|Traveling the Trail of Webster’s Marble House|
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Questions about the development of the Webster Veterans Home, or the Marble House as it is sometimes called, have been raised over the past several years.
Just recently, Town Surveyor Stanley A. Duszlak wanted to know how the building had been moved from its original location on Main and Church streets to Veterans Way (formerly Church Lane).
It turns out that Donald A. Wayman, with service in the Navy during the Korean War, a talented researcher, has all the answers, in almost minute detail.
Long active in Webster-Dudley Veterans Council affairs, Mr. Wayman traced the building’s history from 1870, when Alexander Joslin, a carpenter, started work on a house at Main and Church streets. It was a personal project that required five years, suggesting Mr. Joslin built the mansard-roofed, Second Empire style dwelling largely by himself.
Carpenter Joslin and his wife, Levira Bixby, occupied the house for about 20 years, until his death. They were apparently without issue. Mrs. Joslin subsequently lived with others, selling the house to Ellen C. (Waters) Marble for “one dollar and other valuable considerations,” discovered Mr. Wayman.
The Marble House passed through subsequent generations in the Marble family, and was one of seven properties taken by the town to make way for an addition to Bartlett High School and to build a new Town Hall in 1923. The municipal line, land and buildings, set taxes against $14,925 valuation.
Ellen Marble, the final Marble owner of record, contested the town’s offer and received a $22,500 judgment, plus an additional $2,500, paid at a later date, for a total of $25,000, Mr. Wayman deduced.
Most of the buildings taken for the town-school project were sold for removal, but a town meeting decided to keep the Marble House for the town’s veterans groups, committing to move and renovate the building for gatherings and programs by veterans organizations.
Two lots on nearby Church Lane (now Veterans Way) were purchased for a total of $3,000 in 1926, and Phidelbert Tetreault, a mason contractor, bid $3,000 to move the house to a new foundation. Trees had to be cut down and the town bandstand moved before the house could be moved across the so-called High School Park.
Cost overruns developed because the Town Hall basement was excavated before the house moving project could be started, meaning the dwelling would have to be turned a full and two half turns to clear the ground material, learned Mr. Wayman. This added $200 to the bill. Then the cellar hole to a house that had already been moved had to be filled with ties, and excavation for the home’s new foundation had to be dug deeper than expected to reach hard pan.
The building was raised up and teams of horses began pulling it cross lots on Nov. 1, 1926, the Wayman papers indicate. By Saturday of that week it was on the newly completed Church Lane foundation.
The town then spent $3,387.21 to remodel and furnish the new Veterans Home. The patriotic societies named to occupy the home were the Grand Army of the Republic, Sons of (G.A.R) Veterans, Spanish American War Veterans, American Legion Post 184, Veterans of Foreign Wars and their various auxiliaries.
Mr. Wayman’s research fills in a lot of holes in Veterans Home history. To begin with, it says teams of horses were used to move the building, as opposed to “a horse,” as generally assumed. Then, there’s a myth that Mr. Wayman dealt with. To use his words: “Annual Town Reports gave an entirely different sequence of events than what had been accepted as fact by the veterans of the community, that the House was a gift to the town by a grateful family. That the Marble House was to be used by ‘patriotic societies’ as a meeting place … ‘where social gatherings would be held.’ ”
Mr. Wayman accepts the town version as best because it reflects a municipal decision, and a town commitment to its veterans that still perpetuates itself. His research includes copies of documents and deeds, including the lots to which the Veterans Home was relocated.
When Daniel J. Healy was a kid growing up in Webster, he had a Morning Telegram newspaper route on Thompson Road and vicinity.
He was probably 12 years old and got to waving at a big limousine that went along his route for probably a couple of weeks. People in the limo got to waving back, even beating him to the hand signals one morning.
Young Dan recognized one of the passengers: movie star Alan Ladd. It was June 1958, and Mr. Ladd was featured in a motion picture, “The Man in the Net, ” filmed in nearby Connecticut, mostly about Thompson Hill, at the adjacent Ballard farm, and at the Pink House in Woodstock. Carolyn Jones had the female lead.
The actors stayed at the Bancroft Hotel in Worcester, traveling by limousine, always early in the morning when Dan Healy, now of Dudley, was out delivering morning papers before breakfast.
Dan doesn’t recall whether he saw the movie, billed as a mystery-thriller.
Webster’s Paul J. Patrowicz has long had an interest in yard sales, but more so seemingly since he lost his job with the halt of manufacturing at Cranston Print Works Co.
Paul was sporting a black felt hat, round to the head with a wide brim, when we crossed paths on a recent afternoon. “How do you like this?” he asked. “Yea, I got it at a yard sale.” Pausing, he twirled a fancy walking stick. “I paid two bucks for this one,” adding, “It’s got to be worth $15 to $20.”
Walter Biadasz, once resident manager of the Ethan Allen Furniture Co.’s Dudley factory, now of Vero Beach, Fla., offers the following:
“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be, so enjoy this day while it lasts.”
Telegram & Gazette
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