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Aurora's Garfield Goose House up for sale
By Justin Kmitch | Daily Herald Staff

Known locally in Aurora as the "Garfield Goose House," the building at 247 W. Park Ave. is for sale and qualifies for exterior renovation grants from the city.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Several antiques and memorabilia items, including this Garfield Goose promotional poster, will be sold with the house.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Downers Grove resident Pam Krska bought the Aurora landmark at 247 W. Park Ave, and made more than $100,000 in interior renovations.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Bruce Newton called this the "Lincoln Room" and, at the time, it was the only room in the house not painted red. Today, it's the only room in the house that is painted red.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Pam Krska's $100,000 in renovations include a new kitchen.


Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

The historic home at 247 W. Park Avenue in Aurora, built in 1894, is ready for it's fifth owner.


Courtesy of the City of Aurora

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Published: 12/9/2008 12:06 AM

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Once possibly the most well-known address in Aurora, the famed Garfield Goose House at 247 W. Park is on the market.

The Victorian home was built in 1901 by William Foulke, treasurer of the Western Wheeled Scraper Works, but it didn't necessarily earn its fame until the late 1950s when it was owned by Garfield Goose puppet creators Bruce and Claire Newton.

In 2006, Pam Krska purchased the house on the northeast corner of Oak and West Park avenues in the historic Tanner District with the intention of fixing it up and living in it for five years before flipping it.

"I was first drawn to the home by its historic aspect and its look, but the history intensified my desire to have it and rehab it," Krska said. "I really wanted to live here for at least five years, but when the market tanked, I was forced to let it go."

Krska bought the home from the Newton family for $166,000. She then spent $100,000 and six months working full time to restore the home's interior. During that time, she replaced walls, replaced the electrical and plumbing systems, and remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms.

"I'm pretty proud of myself, seeing how much dirt and elbow grease went into doing the work I did," Krska said. "We installed new conduit, a new furnace and new plumbing so everything behind the walls is brand new."

Most of what is in front of those walls is new, too, including the refinished hardwood floor and pastel walls. Hardly a hint of the Newtons' trademark ceiling-to-floor red paint and wallpaper schemes that once dominated the interior exists on the main floors.

During the remodeling, Krska said she discovered several cans of red paint labeled "Newton Red," indicating the Newtons had a custom shade made for the interior.

"As I worked, the walls came down and the red went with them," Krska said. "The only room that was not red was Bruce's 'Lincoln' room and that was brown."

Unfortunately, Krska said, she ran out of money to finish the dark gray house's exterior.

"To see that house get painted would make all the difference in the world, but I've got to leave that to the new owner," she said.

Preservation and Downtown Planning Specialist Jennie Grobe said the house would qualify for a $15,000 preservation loan for exterior improvements and a $4,000 window restoration.

Since entering the market a few months ago, the asking price has dipped from an original $250,000 to $224,900 in late November.

Realtor Shauna Wiet said leaving the exterior work shouldn't scare potential buyers, especially those looking for the charm of an old house without all the maintenance.

"People who are looking for old houses don't like old kitchens and old bathrooms and this house doesn't have either," Wiet said. "But they do like high ceilings and historical significance and this house has plenty of both."

According to the Newton's entry in the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame, the couple worked in Chicago television, bringing "The Happy Pirates" children's' show, "Shock Theater" and even "Soul Train" to the airwaves, until 1976 when they ventured off on their own and started West Park Productions.

Aurora staff members said the couple quickly became local celebrities, making appearances in the dome-topped "Royal Pressmobile" and performing with several of their 278 telepuppets.

Grobe said the Newmans were rarely seen in public not wearing elaborate, matching red-and-black outfits.

"Everyone knew who they were and recognized them immediately," Grobe said. "Claire also had an impressive collection of derby hats that she wore out and about."

For nearly 50 years, Wiet said, the home the Newtons shared with their five children doubled as a living workshop and antique museum where school children from across the suburbs would visit on field trips.

With 18 rooms, the Newtons had plenty of space to play with and turned several rooms, closets, the attic and basement into set pieces like a fully equipped old-time ice cream shop, a barber shop, dentist office, seamstress shop, general store and naval radio shack.

The house also held their antique collection that included 46 heating stoves, 35 pieces of old telephone equipment, 85 oil lamps and thousands of other knickknacks.

Claire died in July 2006 at age 77, and Bruce died Nov. 6, 2007, at age 80, but the couple kept many of their parents' belongings and creations in the home until selling it.

When Krska began looking at the home, she said it still had many of the Newman's personal belongings and was filled with "hundreds and hundreds of antiques."

"They cleared most of it out during the estate sale right before I bought the house, but seeing those things was incredible," she said. "Before I ran out of money, I had intentions of restoring the bed and breakfast, candy store and submarine room in the attic and I wanted to hang a photo of Bruce up there."

When the house does sell, Krska said she will throw in the original DVD from the Aurora Public Library showing the house in it's "museum-like" state, a photo of Bruce Newton painting the set of "Soul Train" in the home's dining room and documentation certifying the Newtons as members of the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame.

"I loved this historical home even though it was the biggest and most time-consuming of the six houses I've flipped," she said. "I'll hate to see it go, but I'll love to see someone finish bringing it back to perfection."