Wednesday, November 6, 2013

If Walls Could Talk

The village of Farley grew along the Millers River in the Town of Erving, MA when the Farley brothers established their paper mill  across the river in Wendell, about 1888 (MHC Reconnaissance Report - Wendell, 1982).

I moved into my new/old house in Farley last December.  I was taken by the high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, dental moldings, dual fireplaces (not operational) around the massive central chimney, and by a feeling of history in the walls.  Since then, I've been wondering what those walls have seen.

My predecessors lived here for 53 years.  It must have been a great spot for a family, with the river in the back yard and remains of the mill buildings nearby. The lady of the house was quite a gardener, and the catalogs continue to arrive by mail.  The husband was a carpenter, and identical custom cabinets in the kitchen, pantry, and two bathrooms show his handiwork.  A neighbor said the arched opening in the entry was his making as well.  Do the knots emerging from under the paint of the crown molding show them to be newer than they look? There is evidence of hinges on the remaining doorways, where doors would have kept the heat contained in the living areas. What other renovations happened during their tenure?  The gold sparkles on the kitchen counter say early 1960s to me.

Evidence of history can be found in the stone-walled basement. The floor is partially dirt, and begs for more exploration. There are no partitions, no coal room that is found in many old cellars. It has adequate headroom for its use as a workshop for the past owner.  A bulkhead door in the back was  blocked when a deck was added. Part of the kitchen has no basement under it, although the bowed front window does.  Was a side porch enclosed to expand the kitchen? 

The gambrel roof makes room for a full attic on the third floor.  Partition walls clad with bead-board establish four distinct rooms, two with closets.  Servant's quarters? The kitchen rehab eliminated the back staircase, which would have allowed the kitchen help to get up to their attic quarters without disturbing the family in the main part of the house.  The remaining doorway molding at the landing was the first clue, as well as the bottom step visible in the basement. I would like to make measurements of the current walls to understand their relationships. I'm having a hard time imagining the original kitchen layout.

Reading the deeds and the 1900 census reveals that this was not the home of one of the Farleys, but their company accountant, George Monroe.  Sophia Bergstrom was the family's 25 year old servant from Sweden.  The records of the Town of Erving include three Monroe children born to George and his wife Minnie Blodget: Alice in 1892, Harris in 1895, and Barbara in 1902. That places them here at least during those years.  In 1910, they were in Orange, where the family continued to live until at least 1940.

More questions come to mind in the four bedrooms upstairs. The second floor bathroom is an obvious add-on, and the full length window in the northern bedroom might have been a door to the small porch.  The only means of access now is through one of the window. The smallest bedroom is connected through the sunny southern bedroom.  Was it a dressing room or nursery?

I may never answer these questions definitively, but the fun is in the puzzling.

1 comment:

  1. Old houses hold mysteries that often go unsolved. Your abilities to notice the hidden details may unravel some of these riddles. Like your blog. It really makes me think about where we have come from relative to where we might be going.