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Haven: 'Everything I need is here'

Anna Del Vecchio's Bella Vista trinity is full of nearly 50 years of memories.

The Wall of Weddings is an homage to generations of family nuptials, with portraits of Del Vecchio's children, nieces and nephews, and her parents, as well as her parents' marriage certificate.
The Wall of Weddings is an homage to generations of family nuptials, with portraits of Del Vecchio's children, nieces and nephews, and her parents, as well as her parents' marriage certificate.Read moreMICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

For the last two years, family and friends have asked Anna Del Vecchio when she'll be moving from her trinity in Bella Vista. The answer is always the same.

"I'm not going anywhere. Everything I need is here . . . my baker, the Ninth Street Market, and my bank is on the corner," says Del Vecchio, 75.

She does readily concede, though, that she wanted nothing to do with the run-down shell that the property was when she first saw it.

She was a young housewife with three preschool-age children in 1966, when her husband, Anthony Del Vecchio, said he had found a house for them.

"It was terrible inside. I told Anthony, 'I can't move in there,' " recalls Del Vecchio, who relishes her weekly family dinners featuring chicken cutlets, cavatelli, or Italian wedding soup.

But the raw space - an old carriage house, she says - appealed to him because of its good bones and its closeness to relatives. And he promised the house would be transformed.

"Anthony . . . he designed the house's layout," she says proudly of her husband, who had no architectural or building experience - he worked in the Philadelphia court system.

He hired a crew to relocate doors and walls, carving out two bedrooms on each of the upstairs floors. The kitchen was moved to the front of the house, and wide-plank oak flooring was installed.

Although the couple grew up a stone's throw from each other in Bella Vista, their paths didn't cross until they were young adults, when a neighbor gave both a ride to work one morning. A smitten Anthony asked for Anna's number, and the rest, as they say, is history.

For nearly half a century, the couple lived in the redbrick house with the purple entryway, shutters, and sidewalk cellar door. After a short illness with prostate cancer, Anthony died in February 2011 at 81.

Originally, the home's decor was Colonial, with modern overtones. But over time, Anna Del Vecchio blended in her love of the Victorian era by mixing heavy antiques with gilded finishes into the dwelling. The Del Vecchios removed wooden ceiling beams, artfully hung shiny, bell-shaped lights, and added floral wallpaper in the spiral staircase tower.

A marble-topped console stands proudly next to a stone urn filled with Del Vecchio's collection of canes.

"Look at this one," she says, laughing, as she unscrews the metal top of one cane. "You can put whiskey inside."

An ornate walnut dining table, with a matching sideboard, dazzles in the kitchen, where on this Mother's Day she and her family will gather for a breakfast of coffee and pastries. Decades-old plates crown the wall above the window; porcelain tea sets await a party.

French doors lead to the yard, which provides another environment for dining during warm weather.

Creating drama in the step-up formal living room is a blast of green color on the walls, accentuating cherished belongings. Del Vecchio points out a leaded-glass door leading to the basement. It was salvaged and has been cleaned up, which has added distinction.

"The wood was red, and the glass was painted white," she says.

Del Vecchio's theory about decorative finds is this: "If I like it, I buy it." That theory emerged when she saw in an antiques shop the fringed red sofa that now rests against an interior brick wall.

This wall, fondly called "The Wall of Weddings," is an homage to generations of family nuptials, with portraits of her children (Denise, 50; Gina, 49, and Anthony, 47), nieces and nephews, and Del Vecchio's parents, as well as her parents' marriage certificate.

The master bedroom, a light-filled room, is outfitted with early-1900s furniture stained blue, lavish pieces that belonged to Del Vecchio's parents.

In many rooms, cherubs hang on walls, wreaths adorn doors, and lace tops tables. Many of Del Vecchio's collectibles were found on Center City's Antiques Row or at local estate sales, but the shopping isn't always about something old.

"Sometimes, I might find something I like on QVC," she says.

For Del Vecchio, who has worked and volunteered for neighboring Catholic parishes for years, downsizing into a smaller home remains unlikely. When the past involves an eternity of memories and a trove of treasured furnishings that range from embroidered pillows to a vintage stroller, simply disposing of things is not an option.

"I'll be staying here as long as I can," Del Vecchio says. "I love it here."