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A LOOK BACK: The Gardinier House Haunted or Bastion of Despair?

gardinier-house

By Derek M. Otto

Looking back would like to focus on one of the haunting spots mentioned in last week’s “local haunts” feature.   This great Victorian house at the corner of Main and Elk Streets sure is beautiful to the eye.   Yet many people say the house is haunted—it’s not just weird noises at night, but also the seeing the lady in the tower and other spooky things.  Considering this, by doing some research, the people who built and lived in the house had a variety of despairingly events in their lives.    

First and foremost, the builder of the house was John P.  Myers, better known as JP Myers.  Mr. Myers was born in Allegany County in the 1840s and enlisted in the 104th NY during the Civil War.   He was captured at Gettysburg and was imprisoned at Andersonville Prison for 22 months. In his journal, he described not only squalor, but the maltreatment of soldiers at both the Confederates and by fellow Union soldiers.    

Mr. Myers did survive and after the war entered the Mercantile business in Sardinia.  In 1877, Mr. Myers moved to Springville.  Within a few short years he made a small fortune in real estate and the egg business in Springville. In 1880, he hired CJ Shuttleworth to build the house on the corner of Main and Elk.   

When it was built, it was quite the house.   Not only did it have the beauty of the Victorian period, but it was also the most state-of-the-art house in Springville at the time.   It is the first house in the corporation to have a bath tub!

Well, Mr. Myers’ financial success didn’t last very long.  After some bad ventures in the city of Buffalo and the Panic of 1893, in July 1895, Mr. Myers found himself several thousand dollars in debt.   

Mr. Myers, however, had been manager of the David Ingalls estate.  David Ingalls was a large land owner that provided funds for the Soldiers Monument in Fiddler’s Green Park.   The details are sketchy, but it looks like Mr. Myers withdrew $25,000 from a bank in Buffalo and was last seen heading to New York City.  He was supposed to return to Springville for his birthday celebration, but was never seen or heard from again. His wife and adopted daughter ended living the rest of their days in a cabin in the woods near Sandusky, NY.

With the unknown demise of Mr. Myers,  the house ended up being sold to Isaiah Gardinier, a local retired farmer-turned-real estate agent in 1900. Mr. Gardinier, his wife, Hattie, and their daughter, Alice, would be the longest residents of the house.   Mr. Gardinier passed away in 1913; his wife 15 years later in 1928, and that left the house to Alice.  Alice had stayed with her parents and lived as a spinster because she was a deaf mute. When her mother died, Alice’s pastime was to sit in the tower of the house and watch the village for hours at a time. It was all she could do. The pine trees were not there at the time and people of the village could see Alice as well.  Her existence was just to watch.

Long after the supposed of death of Alice in 1940, people would still see here in the turret.  Of course they did; Alice didn’t die until 1947!   Her cause of death it was listed as terminal exhaustion, which, in itself, is despairing.  Today some people still see what we presume to be Alice Gardinier.

At one point after Alice’s death, the house became an apartment house.  In the late 1970s, the apartment house was used as housing for Vietnam Veterans. The despair the returning soldiers felt returning to an ungrateful country fits nicely into the character of the house and its previous owners.

About 30 years ago, hope returned to the house when Leo and Linda Lubke took to task and restore the house.  At the time, the mantel in the living room was missing, and all the pieces of the mantel were found under the front porch.  It was as if the house wanted to be restored.  The current owners are working hard adding new windows and repairing clapboards.

Next time you drive by, don’t forget to look and see if Alice is watching.

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