Sunday, August 4, 2013

Otis and Fannie Vaughn's Burlington house

We've been talking about the siblings of my grandma Genevieve's grandfather Otis a lot lately, but let's go back to Otis and Fannie for a moment, because I had the good fortune to stop by the Burlington library one day last spring when the resident town historian was there, and he helped me track down the house that Otis built in town when they moved off the farm in 1889. (It was a little trick to find the house because Burlington renumbered its streets in the 1960s.)

 I was able to go back to Burlington recently and get some pictures of the house, which is still in great shape, though it's been converted to a duplex now.

The house Otis Vaughn built in 1888-1889, on Lewis Street just off of 36 downtown.

You'll remember from Corinne's scrapbook that there were a few newspaper clippings regarding Otis building the house:

"1888: Mr. Otis Vaughn is hauling stone for the foundation of his new residence to be built early next spring on his fine corner lot at the rear of the Opera House, opposite the old 'Sawyer property' on Washington and Dyer streets."

The stone foundation that my great-great-grandfather Otis laid in 1888.
"1889:  Mr. Otis Vaughn and family moved into their new house on the corner of Washington and Dyer streets last week, and will soon be comfortably settled in their fine, cozy home."

The house as it looked when it was first built. Note the barn behind the house and the size of the tree in front.
Otis and Fannie moved into the house in 1889, though they maintained ownership of the farm in Spring Prairie at the same time. (I assume they rented it out.) In 1918, their oldest daughter Hattie lost her husband to the Spanish flu, and she and her two young daughters moved in with Otis and Fannie to the house in Burlington. Five years later, in 1922, Otis passed away. Hattie and Fannie and the two girls lived in the house together until Fannie's death in 1931. This is the house where Corinne would stay when she was a little girl visiting "Grandpa and Grandma Vaughn."

Today the barn has been torn down and there are houses close on either side. The little tree has grown much taller.
Remarkably, other than a paint job, the exterior of the house looks almost identical to the way it looked when it was first built. I assume that is a testament to the craftsmanship of the house itself, which was built entirely by hand by my great-great-grandfather. The barn behind the house is gone now, and there are houses right next to the house that weren't there when it was first built (though I suspect they were built not too long afterward, judging by their age and appearance.) Though the double mailbox out front and the double addresses indicate it is being used as a duplex, you can't tell that from the outside, so the conversion was commendably unobtrusive.

It is a piece of my family's history that is still a living, contributing part of the community in Burlington, Wisconsin. I hope that someday the people who live there now will read about Otis and learn to appreciate his handiwork the way I do, 125 years later.

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