Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How the Cherry House Survived the Fire of '91

Photo: Jim Stetson, 1986
This is a great story I received back in December of 2002. It's the kind of item that is perfect for this blog so I offer it as an example for any of you who might have similar anecdotal tales on the subject of JHT and his work. 
Dear Jim,                                                                                                   
From 1959 through 1987 my family owned the house at the corner of Cross Road and Romany Road. We were the third owners and some older families still referred to the house as the "Cherry" house all through those years. The address was always 5950 Romany Road, sequential to other houses on Romany. However, I remember that its original construction address  may have had a Cross Road number. What a kick to see the photos on you gallery site. My mom was looking over my shoulder as I opened up the site. "That's my little car!", she said. Sure enough - and that's my old Fiat sedan at the side. Great house to grow up in. It has spoiled all the other homes I've ever lived in!

We found out that the house survived the '91 fire even before the current owners were allowed back to the property. In 1987,  I worked on the house for 3 months with a small crew to put the house in top shape for sale. It had always been kept up, but we wanted to put the house in "restoration" quality condition. We were very proud to be the "current caretakers". Two of my friends who helped work on the house were so taken by the detail and design of the house. Devastated by its possible loss in the fire, they separately snuck in through the fire lines and took photos. I had moved to Portland the day before the fire. I was at a "welcome to the neighborhood" party narrating the fire street-by-street, sure that the house was gone. The next day, both of my friends who had worked on the house called to say that 5950 had survived.

A contributing factor was certainly the steep pitch and a 1987 reshingled roof--but more probably the oscillating sprinkler placed on the "little house" ( garage) bedroom dormer rooftop that saved the day. The story I got is: an older gentleman (80) who always referred to the house as "The Cherry House", stopped on his way down Cross Road. He inched along the built-in gutter of the "little house" carrying the hose and sprinkler, placed the sprinkler on the dormer top, climbed down and turned on the faucet. His house was already on fire a few blocks up the hill!
The photos you have are circa 1986, guessing from the cars. The ramp to the house was replaced and the stone stairs restored for the sale.  There is now an ivy covered fence around the yard, as my Mom started collecting Newfoundland dogs about 1984. She moved back to her family home on the Ohio River in '87, restored the house here, and is still collecting Newfoundlands- three big beasts out in the yard here as I write.

Marie and George Converse
New Cumberland, West Virginia

1 comment:

  1. What a great story...I love this house and went by it tonight wondering about it. What's the story about its origins? Do the Converses know?