Sensenbergers restore house into Victorian masterpiece

Cindy and Tony Sensenberger restored their home at 17 Front Street to Victorian grandeur. (Photo by Jen Detulleo)
Cindy and Tony Sensenberger restored their home at 17 Front Street to Victorian grandeur. (Photo by Jen Detulleo)

MADISON – Tony and Cindy Sensenberger transformed a dilapidated, deserted house into a Victorian masterpiece. They own the Anderson-Sensenberger Home at 17 Front Street.

In 1897, merchant and banker Harvey Anderson built the house. Successive owners were Dr. James Allen Kyser in 1926 and Billy and Nancy Jones circa 1970.

In 1997 on Thanksgiving weekend, the Sensenbergers visited Madison and stumbled upon an auction on Front Street. Planning to look at furniture, they stopped, but Tony soon negotiated with auctioneer to buy all of the land with the house.

The Sensenbergers had a ‘new’ home, complete with collapsed front porch, deteriorating back rooms, a leaking roof and holes in the floor. “It was uninhabitable,” Cindy said.

Their reclamation job started with hauling off four dumpsters of interior contents and 30 truckloads of overgrown honeysuckle and privet. Tony gutted the house down to the frame and demolished the lean-to kitchen.

Huntsville architect Harvey Jones served as consultant.

The exterior color, named mulberry, complies with Victorian schemes. Tuscan columns support the semi-circular veranda to the east. Several gables follow asymmetrical lines of period architecture and lead to one peak.

Original to the house, two stained glass windows on the front staircase’s landing remained intact. Stewart Iron Works of Cincinnati manufactured the century-old iron fence.

Situated on three acres, the house now has about 5,000 square feet with five rooms downstairs, eight upstairs. They have four bedrooms and five bathrooms. Upstairs, Cindy has an office, and the family enjoys a TV and recreation room with pool table.

Their new kitchen with green tile counters and cherry cabinets opens to and connects with the family room. “I can be involved with guests while I’m cooking and when the guests are eating,” Cindy said. “This is where we live.”

The decorating scheme uses tones of peach and mint green. In the living room, two French provincial chairs and marble-top table accompany a formal settee of tufted gold velvet. “The formal living and dining rooms are almost true to the period,” Cindy said.

The Sensenbergers bought many antiques at auction, particularly in Athens. “I love to find nice antiques in pristine shape … not real expensive but in good shape,” Cindy said.

Four-poster and sleigh beds carry the theme upstairs. A chaise fainting couch has a vintage pattern of muted flowers and wisteria. Guest quarters have an en suite bathroom.

On the land he negotiated at auction, Tony planted long rows of white and pink crape myrtles. The lawn has four magnolias, two pecans, two oaks, along with cherry, hackberry, holly, pine and maple trees and Rose of Sharon althea and blueberry and blackberry bushes.

In their garden, the Sensenbergers grow tomatoes, yellow squash, green peppers, cilantro, mint and basil that Cindy uses in dishes at their restaurant, Main Street Cafe.

Cindy recently added an unusual vanilla/strawberry hydrangea tree. The lawn’s most unique feature is a fruit-bearing olive tree, rarely grown in the South. Green olives turn brownish when ready for harvest.

Invisible to traffic, a secluded pool area is situated near the garden. Tony built garages where the horse stable and carriage house once stood.

Tony installed an authentic cannon at the driveway entrance and a station bell that once alerted passengers to board the Norfolk-Southern Railroad.

Along with Main Street Cafe, the Sensenbergers have shaped today’s downtown profile with Shoppes on Main office suites, Studio 106 and Murphy Homes Showroom on Main Street.

Their daughter Melinda Sanders is married to Pat Sanders. Their sons are Will Sanders, 14, a Lee High School student, and Jordyn Burrell, 21, who attended Alabama A&M University and now lives in New York City while pursuing a modeling career. Jordyn also often helps Grandmother Cindy at Main Street Cafe.

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