Friday, September 23, 2016

Coffee in an historic setting at The Porch

It   was a considerable treat Thursday afternoon to enjoy a good cup of coffee and a homemade scone at Chariton's new coffee house, The Porch. The bonus was seeing one of Chariton's most architecturally significant buildings, also known as the O.E. Payne House and Dual Gables, all polished up and serving a new function in its 127th year.

Shelley and Ron Sadler purchased the historic cottage earlier this year from the Lucas County Arts Council, its stewards since 2002. They have been working since then to prepare it for this week's opening. No changes were made to the interior other than modifying the kitchen to serve its new purpose and the bathroom, to serve as a restroom.

The staff as closing time approached Thursday included (from left) Shirley Llewellyn of Toledo, Iowa, Shelley Saddler's mother; Shelley; Ron; and Carissa (Sadler) Jacobsen, of Osceola, their daughter. Other Sadler children are Tiffany, married to Chris Kuball, of Austin, Minn.; Joel, youth director at Chariton's First Baptist church; and Joshua, of Cedar Falls. Shelley also works at the South Central Iowa Community Action Program (SCICAP) and Ron, at Hy-Vee Osceola.

Hours at The Porch will be 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., although today --- Homecoming --- the new business will remain open until 4 p.m. Grand opening continues through Saturday. In addition to coffee and coffee-based beverages, tea, cold drinks and a variety of pastries also are available. More information and a detailed menu may be found here, on The Porch Facebook page.

The Porch's cottage home was built in 1889 at what now is 705 Auburn Ave. by O.E. Payne, then Lucas County clerk of court, who had married his deputy clerk, Alice (Ryan) Payne,  during 1887. As they were preparing to move into the home with their first son, Harlan, The Chariton Democrat published the following under the headline, "A Modern Chariton Curiosity," in its edition of July 4, 1889:

"Brother O.E. Payne, Clerk of the District Court of his county, has built one of the neatest and prettiest of all the Chariton houses. It is odd, remarkably odd. We like it because it is out of the usual order of things. It is a one story cottage, composed of some nine or ten rooms (six actually) of rather small dimensions, amply provided with beautiful figure heads at its dual front, rich ornamentation on its hurricane decks, and commodious port holes at the rear. This residence is located on East Third Avenue (renamed Auburn some years later), fronts south, and is of this precise shape: 'Y.'

"It is said that the reason Mr. Payne built here is because he feared it would not be healthy for a public officer to own all his estates in Ringgold county and draw all his official emoluments from Lucas. So he invested in Lucas. Mr. Payne built his residence in a Y shape because he was Y's enough to see the fitness of things in it. The rear represents Lucas county where he holds office, one prong represents Ringgold, where he farms; the other represents Clarke, where his deputy resides."

The second paragraph, obviously, is tongue-in-cheek. The fact that the youthful Mr. Payne (he was 29 when the house was built) did not own property in Lucas County had been a bone of contention when he was running for clerk of court during 1887 --- as was the fact he was an ardent suffragist. He apparently did own some land in Ringgold County, however. Alice, also his deputy clerk, was a native of Murray in Clarke County where they had been married at her parents' home on June 5, 1887.

The little house, innovative then and now and best described perhaps as Victorian picturesque, is in the shape of a “Y” with the branches facing Auburn and the stem extending back to the north. The two angled rooms at the front are large, light and pleasant, flanking a small porch. The leg of the “Y” behind them is divided lengthwise with two small bedrooms (the rear bedroom now a work room) to the east and a kitchen and bath to the west. The flooring, interior and exterior woodwork and other architectural details are intact (although in several cases restored or reproduced when missing) --- including a tiny strongly vertical fireplace with coal grate in the southwest room. In its way, it is perfect.

O.E. --- whose given name, never used, was Oma Edward --- was an Illinois native who grew up near Liberty Center in Warren County.

He   started his working life as a peddler, upgraded to "traveling salesman" by the time he arrived in Chariton during the early 1880s. Sheer personality seems to have been a major factor in his election as county clerk during 1887, but he was good enough at the job to be re-elected to a second term.

O.E. and Alice had three children after their 1887 marriage, but she developed consumption during the 1890s and her health deteriorated. During the late years of that decade, the family moved from Chariton to Old Orchard in St. Louis County, Missouri, and sold their innovative Chariton home to Marena Houston, whose husband, Samuel D., had died during 1896.

Alice Payne died in Old Orchard on Feb. 13, 1900, and O.E. seems to have remained there for a few years before heading for Canada during 1907. He settled in Alberta, near what became Hanna, farmed for a while and became a naturalized citizen during 1913.

On   June 28, 1912, O.E. and the widowed Margaret Powell, of Chariton, were married at Calgary, Alberta, and settled down at Hanna. By 1921, O.E. listed his occupation there as newspaper journalist.

As   the years passed, O.E. had become increasingly interested in Christian mission work and during 1922, the Paynes left Canada, returned to Chariton for a time and then set sail during 1923 for Kimberly, capital of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. His occupation was listed as "author" on the passenger list of the vessel that carried them as far as London; hers, as nurse.

During the early summer of 1925, however, O.E. died suddenly at Kimberly, captial of the Northern Cape Province. At the time, he reportedly was supervising the work of dozens of native South Africans in what was described as the Kimberly mission field.

And there he was buried, a considerable distance from his innovative little house on East Auburn Avenue in Chariton, Iowa.

A number of people owned and occupied the Payne house over the years without altering it beyond restorability. Marena (McKinley) Houston lived there until her death on May 27, 1928, age 95, and her funeral services were held in the little house.

In 1978, Karen (Christensen) Messamer, then teaching in the Chariton schools, rescued the by-then deteriorated building and during 1983 began a years-long one-woman restoration effort, investing both her own and grant funds (it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979).

Evenually, Messamer no longer wished to carry on and tried to give the building away to a responsible group willing to take it on. The Lucas County Historical Society declined. But the Lucas County Arts Council --- the only citizen group in the county at the time with a consistent positive record in the field of historic preservation --- agreed to accept it.

Arts Council volunteers completed the restoration and also acquired a derelict house just east of it, demolished that and created in place of an eyesore a pleasant nicely-landscaped corner at Auburn Avenue’s intersection with Highway 14.

Members of the Arts Council have been very good steward of the little building, but have struggled to find a practical use for it. Most recently, it has served as a furnished short-term rental for people visiting in Chariton or working here briefly. It worked beautifully as that and several friends of mine have enjoyed staying there over the years. But maintenance and operations were considerable burdens for a small all-volunteer organization.

After acquiring the O.E. Payne house, the Arts Council took on the massive task of restoring the C.B.&Q. Freight House, now a popular events venue. Although greeted with rave reviews from preservationists when restoration was complete --- and it continues to receive these accolades --- Freight House restoration left the Arts Council with considerable debt.

Sale of the Dual Gables to responsible new owners will allow the Arts Council to focus on the Freight House and other activities with less to worry about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think Dorotha Many would be so proud of this new Dual Gables development!