The old limestone house in Cadzow Park, currently the home of the St. Marys Museum, is marking two anniversaries in 2014. The house was built in 1854 — 160 years ago — and the St. Marys Museum was established 60 years ago in 1954, although the artifacts did not move to Cadzow Park until a few years later.
To mark these occasions, the first of the Museum’s seminar series in 2014, scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 23, will present the history of the house, outlining the changes and sharing some of the stories through the decades of previous owners and tenants. Two columns in this newspaper’s Historic St. Marys series — last week and this week — describe some of the earliest occupants.
The house was used for many years as rental accommodation — a great location in warm weather, close to schools and downtown with all the advantages of the playground and pool right at hand. There were some hazards: one tenant’s unoccupied car, left in the parking lot without the brakes set, rolled down the hill right into Cadzow Pool — fortunately also unoccupied at the time. Frequently, it was necessary for residents to fend off invading squirrels, skunks, groundhogs and bats. (It still is!)
Winter living was uncomfortable. The old house was desperately cold and drafty. One woman who lived there for a short time in the mid-1940s remembers preparing her new baby for the night with a wool hat and mittens and covering her with mounds of blankets because it was so cold in the bedroom that she could see her breath. Older children dressed as quickly as possible every morning, having taken their school clothes into bed with them the night before. Thick frost coated the windows and hung from the tips of roofing nails visible at that time in the unfinished attics.
The seminar on Jan. 23 will coincide with the opening of the Museum’s winter exhibit celebrating the house’s 160-year history. Staff are eager to learn more about early tenants and urge anyone who used to live, even briefly, in the house to contact them to share their stories. The Museum’s phone number is 519-284-3556. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The seminar is Thursday evening, Jan. 23, from 7-9 p.m. Participants are asked to pre-register by contacting the Museum. These seminars are fundraisers for the Museum. Cost is $12, or $10 for members.