We received a number of additional interesting house history stories this week so we present one more look at this topic.
Bill Powers of Rutland, Vermont:
I wrote an article for the current summer issue of Rutland Magazine, "100 Summers at Lake Dunmore," which chronicles the history of my family’s 100-year old camp. The story combines a history of the camp along with a bit of family genealogy since the 1950s.
Margaret G. Fish of Reno, Nevada:
In about 1980, my daughter and her family were transferred to New Hampshire, and they bought a house in Madbury (once part of Dover). While living with them, I started genealogy (thanks to NEHGS!) and discovered that the land on which the house was built was owned by a direct ancestor way back in 1650! This was after I had lived for seventy years in thirteen other states, from Massachusetts to Florida to California.
Jane Thompson of Scituate, Massachusetts:
I am writing a history of the First Cliff neighborhood in Scituate. I have researched the ownership of about 55 properties back to the 1600s, and I am also writing biographies of most of the homeowners. It will probably be published after about three years of research. It was NOT as difficult as I thought it would be!
Henry Karl Voigt of Newark, Delaware:
My grandmother was raised on Mystic Street in Medford, Mass., in a house previously owned by her great-grandmother, Louise Campbell Fowler Pierpont, and her second husband, John Pierpont, the fiery abolitionist writer and preacher. The home was, unfortunately, taken down in 1951 to make room for six postwar "tract" houses, which would normally render a house history moot. However, my grandmother's father — Boston architect Lyman Sise — had fortuitously built a scale model of the house back in the 1930s, and the model survives to this day.
Jeff Hecht of Auburndale, Massachusetts:
A few years ago, I got a call from a lawyer trying to pin down title to a house previously owned by my grandmother in Saratoga Springs, New York. I knew family ownership went back to at least her grandfather, who had built, bought, or expanded it in the 1840s. (She claimed that the house was built about 1828, but city records only date to the 1840s.) My late father sold the house in 1978 or 1979, after my grandmother's death. (When I checked the house’s title then, we found — to our amazement — that the owner was still listed as my great-grandfather, who had died in 1932.) The current owner was having title problems because of ambiguities in a 1935 will. I explained enough of the tangle to satisfy the lawyer, and in the process learned some things I had not known — starting with the fact that the house was the oldest surviving one in town. Genealogists should check title records of family homes, which might reveal some surprises. No one had ever mentioned that my grandmother had lost title to the house in the late 1940s, for nonpayment of taxes, and had somehow gotten it back.
Margaret B. MacNeill of Indialantic, Florida:
House history researchers should remember that many cities and towns have either renamed or renumbered streets, and all those carefully notated labels on snapshots, letters, and other records may not be applicable anymore.
Janet Doerr of Augusta, Maine:
I am lucky that my research on my family's properties has been easy: they've been in the family since 1789. My brother's house was built by our great-great-great-great grandfather, George Reed, in 1789, and has been in the family ever since. I own the property next to his, the oldest unaltered residence in Augusta, built by a cousin in 1789. Only four families have lived my house, which was passed from the original builder, Asa Williams, to his son to another cousin and on to my parents. I inherited the property from them. I don't know how unusual this "familial chain of title" is, but it makes for easy research and a very lengthy family history; I'm working on the stories!