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Mysterious ad prompts purchase of lake's first home

Staff writer

A mysterious advertisement appeared in the Marion County Record in early 2000 piqued the interest of former residents Edward and Jean Hett.

“It was small, only about an inch and a half long, but it got our attention,” Ed said.

The ad had a small picture of a house at Marion County Lake and simply said, “What would you do with this house if you could buy it?”

It asked those interested to send their ideas to a post office box. The Hetts had no idea with whom they were communicating.

The old house had been a landmark in the Hetts’ memories. After considerable thought, they decided to submit their ideas.

“We kind of forgot about it until a few weeks later when we heard from Ted and Chariddah Gill,” Ed said.

The Gills, who inherited the house, had chosen potential buyers to interview.

They met to talk about plans . Several weeks later, when a call came from Ted, they were surprised to find they had been chosen.

“Things just went from there,” Ed said. We reached a fair price and began planning.”

Construction of the house, the first at Marion County Lake, predated completion of the lake by 60 years.

The home was erected in 1877 by P.W. Gee, one of the area’s first settlers. Gee had to live in the home for two years before being granted homesteader status, which cost $4,” Ed said.

A few years later, Gee moved to California. The house had several owners until 1945, when Jerry and Verona Mullikin, Cherridah Gill’s parents, purchased it.

“We think Jerry was the first lake manager,” said Ed’s wife, Jean.

Upon the Mullikins’ deaths, the property was handed down to the Gills.

The home was constructed from locally quarried limestone. Two additions — a front library area of limestone and a kitchen, made from cinderblocks — were added later.

Ed grew up in Marion and knew Jean during the early 60s, until Jean’s family moved to Iowa.

Their families kept in touch over the years. When the two met after high school, they began a four-year courtship.

“That was 40 years ago,” Jean said. “After we were married and had established our home and Ed’s medical practice in Wichita, we continued traveling back to Marion to visit with our families.”

The Hetts moved in on Labor Day weekend of 2000 only to realize there was no electricity and the place was extremely hot. Ed remembers it was about 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity.

“We thought the electricity would be on, and it was a big surprise when it wasn’t,” Jean said.

In 2014, they began working on renovation. The biggest challenge was how to keep the integrity of the stone home while upgrading and adding on to accommodate their family.

To get started, they contacted Marion High School to see whether students could take measurements of the existing structure and complete rough drawings to send to architect and fellow former Marion resident, Kendall Helmer.

“Kendall did a beautiful job with the plans from the information sent by the students,” Jean said.

A lot of the furniture was left with the house, Jean said. In the library addition, most of the books were still there.

“Verona was a schoolteacher so she had a variety of won

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derful books that we still enjoy reading today,” Jean said.

A feature Verona added to the library was a fireplace with intricately cut and varied sizes of native limestone.

Of the furniture left, an old player piano was the Hett’s most interesting piece.

The kitchen addition had been built around the piano and the piano couldn’t be moved when the house sold.

“We actually had to knock down some walls to get the piano out to our dining area, where it sits in all its glory,” Ed said.

After plans went to contractor Jeremy Voth, renovations began in May 2015 and lasted 18 months.

“We wanted to maintain the integrity of the 1800s house while adding space for our children and grandchildren to be with us without stepping all over each other,” Jean said.

They raised three children and have 14 grandchildren who visit regularly.

During planning for the renovation, the cinderblock addition was found to be structurally unstable. With help from relatives, the room was taken down.

When digging out the area to create basement rooms, several limestone boulders were unearthed. The Hetts decided to use the stones in their outdoor landscaping.

“We wanted to keep most of the landscaping as natural as possible,” Ed said.

It features native plants that don’t need a lot of chemicals, which could present a problem to the lake, just across the street from their property.

During planning, the Hetts felt strongly that it was, in fact, a lake house.

“It’s not done up with high-end products because this is a family house on the lake where there’s sand, mud, weeds and kids,” Ed said.

They didn’t use granite for countertops or hard wood for the kitchen and dining areas.

“We want this to feel like a comfortable place to be with family without fear of ruining anything,” Jean said.

A deck area overlooks the lake.

“Preserving the structure while bringing it into the 21st century helps remind people of the history of the lake and Marion County,” Ed said.

The home, not their full-time residence until possibly after Ed’s retirement, will be part of the Marion Library’s Christmas tour.

Last modified June 27, 2018

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