by Virginia Siskavich-Bosley.
We made the transition from a neat, but cramped, single-wide trailer to a historic 3-story home with plenty of room (and rooms!) to grow and explore. Our new-to-us old home belonged to Dr. H.R. Marvin – one of Lyon Mountain’s “company” doctors. Doc Marvin, as he was known to the locals, began practicing medicine in Lyon Mountain in the first decade of the twentieth century for the Chateaugay Iron and Ore Company, and later for Republic Steel. One of Lyon Mountain’s “Old Timers” told my parents that Doc Marvin’s house had been disassembled from a settlement on Bradley Pond in the Town of Ellenburg, and brought to its lot in Lyon Mountain on the railroad. This isn’t far-fetched, as some recorded history I’ve read mentions this exact practice. Plus, the rails ran right through what is now my parents’ side lot.
In the 1940s, when my father was a child, he remembers being alleviated of a nagging toothache in what is now the living room of their home. Doc Marvin sat him a chair, climbed onto my father’s lap, placed his knee in my dad’s chest to render him immobile, and yanked out the trouble-making tooth with a steady, unceremonious, and forceful grip. And so it was, in those days. No fuss, no muss, no tooth.
It was in this house that my lifelong love affair with all things old was sparked, and it was also in this house where we all became preservationists.
The main staircase, with its wonderfully detailed woodwork and bold, knobby newel was layered in a century of poor paint choices. When Doc Marvin or his wife would require a freshening up of their living quarters, the company would send a team to put a fresh coat of paint of everything. Every. Thing.
That’s not to say, of course, that we did everything right. Old windows came out and vinyl siding went on. The general thought was that these changes were absolutely essential to make an old home energy efficient. Luckily, we now know that old windows can be just as energy efficient as new ones (Viva la windows!). My parents probably could have made repairs to their old windows with the right guidance, but as new old homeowners, they made the best choices they could with the resources they had available at the time.
After nearly 25 years, my parents’ home has seen some transition. The upstairs, once abuzz with a handful of raucous kids, is empty and has been closed off to help with rising heating costs. My aging parents now occupy a bedroom downstairs and are glad to not have to maneuver up the
As with all things in life, each and every project is an opportunity for learning and growth. My parents have improved and maintained their historic home, which hasn’t been an easy undertaking by any means. Aging parents plus an aging house equals struggle. But, while they’ve made a few preservation mistakes along the way, there is really no reason that house shouldn’t stand for a century more. I have an enormous sense of pride for what my family has accomplished in that home. She’s a beautiful old piece of history and I’m proud to say that we’ve had a hand in seeing her into another century.
Virginia Siskavich-Bosley is the AARCH office manager and occasional librarian in our Clayton Family Resource Center. When she’s not answering phones and fielding research requests, you can find her sampling microbrews and bird-watching – sometimes even at the same time.