Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Harper House Revisited: 1946

Pay enough attention to old buildings and the landscapes they once occupied and a parallel-universe effect develops --- you start seeing what used to be while looking at what is. In the case of the Stewart-Harper house, that involves the block of North Grand Street just north of the square between Roland and Auburn avenues.

These photos of that grand old house, one of two outstanding examples of the Second Empire style still standing in Chariton, were taken during 1946 and placed for reasons I'll get to in a minute in one of those P.E.O chapter scrapbooks I had a chance to examine earlier this week.

The brick house was built during the 1870s and still stands, although in a diminished condition. I wrote about it first during December.

Although the house looks roughtly the same, the landscape has changed considerably. Until 1946 and for several years thereafter, its setting was spacious and residential. The Italianate Elijah Copeland-Busselle house occupied lots to the south, at the intersection of Roland and Grand; and Chariton's Assembly of God congregation had moved into the old United Presbyterian Church to the north, at the intersection of Grand and Auburn.

At the time these photos were taken, the house was occupied with considerable style by Zora (Stewart) Harper, daughter of the home's builders, George J. and Amanda Stewart. She had moved back to Chariton from Nebraska with her husband, Philander, during the mid-1920s to care for her parents, both of whom died during 1927. Philander died during 1933.

Zora, active in P.E.O. as a young woman, became active again in the Chariton chapter and her home, the setting for a variety of organizational events in part because it was ideal for entertaining on a grand scale.

In June of 1946, according to a scrapbook inscription, Zora offered the house to the Iowa State Chapter as a P.E.O Home --- presumably a residential setting for elderly P.E.O. members --- and these photos were taken at that time. As it turned out, the state chapter declined and she continued to occupy her home until death in 1955, when it was sold and the contents scattered.

This photo, similar to the one at the top, shows the wing at the rear of the house, described in a scrapbook caption as "the annex," containing "dining room north side; kitchen, south side."

And here's a view of the house from the southwest. Perhaps that's Zora's car under the porte cochere.

This snapshot (above) shows the fireplace in what is described as the "northwest parlor" and the snapshot below, "view in southeast parlor between two east windows."

At some point during the 1950s, Keith Gartin purchased the Copeland/Busselle house to the south of the Harper property, demolished it and built his new grocery store --- surrounded by one of Chariton's first big paved parking lots. This most recently was the Dollar General Store location.

Years later, the Assembly of God congregation acquired the property just north of the Harper house and paved it, too.

So here's how the poor old house looked during December, hemmed in by pavement on two sides and somewhat overtaken by volunteer trees.

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