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A LOOK BACK: The Luzerne Eaton House

Eaton-house-old

Luzerne Eaton and his wife Sophia in front of the Luzerne Eaton House about 1905. Though hard to see here, Sophia is driving the wagon. Luzerne was blind by this time, yet he made her take him around his trout pond to inspect the grounds.

By Derek M. Otto

Recently, Joe Krzemein, lifelong village resident and current caretaker of Concord Community Park, approached me about researching the age of his house.  I had just written about the water works and the Eaton Spring, or the current Field and Stream Trout Pond.  Joe was curious and so was I.

The task of trying to get a specific build date on a house is sometimes harder than one might think. Title searches do not print this information in bold. Tax records are helpful if you can take the time and have easy access to them.

Thankfully, Helen Brogan assisted me when I hit a brick wall and I got a pretty good date.  History is not just dates though, as I found the house and property and the people that lived there were a good story.  So here is the story of the Eaton House on Buffalo Road.     

There are a lot of things in Springville named Eaton, and most of them are named for Rufus Eaton,  the “Father of Springville.”  Rufus donated a lot of property and was the first to have the village surveyed.  But the old Eaton House and Eaton Spring are not named after Rufus Eaton, but instead after his grandson, Luzerne Eaton.

In 1868 or 1869 (the title search says 1869, Briggs History statement from Holland says 1868), Luzerne Eaton bought the property from George Holland, who had lived in Concord since 1835.

George was the first person to own the property other than the Holland Land Company. Notably, George was CJ Shuttleworth’s father-in-law.

CJ Shuttleworth was a major player in the construction and development of Springville in the late 1800s.  Even greater was George Holland’s father, Luther Holland, as he moved to Springville with his son and died here in 1850. Luther Holland was an inventor. His major invention was the first force pump and horizontal movement in fire engines.

George sold 25 acres of his land to Luzerne Eaton.  George Holland moved into Springville and resided on Main Street for many years in what would become the old Presbyterian Manse on Main Street,  and Luzerne built the current brick house on the property.  By 1875, the house was completed.   

Maybe it is the fresh spring water and the unadulterated wilderness that the Eatons found in Concord that would inspire Luzerne’s son, Elon, to have an interest in taxidermy and the natural sciences.  Elon graduated from  Griffith Institute, studied at the University if Rochester and eventually started the Science Department at Hobart and William Smith College.

More than that, Elon became the a curator at the state museum and published two volumes on the birds of New York State. He led a pretty impressive career in the science world.  Most of his in the natural world came from his father.  As soon as he owned the property, Luzerne began the work on his large trout fishery.

Luzerne worked and built his fishery.  However, he eventually succumbed to blindness in the last years of his life. His wife, Sophia, would help him around the farm to inspect the pond and farm.

At one point, their granddaughter came to live with the Eatons.   In 1905, Luzerne died  and the family, including son Elon, sold the property to the village of Springville in 1906.

The village maintained the house with the water works property for only a few years before they sold the house and part of the land to Fred Sixt.  Fred Sixt kept the property before selling it to William Felton in 1912.

The Feltons stayed on the property for some 57 years before money and age caught up with the family. In 1961, the house was put on public auction and Joe Krzemein bought the property. Here’s where the story of the house gets interesting.

Joe thinks that at one time the house was a restaurant because there was signage in the barn. In researching the story, I didn’t find any record of a restaurant on the property, but there may have been.

According to Joe, “When we moved in here, there was a two holer by the old car garage, that was our facilities. There was a faucet in the back part of the old kitchen.”   

Joe is still curious about what happened to the Feltons. They had several liens against the property but it didn’t look like they did much work.  Joe said that the Feltons tore the old barn down that was behind the house and moved it north of the house.  He also said they had chickens and livestock in a side building and then the rest of the barn was full of hay when he bought the place.    

In 1971, Joe tore down the old car garage and built a new one, stoning the garage with stones from the basement.  According to Joe, “ My father said those stones where brought down from the quarry on Middle Road.”   

Joe’s handy and is pretty great with stonework. If you look closely enough, you can find a wagon wheel, liberty bell and of course a “K” in the stone work.

Krzemein said that a house is an never-ending project.  The original house had a large side porch facing the pond that is long gone.

In the house’s history, there have been two fires.  At one point, different bricks were used to replace clapboarding prior to the Krzemeins owning the property.   Interestingly enough, Joe said that when they took down the old Methodist Church in 1963, he was able to get bricks from there.  “I thought that it was a pretty good match,” he said. “The church was built about the same time as the house and the old Griffith Institute in 1869.”

Joe used those bricks to rebuild the back half of the house when they built a new kitchen in 1979.

Joe gave me a nice tour of the house and his collection of antiques.  I asked him if the house was pretty much intact from the original.   Joe pulled out a letter from Miss Lucy Bensley that she sent to him when he bought the house.  (Lucy Bensley was childhood friends of Luzerne Eaton’s granddaughter who had lived with them.)  Lucy drew a diagram and description of the house as she remembered it as child.   The house, with the exception of the missing porch and the modern plumbing facilities, was pretty much in its original state.   

The most amusing thing I found was that Lucy Bensley  sent Joe her letter addressed: Mr Krzemein Old Eaton House by Eaton Pond, in a recycled envelope addressed to her. She had put a one cent stamp over the canceled stamp.   Amazingly, the letter reached Joe.   

Eaton-House-today

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