Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Sammis of 256 South Emerson Avenue

Myrtle Sammis came to the construction site nearly everyday to check on the progress of the building of her new home at 256 South Emerson Avenue.  She and her husband, Charles, a substitute carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, purchased their narrow but long lot in 1908 for the price of $100.  Because it was below grade level, they had to add dirt before construction of their two-story Arts and Crafts era home could begin.  Mrs. Sammis was quite familiar with Irvington because her family, the Shimers, owned large farms along Brookville Road.  She eventually became very involved with the details of the house by personally staining the beautiful oak woodwork throughout the first story of the dwelling while Mr. Sammis worked the late shift for the Post Office.  The home's location across from Butler University and along the newly bricked Emerson Avenue made this a very attractive area in which to live.

The Sammis Home at 256 South Emerson in 1910

The Sammis Home at 256 South Emerson Avenue c.1915.  Note the brick street and the homes to the north.

The Sammis reared their two children, Willa and Frederick (Fritz) in the house.  The children walked to School #57 as it was the closest school at that time.  Grandchildren who dwelled in the house in the 1930s and 40s attended School #82.  Their daughter Willa wrote a memoir of her life and much of it involved Irvington.  This wonderful narrative, recently donated to the Irvington Historical Society by her son David Bailey, contains much about the family home.  She recalled her childhood days in the house with its airy rooms, "light hardwood floors," and "dark colonnades" separating the large reception hall from the living room.  She noted that her parents took a long time to pay off the mortgage because they added hot water, wallpaper, lovely draperies, built-in cabinets in the kitchen, and eventually the very modern extravagance of a..... telephone.

Charles, Willa, Frederick (Fritz), and Myrtle Sammis in 1910

The exterior of the Sammis home was the epitome of the Arts and Crafts period.  Most houses of this era had two colors.  The upper story was generally painted darker than the lower story.  The Sammis' second story was clad in dark stained wood shakes.  The lower story, sheathed in clapboard, was painted a lighter color with matching trim. You will note the porch columns were perched atop concrete block.  The historic photos show the home in 1910 and most likely in 1915.  In the top photo, taken just two years after construction, you can see that the Sammis have planted a tree along the street.  You can also see their fashionable porch furniture.  In the second photo, taken just a few years later, you can see the beautiful brick street and the two houses north of 256 South Emerson.  David Bailey, the grandchild of the Sammis remembers the grassy median that used to be on the street.  The third photo shows the family in 1910.  Finally, I have included a photo of the home today.  Much of the charm has been covered up and in some cases removed, however, the original paneled entryway still exists.  The stories and photos for this post are courtesy of David Bailey.  More posts will be forthcoming on this interesting Irvington family.

256 South Emerson Avenue in 2013:  The home has been significantly altered over the years including the removal of some windows and porch columns.  

Source:  Unpublished Memoir of Willa Sammis Bailey Smith (1896-1974)

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