Crammed into the Little Red Schoolhouse on Front Street in Greenport, a standing-room only crowd listened intently Saturday afternoon as Walter and Diane Foote shared stories of the historic items they found in their home during its ongoing renovation.
Soon after the project began at their Broad Street home last September, the couple learned their house had been built using wood from 19th century circus billboards. Inside the walls was an 1893 issue of Ladies Home Journal and a circular for an old Greenport stationery store, among other items.
Greenport residents who attended Saturday’s event, which was hosted by the Stirling Historical Society, shared their stories of items they once found in their homes.
Penny Rudder joked that hearing the Footes’ story made her “want to take a crowbar to [her] home,” across from the cemetery.
In looking through her home — which she has yet to pry apart, by the way — she found a coal receipt from a company in New England in the wall. On the receipt was the name G. Hilbrith, she said. This fall she was shopping and found a postcard with the same name on it.
“Now I’m kind of intrigued,” Ms. Rudder said. “Maybe I’ve found this piece of correspondence to someone who might have gotten coal in our house.”
Jim Betz and Julia Moran, who are currently renovating their home on the corner of Webb and Main streets, found a time capsule containing numerous items, such as the Webb family’s 20th century cricket club and skating rink membership cards, a hat pin and cufflinks. They also found a ship ballast in the foundation of their home and a boot in the wall placed to ward off evil spirits.
“It says ladies have to be accompanied by a gentlemen and that sort of thing,” Ms. Moran said of the membership cards, which she feels are the most interesting thing the couple has found.
Jane Ratsey Williams, who lives on Fifth Street, found a wooden Samuel L. Storer sign in the barn on her property. The schooner smack Samuel L. Storer was built in 1882 at the shipyard at the foot of Sterling Creek, she said, and once caught 600 pounds of codfish in two days, which was sold for 8 cents a pound in January 1899. In May of the next year, the vessel was stuck in the fog and abandoned, becoming a wreck.
Greg Rivara, who owns an older home on Carpenter Street and said he’s “always been interested” in history, found a brass dog license from 1925 while renovating the garden in his backyard.
Other items people who attended Saturday’s event said they found inside their homes included old milk bottles, old nails, a Polish newspaper, old palms and Prohibition-era bottles.
Gail Horton, president of the Stirling Historical Society, shared information that suggests the Hanff House is a Colonial Inn with a history of being used to help people escape on the Underground Railroad.
“I love it,” said Greenport resident Michael Mireanu, adding that he hasn’t found anything like what was shared Saturday in his home, which was built in 1917. “It’s a wonderful community to be a part of.”
During the event, photographs of the circus billboards used in the building of the Foote’s home adorned the walls of the schoolhouse and filled a table at the front of the room. Additionally, Ms. Foote printed 50 copies of the J.C. Merrill ad for attendees to take home and brought the original Ladies Home Journal for people to carefully flip through.
“I just want to say how great it is that you preserved this and shared it,” Kevin Heaney said. “What a great lesson you’ve given us about Greenport by taking things and making them new again.”
Photo Caption: Diane and Walter Foote hold up a picture of the wooden circus billboards found in their home. (Credit: Nicole Smith)