Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Builder's Name

Its funny how things come together sometimes. It is rare, I think, that you stumble on to a treasure trove of information about the history of your house, or the first owners. More often than not it is a long process that takes years, with little tidbits sometimes revealing themselves when you least expect it. Just recently another piece of the puzzle came together.

The local paper has a monthly insert called Restore & Preserver. It is about local architecture, and several years ago they did a write-up on my house. The most recent issue had an article on the other Petch House in town. While I was researching my house I found that the Petch family first lived at 1025 J Street.

I had an opportunity to speak with the current owner once. He is a very nice man, and he is doing a very nice restoration of the house, but knew nothing of the Petch family's time in the house. Not too surprising really. No matter, it is still fun to talk about old houses and local architecture. There are other houses in town, that while they have no connection to the Petch family, they do have connection to The Petch House, in architectual terms anyway.

The house above on Hillsdale has an almost identical window to The Petch House. It is a fairly unique design, so it has always seemed that there must be some connection to my house, but I could never prove it. It could be the same architect or the same builder. If nothing else, surely the window came out of the same mill.

This other house above, which is considered the sister house to the Hillsdale house, also has the same front window. This house was a full two stories at one time, but caught fire and was rebuilt as a story and a half. I’ve been told that at one time it was identical to the Hillsdale house.

The Green Book, a local inventory of historical structures in town, credits these two homes as being built by a man named Mowry. My house, even though it has the same front window, has no builder or architect credited to it in The Green Book. In fact, the book goes as far as to say that my front window is a later addition. Gasp! The Nerve!

I’m not exactly sure where this idea came from that my window is a later addition. Obviously it is a mistake. The only thing that can possibly explain this mistake is that my house was covered in asbestos siding at the time The Green Book was compiled back in the 1970s. Regardless, this obvious mistake in the book has become a bit of a running joke among my friends here in town.

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So anyway, back to Restore & Preserve. I was excited to see the other Petch House on J street getting a write-up in the paper. It is a very nice little Eastlake cottage, and it too was once covered with asbestos siding. The current owner – it was his dad who covered the house in asbestos back in the 40s – has been doing a faithful restoration of the exterior for about 20 years. The house looks great.

The article went on to talk about Mr. Eugene Mowery, builder and architect of the J street house. It said that in 1884 he and a partner owned a mill at the corner of 3rd & B streets that turned out lots of gingerbread, fancy doors, and sash. It also said that he was a builder and architect and built several prominent structures in town. Not only did he build the house on J street, the Hillsdale house, and the 2nd street house, but he also built and lived in the house at 135 J St, right next door to the first Petch House at 1025 J St. In fact, he built his house first and then built the house next door as a rental. And guess who he rented it too? That’s right, the young and growing Petch Faimily!

So in the late 1880s we have The Petch Family living at 1025 J street. Right next door is his neighbor, landlord, close personal friend, and prominnet local builder and architect, Mr. Mowery. In 1895, 2 years after the Mr. Mowery builds the Hillsdale house, The Petch House gets built on M street with a nearly identical window.

Well, a blind man could connect the dots at this point. Not only did Mr. Mowery build The Petch house, but all of the millwork most certianly came out of Mr. Mowery’s mill at the corner of 3rd & B streets.

It is just one more tiny piece of the puzzle, but I find it all very fascinating.


STAG said...

Merry Christmas.

Sandy said...

The houses are so lovely. Merry Christmas!

Angel-A said...

Fascinating stuff. And to think I only started reading your blog because your house looked similar to the one used in Charmed! (sorry). Your attention to detail is amazing. Looking forward to seeing what you tackle next.

Greg said...

That is a nice Victorian on that show. Now, if I could just fill my house up with beautiful young woman like they have on the show...