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Omaha Magazine

If These Walls Could Talk: The Julians Move Into Mason’s Mystery Manor.

Feb 24, 2023 12:50PM ● By Lisa Lukecart

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Elliot Julian, 9, noticed a dusty footprint on the fourth step of the attic stairs a few short weeks after his family moved into their Victorian home on Izard Street. The stairway, partially hidden, contained no other imprints, and the dirty image remains a mystery. 

Tucked away in the storage loft, the Julians discovered a collection of dolls—some hidden in boxes, others sitting, unblinking, in the shadowy recesses of the dusty space—as well as discarded hospital cots and crutches resting against cobweb-covered walls. 

When sister Waverly, 13, plays on an ancestral piano on the main floor, the tunes echoing through the rooms only add to the historic home’s mystique.

Elliot’s mother, Whitney Julian, pulled a chain to flip on a single bulb in the attic. It illuminated a bathroom area with showers similar to what one might find in school locker rooms. The lights flickered off and on…

“Probably just something with the electricity…I hope,” Whitney said with a nervous laugh. 
Zelda, the family’s four-year-old Rottweiler, has acted uneasy since making the big move, possibly missing her fenced-in yard. Or maybe it’s due to the discarded scents of those who lived in the house before.

Previous owners from other decades have left their mark on the home, leading new occupants to feel as if they’ve stepped into an eccentric museum, a grand adventure, or even a horror flick. The house in the Walnut Hill neighborhood sketches out moments of bygone days. Some speculate that architect James Bayne Mason, who designed and built the residence in 1890, did so to one-up the 23-room sprawling Mercer mansion nearby. 

Prior to purchasing, Whitney drove past the red and yellow facade of the home for 10 years, admiring the peaceful acres with longing. It reminded her of growing up in the country in her hometown of Oakland, Nebraska. She appreciated the craftsmanship and intricacies in design elements that so many modern-day models lack. The home possessed depth and character, plus it had six bedrooms and three bathrooms; plenty of room for the family and friends to roam. 
Whitney gasped when a for-sale sign appeared on the lawn, and immediately sent a photo of it to her husband, Joe. 

“I love my wife and it’s a challenge, which is good,” said Joe Julian, the midtown pastor of Citylight Church. His wife works alongside him as a youth director. The couple and their three children couldn’t resist the historic Queen Anne house and moved in in November 2022.  

 Stepping inside the front screen door, Mason’s influence remains clear, seemingly pounded into the floors, walls, and doors. About 21 varieties of wood built into the interior lend distinct personalities to each room. At the front entrance, alternating light and dark stripes of wood (rather than a carpet mat) welcome guests. Original hardwood floors throughout the house add a distinct feeling of falling into a time capsule. Push-button light switches serve as another reminder of a forgotten era.

Elliot warmed himself on a frosty day by sitting on a vintage iron radiator with an embossed design, a reminder that functional fixtures once added artistic touches to homes. But no air conditioning could be an issue during the blazing summer months ahead. Carved flowers in the oak banister on the stairs pop, adding a 3-D visual effect. A burgundy red and gold pattern wall treatment wraps the foyer in opulence. 

In other rooms, though, the wallpapers have lost their deep vibrancy. The living room reveals a pink and white flowery pattern, more suited to a bedroom. Gold-textured embossed paper with a red border waits to be touched in what is thought to have been the parlor. Salmon seashell wallpaper contrasts with a bunkhouse cowboy table in the kitchen. It’s a wild kaleidoscope of patterns and colors, a bit overwhelming to the eyes peering in. 

“I don’t like most of the wallpaper. It’s gross,” Joe declared.  

Luckily, the shiny splendor of the coal fireplaces, inlaid with pottery from Holland, beautify the spaces. Carved faces, colorful birds, and floriated patterns provide a vivid backdrop to furnishings on the main and second floors. And countless stain-glassed windows shower the ceiling and floors in a prism of rainbows at sunset; though some might not seem tranquil on closer inspection. In one dining room window scene, a brown bird hangs by its legs upside down next to a blue one with a rope around its neck. 

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Omaha Home magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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