The paint had peeled and faded. But, it still captured the eye whenever driving by on the highway. The Anderson Place in Fluvanna, New York near Chautauqua Lake. Living inside was like being caught in a time warp. It was once an eighteen room mansion. I rented half of it for $65 a month in 1970.
Why was the other side of the house so carefully bolted? Had those hand crocheted lace curtains really been hanging there for 100 years? I thought so. So many things in my side of the place were very old. I could tell that the kitchen was probably the original settlers house, built in 1810, before less than eight families occupied that part of Western New York. The extra-wide floorboards ‘neath the fifty year old linoleum showed that they were hand-hewn.
The Anderson family had been successful enough that the rest of the place built up very fast. Ceilings loomed 15 feet above, in the dining area, living room and upstairs bedrooms which made the thirty foot entry hall and staircase a magnificent imposing welcome, if you entered through the double main doorways. But, no-one ever came in that way anymore. There wasn’t even the hint of a walkway to the entrance. The eastside porch was my entry. The westside was to the other side, no walkway on that side either.
One day, I came home to discover the little old ladies I had rented from were inside of my house. They had let themselves in with a key in order to access the basement in preparation for winter. We chatted a while before they left. I asked whether they would consider renting the other side. No they wouldn’t That was “Mother’s side” of the place. Mother had been dead 47 years by that time. They didn’t reveal much except that they had lived on the newer side since becoming adult and married, raising their children there and moving on to other quarters in retirement.
After they left, I noticed they had accidentally left the door bolt unlocked between my kitchen and the other side.
Curiosity got the best of me and I opened the door. Much to my amazement, I stepped back into 1923. A kitchen with old wood stove, filled with time worn cooking utensils. The dining room and parlor with its ancient curtains still remained as they were, yellowed roller shades at half-mast beneath them. Why was there no accumulation of dust? Had these women kept a shrine to their dead mother all these years? Had they just spent the day cleaning every cobweb, every dust bunny as well as preparing the furnace for winter? It was a mystery to me.
Note: Since that old home was demolished after I moved away, I have no pictures of it. The photo I have taken and placed here is representative. This is the Mark Twain house located in Hartford Connecticut. Similar in style, but not as old as the home I lived in. The kitchen appliances are also representative.