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Public intrigued by open house in city

OBSERVER Photos by M.J. Stafford Ivy Rivera, left, greets people at an open house she offered Saturday of 43 W. Fourth St., a former funeral home in Dunkirk she has purchased for her psychic business and church.

On a rainy, dreary Saturday afernoon fit for indoor activity, dozens of curiosity seekers gaped at a 19th century home not open to the public for over a decade.

Ivy Rivera threw open the doors at 43 W. 4th St. In Dunkirk, a former funeral home built in 1882. She purchased it recently for her psychic business headquarters, but wanted to let people look around inside first.

The ornately carved, varnished woodwork of the first floor, the former Gardiner-Colletti Funeral Home, caused gasps. The highlight of the old wood is in and around a staircase to the second floor.

There are still a few items left over from the funeral home. Rivera explained that almost everything was sold off when the funeral home owner closed the business and moved out of state.

What got left behind was an odd assortment of stuff: An old water cooler, some framed prints (one still tagged for sale at a dollar), the lectern used by pastors presiding over funerals … and a few body bags.

Rivera and her right-hand man, Paul Casey, chatted up a few people but most just roamed on their own. Pastor of the Roots Revival InterFaith church and head of the Ivy League Psychic Academy, Rivera greeted people at the door. She was set to stream a tour of the building online, later.

While the first floor — with carpeting, wallpaper and wood virtually pristine — was the highlight, it was interesting going through the dozens of rooms in the rest of the building.

The basement is a grim, windowless warren of concrete block rooms. That’s where bodies were embalmed. There seems to be no equipment left here, but drains in the floor make it hard to ignore what happened here.

The second floor is similarly stripped, but is much more open and airy, as it was the funeral home owner’s living space.

Rivera plans to live here herself, eventually. There are kitchen and bathroom spaces but these would seem to need significant renovations to be usable.

The third floor used to contain the funeral home offices and has the only serious structural damage apparent in the building. One room has a water leak and badly warped wood paneling on the walls. Still, the main hallway looks to be solid, the carpet unstained.

Rivera has ambitious plans for the building. According to a handout she offered, it is headquarters of her psychic academy and church, as well as her psychic medium business and an apothecary. Psychic fairs, historical tours and drum circles are to be featured, and she will offer event rental space as well.

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