Thursday, October 3, 2013

Status Update on the Samuel Dennison House

Samuel Dennison House, September 2013
About two years ago, I did a post about the Samuel Dennison House located on the west side of Limestone Road, just north of Paper Mill Road. Last week I received a message through the blog's Facebook page asking me if I knew anything about the old houses on Limestone Road, around which a new development was apparently being built. I told Joanne, who sent me the message, that I didn't know anything about it, but that I'd take a ride up there and check it out. I did that over the weekend, and got a bit of a scare, then some information that put my mind at ease (at least for now).

Joanne said that from the blog she figured out that the house in question was the Samuel Dennison House, and that from what she could see driving by, she thought that it might be getting prepared either to be torn down or moved. When I got there, I could see exactly what she meant. The house now sits utterly exposed, surrounded by large stretches of barren earth, as seen in the accompanying pictures I took. All the smaller (and mostly if not all 20th Century) outbuildings have been removed, and it truly does look like the main house is about to go, one way or the other. After a quick bit of searching, I'm pleased to say that the future of the 1876 stone home seems to be secure.

I'd love to be able to say that I undertook some sort of deep Woodward-and-Bernstein-esque investigation that took me through all sorts of twists and turns, shady informants, and breathtaking revelations. But the truth is, I took a picture of the sign that was there, and went home and looked up their website. What's being built on the property is The Summit, a new retirement and assisted living community (welcome to the aging America). According to their website, they are planning on opening in the spring of 2015. When I went to the news and events page, I found the info I was looking for. One little paragraph contains the pertinent information, in the context of describing what progress they've made so far: "The first step is to demolish some of the existing buildings located on the site. We are saving two historic farmhouses that will be completely renovated, one of which will serve as our on-site sales office." Presumably the one destined to be the sales office is the Dennison House. They also include a link to a YouTube video that consists of a slideshow set to some cheesy music. Mostly it's just shots of the barren dirt and some construction equipment, but at about the 1:20 mark they start showing some pictures of the house, including some interior shots. If you're interested, it's worth checking out.

Dennison House, north and east sides
Dennison House, south and east sides

So it seems that as long as The Summit's plans don't change, both houses' futures are secure. I personally don't have a problem with historic homes being preserved and used for non-residential purposes. I'm sure The Summit's management company has a lot more money to spend on restoration than just about any private owner would. And in this case it seems like a perfect match -- an old house serving a residence for old people. (Even I'm not sure how much I'm joking here.)

Datestone reading "S & E D 1876"

On a(n almost) final note, I know the idea has come up a few times of maybe someday forming some sort of formal local history organization, like The Mill Creek Hundred Historical Society. [Unimportant personal side note: Ever since I started collecting this stuff, the history folder on my computer has been called MCHHS.] If we ever do, keeping an eye out on our remaining historic buildings, and lobbying for their preservation when appropriate, are some of the things I imagine us doing. Even if it's just showing "The Powers That Be" that there really are people who are interested in these old structures, and that we want to see them preserved.

Now, on an actual final note, you might have noticed that while The Summit's statement mentioned saving two historic farmhouses, I've so far only mentioned one -- the Samuel Dennison House. The other house being renovated sits just south of the Dennison House, and closer to the road. It's a smaller, whitewashed home partially surrounded by some small trees. This house is the David Chambers House, and is about 50 years older than its larger neighbor. More information about this home is forthcoming in a post coming soon.

12 comments:

  1. I thought the Dennison Farm is where the Christmas tree farm was on the other side of Limestone. Where is the Naudain farmhouse in all this? I love your site!

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    1. I'm not sure about a Christmas tree farm (maybe that was before my time?), but I assume you're talking about the brick house with the pointy Gothic gable, between Mendenhall Mill and Brackenville Roads? That's the Robert Dennison House, built by Samuel in 1886 for his son Robert, on the site of an older Guthrie house. It's mentioned in the Guthrie Tract post. http://mchhistory.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-guthrie-tract-along-limestone-road.html

      I'm not all that sure about the Naudain house. I know that in the Deldot reports (from the 80's I think) it mentioned a Naudain House that I think was just behind here on Paper Mill. It was newer, but I'm not sure if it's still there.

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    2. The Naudain house is on Paper Mill Rd. below the houses mentioned in the new Summit development. There is another Dennison house off of Mendenhall Mill Rd. Last occupied by Paul and Sue Dennison who moved to VA several years ago. They ran a Christmas tree farm that bordered Mendenhall Mill Rd and Limestone Rd.

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    3. Just an update on my last post...think the Naudain house is no more...looks like the bulldozers took it out.

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  2. The Robert Dennison/Guthrie house did used to be surrounded by a Christmas tree farm until the early/mid 1990's.

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    1. Is this house the same house owned by John & Iva Eastburn Dennison off Mendenhall Mill Rd?

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    2. John is my Springer cousin and Iva is my double Morrison/Eastburn cousin. In 1940 US Census, John and Iva are the household next to John's parents Horace and Lillian (Peoples) Dennison on Limestone Rd. The Paul Dennison mentioned in another comment is son of John and Iva.

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    3. Thanks I know there are two houses there...just wasn't sure which house had the Dennison/Guthrie family. I worked with Paul Dennison at the UD several years ago. Our family used to get Christmas trees from their farm before they sold the property. I am in the Ball family from the area.

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    4. I'm not sure about the houses. Paul Dennison is a 3rd great grandson of Samuel and my triple cousin.

      Rich Morrison

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  3. There were 4 houses on the Naudain properties and a couple of owners. The newer house near the tree line is gone. The house off of Paper Mill is gone. There were some out buildings near the corner that are also gone.The 2 oldest houses on Limestone will be fixed up.

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  4. Hi Scott - I am the marketing manager for The Summit and would like to introduce myself. Thank you for writing about The Samuel Dennison house! The history of the home and the property is very interesting and we are learning more and more about the home and family as the months go on. A member of the Dennison family recently shared personal photographs as well. If you would like, and if she agrees, I would be happy to share them.

    The Samuel Dennison home is currently being restored and we look forward to our open house in February 2014, where the public is invited to tour the home. We hope to have historic images, artifacts and memorabilia on display as well.

    If you would like to receive a formal invitation to our open house, please fill out a form on our website, www.thesummitretirement.com, and include the best ways we can reach you.

    By the way, I made the video on YouTube - and couldn't agree with the cheesy music more! It's slim pickings on the site... Hopefully the next updates will be more to your liking :)

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    1. Thanks, Kate, for commenting. And my thanks go to your company, as well. It probably would have been just as easy to demolish the houses and get them out of the way, but I think everyone here is glad that you didn't. I'm not naive enough to think all these historic farms can remain as they were 150 years ago, but it is very nice to at least see some of the historic homes being saved. I'm also thrilled to hear that not only is The Summit preserving the house, but the history behind it, too. I might just try to go to the open house, thanks for mentioning it. Oh, and on the next video I'm expecting a full original soundtrack, maybe John Williams or Randy Newman. Mark Knopfler's also done some good soundtrack work. See what you can do.

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