Not everyone can boast of having an atomic bomb shelter on their property, but Dr. Andy and Karen Harwood find it makes a great conversation piece for first-time guests. “When our home was purchased in 1988, we learned the owners from an earlier period, Dr. John and Edith Miles, had constructed the shelter in the 1950s at the start of the Cold War when fears of a Russian invasion were running rampant,” Andy says.
This historical tidbit is only part of the legacy handed down by the Miles family. They also lifted the one-story circa 1900 Acadian Creole home that fronted St. John Street in Lafayette and turned it to face Calder. With the addition of two more stories, they continued their renovations with majestic Corinthian columns that stand today, exemplifying a Greek Revival façade.
“I was drawn to the unique combination of the older home and the older area, which is not common to Lafayette,” Andy says.
Karen adds: “Our home doesn’t have the typical layout. It was solidly built with unique architecture not found in new houses, and the location provided easy access to other parts of the city.”
Andy and Karen have indulged in some changes to better suit their lifestyle, one of which was updating the kitchen eight years ago. “I resisted for a long time until we went to Graceland, the home of Elvis, in Memphis, Tenn. The kitchen there was exactly like ours, so the battle was lost,” Andy says with a smile.
As the process took place, an assortment of old American silver dollars and half dollars was discovered in the wall. Also found was an electric bell-pusher that was used at an earlier time to buzz the maid.
Another alteration included a walk-in closet and luxurious bath adjoining the upstairs room they chose as their bedroom, which certainly enhanced its functionality. But Karen felt their choice meant even more for them. “The master bedroom is shaded from the morning sun by the trees,” she says. “Considering this and how the room is set apart, it is a quiet portion of the house, our sanctuary.”
In sync in many ways, Andy and Karen do have some diversity in their collective tastes. Displays of cranberry glass amassed by Andy over the years are visible in many of the rooms. These Victorian pieces dating to the mid-1800s exhibit a deep, rich red color and are the result of a special process wherein molten glass is infused with gold. His love of English porcelain is likewise apparent. These were mainly acquired in his homeland of England.
Karen is drawn to orange glassware that is more nouveau. “I found a beautiful tall goblet in Michigan, where I am from, that I noticed when the sun hit the glass, it sparkled,” she explains. “They were manufactured in America by various companies in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I find it more fun because it is harder to find.”
The walls of the Harwoods’ home are richly dressed with notable art by the likes of Clementine Hunter and William Tolliver.
Many of the home’s features are outstanding, as well. A built-in corner cupboard with decorative molding in the living room is original to the house, as is the cedar closet on the second floor, which comes complete with a trough that was used in the summer to store household rugs. A wrought-iron stairway railing remains, as well as the pocket doors that can be closed to separate the living and dining rooms.
“There are 40 doors in the house, each one with a lock,” Andy says. “The door knobs are brass art deco.”
You could say each doorway opens to reveal yet another aspect of the Harwoods’ lifestyle. This would include the cozy screened-in porch off of the family room, which at times offers Karen her own peaceful little nook.
“We feel like plantation owners in the central part of Lafayette,” Andy says.