this old house

Save This Old House ~ Second Empire in Middletown NY Under $38K ~Sold

97 E. Main ST., Middletown, NY   $37,900 Sold for $44,000 on 6/16/2020


Boy, was I wrong. It appears someone purchased the house. The Middletown librarian got back to me quickly, and as promised, despite the home being off market already, here is some of its history.

Karen Heil was so kind to type out a portion of the new book by Peter Laskaris, Middletown historian, called Old Middletown Homes.  

“97 East Main Street:  At least a brief mention should be made of the house at 97 East Main Street.  The lot was purchased by Linus Babcock in 1865, and in 1872 his son Willaim Babcock began construction of a Second Empire styled house which was completed in March of 1873.  Mr. Babcock, a Middletown hat manufacturer, was born in 1847 and died February 16, 1874 in New York City.  This once beautiful house fell on hard times, as the saying goes, and was acquired by the City of Middletown in March of 1981 for non-payment of taxes.  At this time, the house was painted red and green and was called “The Christmas Tree House” by many.  City government, of course, with their typical creativity, planned to tear the house down, but a local group called the Middletown Urban Renaissance Action League (MURAL) intervened in an attempt to save the noteworthy structure. Their goal was for the city to sell the house at a low price with the provision the buyer actually restore the house rather than simply correct the code violations.  While the group was successful in saving the house from demolition the city wouldn’t go along with their idea that the house be restored and a wonderful opportunity was squandered by  the shortsighted politicians.”

Original post below:
I have slim expectations that anyone will save this old house, but since it is National Preservation Month, I can hope.
So why my pessimism? Well, besides the fact that it is one house away from a 4-stall firehouse and the annual taxes are $6,474, the poor house is in really bad shape. It makes me so sad. Plus, according to the 1930 US Census, a house valued at $45,000 was across the street. That translates into $675,000 in today’s dollars, but that house was razed. It’s now a paved paradise. They put up a parking lot.
I searched high and low for historical information about the house but couldn’t find much. Only pertinent information I came across is that East and West Main Streets were once part of the old Minisink Road, and the oldest house in Middletown is believed to be the Nathaniel and Jerusha Wickham Wells house at 315 East Main Street built 1775, and down the road from our featured home. I contacted the Middletown Library about our Second Empire, so if I hear back, I will let you know.
An interesting tidbit about Middletown, though. In 1911, Calbraith Perry Rogers made aviation history when he became the first person to cross the U.S. by plane. He departed Long Island on September 7, 1911, and landed in Middletown later that day. It was estimated about 12,000 people saw the landing. Taking off the next morning, however, Rogers’ plane brushed a tree and crashed into a chicken coop in the rear of a house on Sterling Street, just a short walk from our featured house.  The pilot was not badly injured, but his plane, the “Vin Fiz” was damaged and he couldn’t leave Middletown until two weeks later. Rogers finally reached the Pacific Ocean in California December 10, 1911 without hitting another chicken coop.
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