Saturday, July 12, 2008

Walking Back In Time

This house was built in 1907 by a wealthy businessman and architect. It is downtown and I have no idea how to explain the fascination this house has held for all the locals. I have passed by this house as a kid walking to town, especially on Saturday en route to a movie. I've drove by it on my way to work a million times. It has always looked exactly like it does in the photo. A big stone house with turrets on one side and soaring columns. So why is this house intriguing? Because it has always been steeped in rumors and mystery to a certain extent.

The house was passed on from the architect to his only child, a daughter. The daughter was the only occupant of the house when I was a child and she died in the early 60's. I have been told she had over 30 cats at that time. I recall seeing cats around the grounds. There is a tall brick wall surrounding the back yard and a tennis court. The cats would lie on the top of the wall. The house became universally known at the Cat House. It was told that when she died she had left the house to her cats. This wasn't true but I think every one thought that because a caretaker continued to look after the cats and do the yardwork for several years after she died. She had a reclusive daughter, who lived only a few streets over, and I found out today the daughter didn't want to live in the house but didn't want anyone else to live in it either. Not even her sons, I guess. So, for over 40 years, the house has been locked up. Never once occupied. I have never seen anyone at the house except a yardman in the summer. Every time I drove by it, I'd think how I would love to see inside it. Just about everyone shared my curosity about the house.

This weekend, the curosity about the Cat House finally ended.

The daughter had died several months ago and it was opened for an estate sale! The entire town was shocked. And, I had no idea it was open until I got downtown today!! The street was blocked off and a woman told me that yesterday there was a two-hour wait to get inside. The fee to get inside was $5, which I shelled out immediately. I just couldn't believe that finally I was going to get to see inside the Cat House after decades of wishing I could see inside it. Of course, I didn't have a camera with me.

What can I say? I went in every room, from the full-size basement to the third floor attic that looked right out of a movie. Overall, it was in a total state of decay. I was on the 2nd floor and heard a crashing sound. I thought someone had fallen through the floor. Turned out the plaster fell from the bottom of the staircase leading up to the attic. I really don't think it had been cleaned up in 40years. It had an elevator in one of the turrets that had long ago rotted. All the windows were rotted and the paint was peeling off all the woodwork and walls. Of course there were a lot of interesting antiques, which were mostly personal belongings ranging back generations. Most of the furniture was gone but I liked looking at the clothes, hats and old jewelry that had once belonged to the "Vanderbilts" of my hometown and trying to imagine what the house, with 16 ft ceilings, was like at the turn of the century.

It's sad to think all that remains of their glory days is this dilapidated an old mansion