Friday, January 28, 2011

A House with an Identity Crisis

I took Joseph on a walk in the pretty snow yesterday and we stopped by the library to see if we could locate some newspaper archives and do a little house research.

No such luck. The newspaper archives lie in another library to the north. I shall journey to them some day soon. In the mean time, I've been chatting up the town office secretary and she might have some really fun house related artifacts for me to share with you some time soon. I can't wait!

Despite not finding the archives, it was quite a fruitful expedition. A local historian is creating a historical database of all of the houses in our town. Sah-WEET! I might have fallen instantly in love with Phillip the Historian. Seriously. Sorry Stephen, it just wasn't meant to be.

Building a historical database on the houses in [town] for future people to refer to. Do you have any memories or knowledge about any of these properties that you can share? Information such as people who lived there and their occupations. Any business names associated with the property. Any details about changes to the property. Old photographs. Anything! If you do, please make a note on the note papers. [...] Thank you!
Like I said, I'm in serious love. I could kiss the man. I'm planning on running away with him to Jamaica after we meet to exchange pictures and information about my house. That's right, you better believe that I wrote down everything I knew about my house and left it with the front desk. Hopefully, he'll contact me soon because I'm super excited. How could I not be when we think alike?

I just used slightly less professional methods...

And offered bribes. Maybe I should suggest bribery to him when we meet and fall instantly in love?

In addition to asking for information, Philip the Historian (bless his heart!) had left binders filled to the brim with the information he already had in his database on each of the properties in town. Here's my house:

He's been through the deed books at the county archives. You can see that a man by the name of Abraham Savage (cool name!) deeded the property to Paul Henkel in December of 1791. Then there's a huge gap until 2003.

As for the "Notes" section, I already had all of this information from the Historical Buildings Registry:
"Previously the location of Reverend Paul Henkel's first house, constructed circa 1791 and later moved to a lot on [another street]. The current building was constructed between 1876 and 1885. This building was utilized as a rooming house at one time, and was also the site of the [Town] Tea Room."
I really need to find out which house in town used to be Reverend Paul Henkel's first house on my property before it was moved. It would be really neat to get a picture of it.

But the best part about the information already listed in this database is that it gives me two new bits of information on the house.

First there is the picture. It's not an extremely old picture, but it was taken before we owned the house and there are a few notable differences.

  1. There used to be a tall tree on the left side of the house, right up against the Sandwich Shoppe. I had no idea. I haven't even noticed a stump out there. I'm going to have to go take a closer look. I kind of like it though.
  2. Both the porch railings and the porch roof railings were still up and an intact.
  3. And, of course, you can see our house with the two trees in front that are no longer there. We cut them down ourselves because they blocked all of the light out of the living room and hallway and the branches grew up into our gutters and under our porch roof causing damage because they were so close to the house. And Stephen really didn't like them because they tangled with the power lines and had to have their tops sheared off. Sometimes I miss them, but I think we made the right decision.
The second bit of information is the most exciting and fun. Among the business names listed in the county records for our property was this:

SAY WHAT!?!?! Our house used to be "James Cox's Skating Rink" way back in 1885!! That's crazy! But now that I think about it, our back yard would make the perfect skating rink.

Can't you just picture little kids swerving around on a giant sheet of ice? I wish I could've seen it!

Upon finding this out, I had two thoughts:

  1. Who was James Cox?
  2. Can I find his tombstone? (And is that creepy?)

So now we know that our house has been a rooming house called the Traveler's Inn, a tea room  called Mrs. Corbin's Coffee Shop, and now JAMES COX'S SKATING RINK!! I love it, but I'm thinking that my poor house has some serious issues with identity.

So, Mr. House, what would you like to be when you grow up? Perhaps the location of a computer fixing business and a photography business at the same time?? HMM? I think you can handle it, Mr. House. I really do.

To which I'm sure Mr. House responds, "Is it so much to ask that I simply be a private residence?!?!"

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