
The Wrights also renovated the third floor, which had been a ballroom and now holds the theater room, gym, tower, two more bedrooms, and three bathrooms.
Because of the colossal size of the home at about 12,000 square feet, Sherry says she’s worked in “cozy spots” throughout, such as the tower with a large papier-mâché giraffe peeking out its windows, the addition of a library that looks out to a veranda, and the sunroom off the second floor kitchen where Sherry spends most of her time and uses it as an office space. Sherry is a professional life coach at YourOwnCoach.com. Kirk is the vice president and co-owner of Elmer Buchta Trucking, Inc., and owns Wright Steel and Services.
There also are many “places to play,” including the billiards room in the basement, a putting green outside on a tucked away back porch, the theater room, which holds nine completely reclining red seats and a wall-sized screen, and a whole stable of vintage bicycles in the carriage house.
The Carriage House, which Sherry calls “perfect in its imperfection” with a crooked window accidentally built into its design, used years ago to house servants in its loft and horses below.
While the house is home to many guests and three of their children — Paige, 23, Ty, 20, and Layne, 16 (the oldest, Brooke, 27, is preparing to graduate from Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis), it also houses Lola, an umbrella cockatoo, and two standard poodles, Luca and Bella.
“It’s like living in the middle of a work of art, but we don’t treat it like a museum,” says Sherry. “We actually live here. We really live in every inch of this house. This is a place where we want to connect and celebrate our lives. In my decorating, I try to make spots to celebrate and connect in every room of the home. You can put your feet up on every piece of furniture, you can eat in every room in the home — we don’t have those types of rules.”
Living on the riverfront also has allowed the family to better connect to the community.
“The way we connect to the community at large is different because we live in a home like this,” says Sherry. “With the greenway and the river, me and the kids, we are out all the time biking, walking, and enjoying the sunsets. This is not the kind of neighborhood where you just drive home and slip in quietly. We are out and about. It is so diverse. There are college kids and professors and everything in between.”