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Historic Enfield Home Razed to Make Way for New Construction

‘It Just Kind of Breaks My Heart’

  • Thomas Engelhart, left, and Tom Hersey of Thomas Hersey Construction work on demolishing one of the oldest homes in Enfield, N.H., on July 7, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Thomas Engelhart, left, and Tom Hersey of Thomas Hersey Construction work on demolishing one of the oldest homes in Enfield, N.H., on July 7, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • A Thomas Hersey Construction crew demolishes one of the oldest homes in Enfield, N.H., along the edge of Cyrstal Lake on July 7, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    A Thomas Hersey Construction crew demolishes one of the oldest homes in Enfield, N.H., along the edge of Cyrstal Lake on July 7, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Thomas Engelhart, left, and Tom Hersey of Thomas Hersey Construction work on demolishing one of the oldest homes in Enfield, N.H., on July 7, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • A Thomas Hersey Construction crew demolishes one of the oldest homes in Enfield, N.H., along the edge of Cyrstal Lake on July 7, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Enfield — At home on the east side of Crystal Lake on Monday afternoon, Cheryl Gerding tried to ignore the crunching sound of an excavator tearing down her family’s former historic house just across the water.

“I’m having a hard time,” Gerding said, holding back tears.

The 1790s-era home, situated on Lockehaven Road in the town’s oldest section, was once the venue of a store and two town meetings and was home to some of the most prominent residents of the era.

In the building’s more recent history, Gerding’s parents became its twelfth owners in 1947. At the time, Gerding was 9 years old. She and her own children spent their summers in the “Old House” in what was once known as East Enfield when the children were young, she said.

When Gerding’s mother, Helen Auger, died in 2007 and her step-father, Harry Auger, became ill, the family could no longer afford to keep the house on Crystal Lake. Gerding said taxes amounted to $7,000 annually.

They sold the .74-acre waterfront lot and 1,300-square-foot home to Joseph Roberts, of Grafton, in 2012 for $260,000, according to Enfield assessing records. The lakeside property is appraised at $349,200, but the house was valued at just $79,000.

Roberts did not respond to a reporter’s requests for comment.

Gerding’s daughter, Kathy Decato, admitted the house “did need a lot of work,” but she said that she had held out hope that the new owner would refurbish it.

“It was my grandparents’ house,” she said. “It just kind of breaks my heart.”

Gerding said her brother compared the demolition to a “death in the family.”

But she said she was trying to resign herself to the loss.

“We sold it,” she said. “It’s out of my hands.”

Jim Rock, a former Lockehaven resident, drove by the house on Monday as it was being demolished.

“I was shocked and horrified that they we’re tearing it down,” he said. “It’s like losing an old friend.”

Rock, a carpenter by trade, said it does take a lot to keep up with the maintenance needs of an old home, but he said this one “looked like it had a good shell.”

On site, Thomas Hersey, of Thomas Hersey Construction, said Roberts had hired his firm to do the demolition.

Hersey, whose firm also is slated to build a new home on the footprint of the old one, said he didn’t have an opinion about the demolition.

“It’s just a job to me,” he said.

Hersey said the home needed some improvements; the windows were all single-paned and the floors were uneven.

“I don’t think it was the best house in town,” he said.

Some Enfield residents saw something worth saving in the “Old House.”

Jeff Richards, a restoration carpenter, said he was able to salvage some window sashes and pantry shelving for his own historic Lockehaven home ahead of Monday’s demolition.

“I would’ve loved to have had the chance to get down to the original frame and study it more thoroughly,” he said.

Such an examination to find evidence of rot, for example, is important in determining whether or not to restore a building, he said.

Based on his limited inspection, however, Richards said he didn’t think the structure was worth the money it would have cost to fix it. For example, he said the building’s location near the water meant the basement was damp.

Though he wasn’t sure the whole house was worth saving, he said he was sorry that more of the salvageable historic elements weren’t recycled.

“Those frames might have found new homes someplace else,” he said. “People aren’t aware of the fact that other people are interested in that. They don’t even understand why somebody would be interested.”

Richards compared some people’s perceptions of historic homes to those of old cars without air conditioning and power steering.

“Why would you want to drive that?” he said.

Marjorie Carr, Enfield’s library director and historian, recalled visiting Helen and Harry Auger at their Lockehaven home, which she described as an antique cape.

She said the Augers’ “precious little house” was cozy and comfortable and caused her to think about the lives of previous generations of Enfield residents who spent time there.

“If only walls could talk,” she said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.