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The Mystery House on North Seton Ave

Ed Houck

The following is a Note received form Ed Houck in response to a request in the Emmitsburg Dispatch for information on the house shown above.

I was surprised to see the picture of the old building on page 23 of the May 2000 Dispatch. Here is the history of the building:

My father, J. E. Houck, Sr., purchased the right side of the Annan Brothers large building on the square in 1939 from J. Brooke Boyle. In the early 1940ís, upon the death of Charles Mort, he purchased the left side of the same building that borders on Rt. 15. Here he moved his men's wear store, "Edís Place," from the Knights of Columbus Building and connected it to the womenís clothing portion of the store, making the ground floor a complete clothing store for the entire family.

Upon buying this portion of the building, which also included a shed bordering on the alley that runs next to the St. Josephís Cemetery, he decided to fix it up to look like a house. He had the outside covered with white asbestos shingles and placed over the doors a covering that was removed from the old restaurant that went out of business and was replaced by the menís store. On the inside was a large room, a staircase, a small back room and one open room upstairs. The upstairs was used to store out-of-season stock and the first floor was used for trash and unpacking goods. There were never any families living in this building, which had no plumbing or water.

When I was in my teens in the early 1940ís, Johnny Miller, Tom Gammache and I had a train layout that took up half of the big room on the bottom floor. Dad also let me use the area as a woodworking shop. The Scouts of the area at one time built two duck boats and I had built and sold a number of sets of wooden outdoor furniture. Dad would assist in buying the lumber and I could keep the net profit to buy bigger and better tools.

The original shed was a tin-covered building with a dirt floor for storing buggies and yard tools. At one time, it had a large door going into the alley. When my father made it look like a home, many people asked him about living there and they had to be told it was used just for storage.

Upon the death of my parents, the building went to my two sisters, Mary Theresa and Margaret, and myself. As they got married, I purchased their share of the building and kept it until I sold it to Ralph Ireland in 1962. At one time my family, including my wife Doris and four children, Denise, Patty, Jim and Joe, lived in the right side of the building.. On the left side of the building on the top floor lived Mr. and Mrs. Walter Crouse and their daughter, Susan. On the second floor lived my wifeís grandparents, Charles & Bessie Olinger.

In the mid-fifties, we had pigeons housed in the small room in the rear of the shed. "Pop" Olinger enjoyed looking after the pigeons and at one time the flock was over 80 birds. We would race the birds from Cumberland, Gettysburg and many places to see if our birds were the best quality. We also had show birds, Tumblers, Icelanders, Fan-tails etc., and would show them at times. On leaving in 1962, our flock was given to Gene Lingg, who also raised pigeons down in a garage off East Main Street. At that time it was a big thing.

Our clothing store served the community from the opening of Edís Place in the mid-1920ís through 1962. With the opening of the bypass to the east of town, business was slowing down and I moved with the family to the Washington area.

So this is the history of the Mystery House on No. Seton Ave. It never was home to anyone except about 40 pair of pigeons and a lot of good times for me as I grew up in Emmitsburg.

Read other memories of Emmitsburg of Old by Ed Houck

Memories of Mary Irelan Trapane

My grandfather, Ralph Irelan, Sr., has owned that property since 1963. He purchased the property from Ed Houck, who had owned the property (probably inherited from his parents) for many, many years. The Houcks lived in the building that is now 1 & 3 East Main Street. To our knowledge, that property on N. Seton has never been occupied (except by lots of pigeons). If it had been, weíd be very interested in knowing.

One major correction: We requested the permit to remove the building to make room for parking by the tenants of 1 & 3 East Main Street. We were never requested to remove the building by the town of Emmitsburg. The "house" sat on a concrete slab, had no real indoor plumbing or insulation, and the only electricity was a couple of ceiling light bulbs. For the 36 years that this property has been in my family, this building has been used as a storage shed, and my grandfather is also confident that the "house" was used by the Houcks primarily for storage as well. My grandfather does remember that the Houcks sold toys in the building during the Christmas season.

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