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New Castle News, PA  - "In the Driver's Seat"  by Dave Zuchowski
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In the Driver's Seat
By Dave Zuchowski
New Castle News

From the looks of the photo on Lana's Little House brochure, all rustic English coziness in its wooded nook, you'll probably not be able to wait to see the place in person. With its unique Cotswold Cottage architecture and free-reigning English country garden, the visual reality of this almost-fantasy like retreat from the mundane, far exceeds the expectations of its photographic representation.

The cottage was hand built over a three-year period starting in 1980 by () two young chaps who wanted to create a unique and personal statement in stucco and wood harvested on the property, topped by a steep wooden shingle-covered roof that oozes enchantment.

Through the intervening years, however, the property changed hands until the current owner, Lana Lewis, bought the cottage and surrounding 21-1/2 acres after seeing an ad in a Buffalo newspaper.

"I'd been looking for a special place and went ballistic when I first saw the cottage and its setting in person," she said. "I fell in love with it, didn't ask questions or care what needed to be fixed, and bought it then and there."

Soon after moving in on Sept. 10, 2001, neighbors kept phoning to ask if they could bring friends over to see "the Cotswold Cottage." Eventually, Lewis decided to offer guided tours of the gardens and house to the public that take close to two hours to complete.

Even before visitors get close to the house, their eyes are drawn to the whimsical barn nearby with shake shingle roof and Boston ivy covered walls. On the grounds, bird feeders hang from the trees, a stone bench stands just outside the picket fence lined garden, and a small playhouse that originally housed assorted fowl lies just in front of a picture perfect pond.

Once inside the gate, the garden captures your attention with its untamed, serendipitous look of healthy, assertive plants and flowers that fill every bit of the yard. On one side of the house, trumpet and grape vines climb nearly up to the roof. On the other, a vine covered pergola and wood frame gazebo offer much in the way of shade and relaxation.

Built in two sections, one two stories tall, the other three, the house boasts high ceilings, stucco walls, wooden beams hand cut by local Amish craftsmen, nails forged by a local blacksmith, and the kind of charm you don't usually get in contemporary domiciles.

Inside, a profusion of sunlight pours through the leaded windows lined with wooden shutters. Over the fireplace, a painting of the cottage by artist Jeanette Blair adds a different sort of accent than the other images hand painted right on the walls, and everywhere else, nooks and crannies are filled with memorabilia Lewis picked up on her travels around the world as well as gifts and heirlooms passed down from her family.

If you're lucky, she may even let you step out onto the small balcony that leads out from a third floor bedroom.

Guided tours are offered by appointment at the cost of $20 per person, but groups with an interest in gardens and architecture as well as hikers who might like to walk the grounds seem especially attracted to the site, located in Forestville, N.Y., seven miles from Fredonia. For further information, rates, and directions, phone, (716) 965-2798 or visit Web site

In nearby Mayville, Pat and Jim Reno operate a unique pottery that combines Jim's love of both gardening and ceramics. An engineer and technician by training, Jim started making pots in 1974 "because it was fun." Today, Reno Pottery is located on an acre of beautiful gardens filled with ornamental grasses, bee balm, barberry, hostas, day lilies, Japanese lanterns, bird baths, sculpture, and a large ten-foot tall oriental gate painted Chinese red.

Most noteworthy, however are his ceramic pots full of sedum, alpine plants that originally hail from Europe, Turkey, and Asia that can take a lot of abuse and still look beautiful. Reno lines them up on wooden platforms and overwinters them outdoors, although they don't regain their usual eye-catching appeal till late May.

The sedum-filled bowls constitute only about 10 percent of the business' annual income. The majority of the profit comes from the sale of handmade porcelain items and dinnerware that usually sport zoomorphic figures like roosters, dragonflies, and crabs.

Visitors can tour the gardens, then enter Reno's studio and showroom in the hemlock barn-board covered house he built himself. Jim's been making his hand crafted pottery for almost 30 years, and I think it shows in the quality of his workmanship.

Reno Pottery is at 6007 Centralia-Hartfield Road (County Road, 54) in Mayville. Phone (716) 753-7511 or visit Web site

Place To Dine

Rocco's, 44 Orchard St., Fredonia, N.Y. 14063. (716) 679-0044.
Don't let the modest exterior of this Italian, steak, and seafood-focused restaurant fool you. Owner Michael (Rocco) Doino's kitchen staff puts out some great home cooked, flavorful dishes in a fun, family-oriented atmosphere.

İNew Castle News 2003



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