Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This Old House

In 2004 I contacted Mr. Hans Henke about our house. At the time we were here about three years. I was writing a feature article about local residents who had restored old homes, and what they found in them regarding the history of the places. This research stirred my interest in the history of my own house. Mr. Henke published two books on my town's history, and served as the village historian for several years. Based on a collection of old maps that are in his possession, he was able to tell me a lot, to my delight.

In the year 1900, the property was a wooded vacant lot owned by someone with the last name Wiggins. There is a block called Wiggins south of Main Street, and Mr. Henke informed me that the Wiggins family were prominent developers, and early settlers in this village. Somehow, this house changed numbers over the years. That seems to be a mystery, but it might have to do with the entrance to the cemetery being next door. The cemetery was officially established in 1800. It extends from my back fence all the way to the lake. In the winter you can see the lake from my bedroom window, but the graves put a bit of a damper on the view. The cemetery runs North and South the length of one block. I've found headstones dated further back into the 1700's in there.

My property was signed over to George T. Lyman, and this house was erected on it in 1901. Mr. Lyman, who may have been a farmer or shop keeper of some sort, owned the property on maps dated 1915, 1926, and 1947. Mr. Henke said his wife rented a room here as a boarder sometime in the 1940's. That seemed surprising to me because the house was rather small when we moved in, ( just two tiny bedrooms and a third bedroom converted into a bath by the previous owner).

Through my own digging and construction, I discovered that the house was originally heated by a giant coal stove in the basement. The chimney went through the center of the building and was moved by the previous owner who did extensive construction in 1984, (some of which I am thankful for and some of which makes me mourn what the house was). She enclosed two porches, added an upstairs bath, made the basement a full size, and reinforced the floors. Electric was put in around 1921; I found this out while helping Milk Man rip out a drop ceiling in the dining room. We found old cloth wires that were tagged with that date written in pen.

The life of this old house in the 1950's and 1960's is a mystery to me. Mr. Vitro Rizzi, an accountant with an office in town who recently passed away, owned the property in the 1970's with his brother. He grew up two doors down from the house. Unfortunately we didn't speak about who owned the house during his childhood, and Mr. Rizzi had no pictures of the property. As young accountants, Mr. Rizzi and his brother rented it out to a couple with six children, who did not treat it kindly. A neighbor of mine recalled playing with some of the children who lived in the house at that time. She remembered hiding in the circular brick basement, playing dungeon. I found Mr. Rizzi by looking him up in the phone book and calling his number on a hunch that he was the previous owner. I was so excited to find him. It turns out that he walked past my house daily, and watched us go through construction with it. He liked what we had done and said that the house needed quite a bit of work when he sold it to Valia Jory in 1978. Jory was an acquaintance of his, newly widowed with two children. She bought the house for a song and basically saved it from being razed. A warm and kindly Russian woman, she hired girls to clean and landscapers, (boy, was she lucky). The house was immaculate when we moved in, and she left me with curtains, a giant industrial gas stove, a crystal chandelier and a pair of basket woven shoes to hang on the back door, (a Russian custom for a new home). We bought it from Mrs. Jory and moved in on May 31st, 2001. The neighbors say that she had many wonderful parties here, and I found about twenty wine corks behind the kitchen cabinets to prove it. Mr. Rizzi past away last year, but I often see his relatives pass by on walks with their baby.

There is a liquor shop called Lyman Liquors, an old family business in town, and I've been kicking around the idea of speaking to the owner to see if his family has a connection with my house. I haven't done that yet.

We're here eight years now, and we've lived through two renovations. The first was an addition of two bedrooms, and the second was a kitchen, den laundry room extension. Quite honestly, I love this place. It is a safe haven for me and holds so many memories, although it has only been eight years. I'll record more on the house in the future, but I wanted to get this down. Click here to read my other post that tells about our life in this old house.

Picture is of the last renovation of the kitchen and the addition of the den. I took down the kitchen wall with a sledge hammer myself- so mUcH FuN!! The contractor and I discovered the true siding of the house, light green clapboard.


jen said...

I love reading about old houses and renovations. More pics. More pics.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

This is so cool!

Dear Internet Traveler,

Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


Loren Christie

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