Saturday, January 29, 2011

Best free show in town ...

... at the moment. My first thought, looking out the kitchen window a while ago, was that the neighbor had decided to burn down the family travel trailer parked in the side yard.

Then I remembered that signs had been pointing lately to an impending fire at the derelict little house on Armory a half block southwest of here --- killing two birds with one stone: getting rid of a hopeless building and providing a training exercise for the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department. And that's what it was.

The firefighters were careful to water down nearby trees, hoping that the end of the house wouldn't end their lives either. But there's nothing left of the old building by now.

This was kind of a neat little house and fairly well maintaned when my late parents bought and moved into this new house at an old location several years ago. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to take a photo of it while it still looked good. There had once been a cobbler's shop in the side yard --- a small stuccoed building with innovative roofline above a raised basement. That was taken down as a nuisance some years ago. Now it's all gone.

The poor old thing had bad luck with owners, including if I'm not mistaken some associations with illegal drugs. Then it was left to just sit and rot until the city acquired it as a public nuisance.

Although you might not think about it, this is actually one of  Chariton's earliest neighborhoods. The first in-town city cemetery was a half block northwest on the Columbus School block --- the building there now the third on a site where Chariton's first substantial school was built (the cemetery was moved before the school was built --- we hope).

The neighborhood has been extensively built over within the last thirty years as old houses were torn down and new ones built. When my parents looked at the abstract for this house, they discovered my great-great-grandfather, Jacob Myers, had owned the lot in the 1880s after acquiring a mortgage on it as an investment and then foreclosing.

John Rosa, my uncle several generations removed, owned the little valley to the south where the Woodlawn Apartments now are located, prior to his untimely death from typhoid in 1867. It's not clear if he actually lived there, or just farmed on a small scale, since he also operated a tobacco shop in a log building just north of the current Charitone Hotel.

Whatever the case, another part of the old neighborhood just went up in smoke. A little sad, but inevitable.

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