Rebuilt home part of WHS annual historic homes tour

Marlo Guetersloh TimesNewspapers
Ryan Chioni poses for a photo with his mom, Michele, in their rebuilt house onWestminster Drive. Among the decoration in the home is a wooden cross made from the dining table that was damaged in the Nov. 17 tornado. The home is one of five featured on the Washington Historical Society's Tour of Homes on Tuesday

Michele Chioni’s house on Westminster Drive may not be the largest and it certainly is not the oldest house on the Washington Historical Society’s annual house tour on Tuesday.

“I think it’s neat to be on the house walk because I think it will give others hope and show that Washington is on its way back,” Chioni said.

Chioni’s house was one among the first to be completely rebuilt after the Nov. 17, 2013, tornado tore off part of the roof and blew out the walls, leaving it beyond repair.

Chioni and her son Ryan moved back into their home at 1110 Westminster on Memorial Day weekend.

The Washington Historical Society’s annual tour is its largest fundraiser of the year. Tickets are on sale now for the tour to be held from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, which will include five homes in Washington.

Since Chioni was able to move back into her home, the city has 

issued more than 160 occupancy permits on houses that were total rebuilds from the tornado. More are expected through the winter.

“It’s nice to see cars in the driveways again,” she said. “It was a little odd at first, being here (in the neighborhood) by myself.”

While the EF-4 tornado left a long path of destruction through the city and Chioni’s living room, she knew recovery might take time but could be done.

While the tornado touched down, Chioni took cover with other church members at Our Savior Lutheran Church.

“I knew what I was in for,” she said. 

In 2005, an EF-3 tornado ripped through the Wisconsin town where her brother lives, taking his house with it.

“I knew it would be OK,” Chioni said. “At first I was upset, but I knew I would be OK. So that day, I knew with full confidence that we’d be back and it would be better than before.”

During the rebuild, Chioni kept the foot print of her 1970s ranch making only a few changes including the location of the stairs.

Chioni moved into the house in 1995 and she adds that sometimes she catches herself heading to the stairs’ original location.

“It’s different, but it’s still home and it still feels like home,” she said.

Another new feature in the home is a wooden cross that hangs above the hallway. The cross was made for Chioni out of her kitchen table that was battered by the storm.

“You can see the scratches and the gouges,” she said. She offered the table to a member of her church who is a woodworker. “It was a great piece of solid oak. I was hoping he could reuse it. It was so nice when he asked if I wanted something made out of it.”

Advance tickets for the tour are $12 each, available through Monday at Studio 901, Kimpling’s Ace Hardware, Homespun and the Chamber of Commerce office. The day of the tour tickets will be $15 each and available for purchase at any of the houses on the tour.

Homes on this year’s tour are: John and Angie Schnibben, 105 S. Main St.; Mark and Vickie Brent, 204 S. Market; Madora Mills, 4 Primrose Lane; Chioni, 1110 Westminster and Mark and Tammy Herrmann, 112 Hilldale St.

The Washington Fine Arts Society will be serving refreshments at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church during tour hours and exhibiting artworks by society members. Tour tickets are not required for the art exhibit.