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November 28, 2014
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Custodians of history; Living in a 200-year-old house

John Harvey draws water from the old well. It comes in handy when the electricity goes out.


The dentil molding above the solid wood door is repeated throughout the interior. The doorbell is marked with an 1867 patent and is still in working condition. Glancing at the ascending staircase (one of two), we enter the first room on the right.

The Harveys’ dining room—the original family’s living room—features the fanciest molding in the house and a shallow, European-style red brick fireplace, framed by a colonial-style, carved mantel of gray painted wood. The floorboards in this room and others are the original tight-grained, wide planks of chestnut and basswood. Paintings and decorative plates adorn the painted walls. Above the wooden table hangs a pewter gray, metal chandelier with candle shaped electric bulbs.

Across the hallway, we step down a two-inch ramp into the pine-floored, one-story addition. The original door to Solomon Moore’s general store was sealed off years ago, and the room has become a comfortable living room. The original fireplace is now gas. Dawn comments, “In between seasons, we heat the house using only this stove and the stove in the kitchen.”

“These rooms are beautifully illumined by the natural afternoon light,” John says. “The people who lived here would have been conscious of retaining the day’s light as long as possible before they’d have to light their lamps in the evening.”

Adjoining the living room is John’s office, which opens through glass-paned doors onto the covered porch that had been millwright Mortimer E. Lavo’s workshop. The office was renovated from a bedroom and closet. Bookshelves line the walls. Photographs show the outside of the house virtually unchanged to this day.

A narrow staircase takes us to the loft area of the addition, housing a small spare room and larger guestroom. Before we leave the loft, John draws our attention to a child’s scrawled picture of George Washington. The image drawn on bare wall is framed by molding nailed around it during the 1995 renovations. John reads the caption to us, “Bethany Jan 1 George Washington,” and adds, “We just honor and protect it. Who knows what the true story on that is? It could have been little David’s.”

The upstairs loft area is separate from the upstairs main area, so we descend the narrow staircase and climb the main stairway to the bedrooms above. This staircase has beautifully crafted rails and banisters of Honduran mahogany, ending at a wide hallway.