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CITY CHIC

"I love cities above all," wrote Michelangelo, and if it hadn't been centuries before, he might have been writing about Earl Robinson and Cindy Lucas' Allentown home.

Built as a private residence in 1888 by a German brewery mogul, the house became doctors' offices in the 1950s. Robinson says when he and his then-roommates saw it in the '70s, the historic house in the heart of the city was, frankly, "a mess."

"It was almost enough to make me want to turn around and run," says Robinson, vice president with Outokumpu American Brass, and Lucas, a speech pathologist for the Buffalo Board of Education, have lovingly restored the house to its original Victorian splendor. Robinson does much of the work himself.

"I enjoy it," he says, pointing out the new kitchen window that replaced a room-darkening staircase. "It was fun designing it, too." Cherry woodwork by Huston Telech and leaded glass by 6th Dimension are new, but they match the existing, refinished woodwork in color and style.

The kitchen is integral in this all-season party house, where guests can sit at the table, watching -- and sampling -- while Lucas cooks. Step just a few feet away and relax on the leather sofa to enjoy the home theater.

"During football season, we have people watching football," Robinson says. "We have surround sound, satellite, DVD, VCR's." The couple has mastered clutter; doors, drawers and cabinets organize and hide all electronic components, appliances and household items.

The beautiful, open kitchen is a magnet for friends, but guests are free to enjoy the living room, with its state-of-the-art "tube" stereo system, leather sofa and natural gas fireplace. There are also a formal dining room and a billiard room.

Outside, a paved courtyard holds another TV-stereo under a canopy, perfect for TV football games on crisp fall days. Mature trees provide privacy and a feeling of green space in the urban setting.

Although Robinson and Lucas enjoy entertaining year round, perhaps they are most famous for their annual Allentown bash, for which coveted (and creative) invitations are issued. Guests wander indoors and out. Food and drink are plentiful, including ribs and other meats on smokers and grills, cooked by a friend who sets up days in advance.

If that isn't entertainment enough, Robinson's cherry picker ("When you work on a house this big, you need something that goes high up") lifts brave partygoers over the trees, for a glimpse of the Allentown Arts Festival in full swing.