June 21, 2024


Interior spice

The Day – History Matters: The amazing floating house and ‘the rest of the story’


There was an aged-time radio announcer by the identify of Paul Harvey who employed to conclude many of his information broadcasts with the catchphrase … “and now you know the relaxation of the story.” He would usually toss in human anecdotes from driving the normal news scene, a lot to the delight of his huge listening audience.

I am often reminded of that phrase when people who have go through “History Matters” make the exertion to speak to me and include their particular facts to a specific story. There ended up absolutely several tales that required to be told just after our nearly two decades of archaeological investigation in the regional spot.

In 1997, the East Lyme Board of Education and learning accredited a ask for for my senior anthropology high faculty class to be authorized to journey off-campus all through the college day to get component in skillfully managed archaeological digs. So significantly area record was found out, confirmed and some even debunked, during that time as a direct outcome of individuals six-week semester classes. What those students figured out about history from people activities would not have been possible in the custom classroom setting.

On a single dig, we identified a WWII “sweetheart bracelet” with an American soldier’s identify and services selection inscribed on it. It was really a mystery until the daughter of that soldier transpired to go through the article created about it and contacted us to finish the tale.

A great touch was extra to an report about witch hazel when a area girl phoned me to offer you her remembrances of functioning at Dickinson’s witch hazel factory in Essex as a teen.

A dig at the first web page of the Very little Boston Faculty Dwelling in Niantic manufactured a treasure trove of educational artifacts, but it certain was pleasant when we were being in a position to incorporate the personalized testimony of a former pupil who came ahead. She experienced attended that a person-area schoolhouse in 1922.

In 2008, while seeking to locate the unique internet site of the Savilion Chapman blacksmith store, which was considered to have been found at the east stop of Roxbury Road in East Lyme, a community gentleman read about our quest and manufactured an aged lease for the shop which just happened to include its specific locale.

On a dig in Waterford in 2009, we stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a Indigenous American. I outlined in a later short article penned about it, the day-to-day visits of a welcoming turkey that experienced adopted our course and had taken terrific interest in the archaeological proceedings. A girl who lived in close proximity to the web site browse about that discovery and contacted me to give her piece of the tale and how she experienced rescued that youthful fowl from coyote depredation and experienced supplied it the nickname “Penny.”

A short while ago a frequent reader of the “History Matters” column, Mary Ellen Gladue, despatched a be aware my way about the awesome 1895 floating residence on Gardner Lake. That is surely a good story and one particular I never get weary of telling. A image postcard of that event had been included together with the initial 2016 short article which featured various adult men standing on the porch of that slowly and gradually sinking household.

That property would eventually arrive to settle on the base of the lake in an upright situation.

“Both of my grandmother’s brothers are in that image,” Mrs. Gladue advised me. “My grandmother, Florence (Dolly) Winchester Eccleston, had kept that old picture which the household had earlier cut out of the Norwich Bulletin at the time it occurred. Her brothers, Bob and Harry Winchester, are standing right there on the porch surveying that most abnormal event.”

And so … armed with 1 extra piece of details about the amazing sinking dwelling, let us revisit that story a single far more time.

That function really had its starting on Niantic’s Principal Road all through the chilly winter season months of 1895. A prosperous Niantic grocer by the title of Thomas LaCount had created a selection to move his Salem summertime residence from the south aspect of Gardner Lake to a much more attractive site the family had not long ago obtained on the jap shore. Many alternatives on how that could be accomplished ended up explored and a noteworthy Norwich contractor by the title of Woodmansee was employed to give skills. It was lastly decided to transfer the household across the winter season ice, a observe not uncommon at the time. (I have read stories about residences remaining slid throughout the ice of the Niantic River in between Waterford and East Lyme but, so significantly, no details have emerged to total the relaxation of that tale.)

On Feb. 13, 1895, the ice on the lake was a whopping 16 inches thick and there appeared to be little doubt that it would assist the bodyweight of the 28-ton LaCount residence for the duration of its nearly one particular-half mile journey across the ice. Adult men have been hired and more than a dozen draft horses were assembled along with all the important cable and deal with. The property was jacked up and runners (skids) had been positioned beneath it. All was in readiness.

Anything experienced been diligently taken into consideration, or so it was considered.

Unbeknownst to the LaCount Social gathering there was 1 tiny depth that would stand in the way of achievements.

The Drop Mills Co. of Norwich (which owned the drinking water rights to the lake) had drained off a sizeable sum of drinking water at the dam the night just before, producing a risky hole amongst the h2o level and the present ice. As a consequence, about three-quarters of the way across the lake, the ice less than the house began to crack and buckle, halting all development.

Yet another dozen or so horses had been brought in, all shod with distinctive footwear to enable them get a proper grip or “purchase” on the ice, but even with the extra horsepower, the household could not be moved a solitary inch. As the construction began to settle deeper into the ice, eyewitnesses agreed this Niantic businessman’s system to transfer his house throughout the Gardner Lake ice was no more time possible.

Up coming early morning that evaluation was confirmed. The property had started to pitch over in the direction of the heavy kitchen chimney. Water had begun to creep up the walls but incredibly, other pieces of the framework remained higher and dry.

The household rushed in to help save what they could, but considerably had to be abandoned either because of to fat or inaccessibility. A person object left driving was the weighty and very well-liked spouse and children piano.

Many people from the place came to perspective and take shots of the property that was now trapped in the ice. A New London Day reporter at the time described the scene: “The skating in the halls and sitting down area was wonderful, but in the eating home the water achieved nearly to the ceiling. A handsome sideboard is frozen reliable in the area, which has now been turned into an icehouse.

“Upstairs the water has frozen in the west finishes of the chambers. The plaster is all cracked and damaged, hardly ever acquiring been papered or painted … As the ice thawed that spring, the whole residence sank further into the lake. But instead of disappearing, the developing appeared to float, largely submerged, like an apparition.”

And float it did for some time, numerous yrs in truth, with people today skating all around inside of the composition throughout the winter months or rowing out to it in hotter temperature to fish from the windows or dive off the roof into the lake for a summertime swim.

But sink to its watery grave it did, ultimately coming to rest upright on the lake’s muddy base. And there the summer time home of Thomas LaCount stays to this day.

It has been mentioned that piano new music can be listened to at the lake on a pretty however summer time night. Writer Ray Bendici on his web site web site under “Connecticut Curiosities, Legends and Odd Destinations,” posted the adhering to: “How numerous lakes have complete houses in them? The genuinely weird element arrives afterwards as, above the a long time, a lot of individuals who have fished the lake have claimed to have heard odd, faint piano new music. No 1 is definitely sure the place it will come from, despite the fact that most seem to concur the mysterious melodies occur from beneath. And if it’s coming from underneath, then who’s tickling these ivories?” Mr. Bendici miracles.


A good friend and former golf spouse of mine, Ray Rita, supplied however a different addition to the relaxation of that tale. Ray experienced been a longtime Norwich native and developing up was extremely familiar with Gardner Lake. Soon after retiring as a Navy diver in the late 1950s, Ray did one thing he usually wished to do. He and two buddies dove on the residence in whole diving gear.

“That dwelling is positioned concerning Minnie Island (Connecticut’s smallest condition park) and the general public area of the lake in about 35 feet of h2o. The water in the lake is quite obvious. When we attained the house, we could see the roof had collapsed more than the full composition with only the chimney remaining standing,” Rita noted.

“We seemed for keepsakes but observed it had been picked quite clean up over the decades. Still, it was a terrific dive and undoubtedly an eerie sight. Undoubtedly truly worth the hard work.”

“Did you transpire to see a piano?” I experienced to check with, as I began to offer you up a couple of of the legendary aspects.

“No, but who is aware what could be underneath that collapsed roof,” he answered.

I felt the have to have to check with 1 final concern: “Did you listen to any new music while you had been down there?”

The wry smile on his experience told me all I essential to know. No a person could be heard tickling any ivories at the underwater site of Thomas LaCount’s sick-fated dwelling. Almost everything down under was nevertheless as a statue and as silent as the grave.

Jim Littlefield is a retired background trainer in East Lyme who has written two neighborhood historical past guides and two historical novels. His columns can also be discovered in the Put up Highway Evaluate.


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