When Evi Kontogoni came to the United States from her native Greece in 2001 to enroll as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, she immediately fell in love with the West Philadelphia neighborhoods around the school.
“I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else,” she says. “The diversity, the sense of community. And what I loved most about Philadelphia was its history.”
So 10 years ago, when it became possible for her to buy a home, the choice was simple: “I just loved those Victorian houses.”
She bought a five-bedroom, 2½ bath semi-detached Queen Anne house on a tree-lined street a 10-minute walk from the campus.
A photographer and museum curator, she was working as an exhibit designer at the Mütter Museum, near Rittenhouse Square.
The house was in excellent shape then, she says, but she had to rewire the third floor so it could accommodate her photo studio.
She and her partner painted the house and upgraded the kitchen appliances, except for the JennAir professional-quality stove that caught her partner’s eye.
“He’s a very good cook,” she says. “That was a very big deal for him.”
Records on the house in the Squirrel Hill section go back only to 1906, but Kontogoni says the house almost surely dates from the 1890s.
It retains most of its original features, including wood floors, carved arches and mantelpieces, and original leaded and stained glass windows.
The slate and flat roofs have been updated, along with the smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, hot water heater, and furnace.
The kitchen has butcher block countertops, a granite-topped center island, and a garbage disposal.
The house is in the catchment area for the university-aided Penn Alexander School, one of the city’s best K-8 public schools.
It has an attached one-car garage but is near two SEPTA trolley stops for trips to Center City.
Kontogoni says she left the house only for career advancement: She recently moved to Ireland to become curator of the historical medical collection of Trinity College, Dublin.