Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lost Irvington--The Kile Home

Most Irvingtonians of the early twenty-first century are familiar with the Kile Oak, a grand tree now protected along Beechwood Avenue.  For most of the twentieth century, a member of the Kile family literally dwelled under the giant spans of the majestic tree. Reverend Oliver and Sarah Kile moved into their new Irvington home at 5939 Beechwood Avenue in 1901 along with their eight children.  Historian Paul Diebold notes in his book, Greater Irvington, that the family relocated to the community from Ohio for better educational opportunities for their large family.  Reverend Kile died in 1924 and his funeral was held under the tree.  Many of his Civil War veteran friends attended the memorial service.

Mae Kile, a daughter to the elder Kiles, continued to dwell in the home until the 1970s. Miss Kile was fiercely protective of the ancient tree. She allowed school children from IPS #85 to walk onto her property with their teachers and collect acorns and leaves. Larry Muncie, a nearby neighbor remembered that they then walked back to the school and wrote poems and stories about the tree.  While Miss Kile allowed supervised visits of the property, children who wandered unaccompanied onto the property faced her wrath and threats of phone calls to the police.

Chuck McCleery, the next door neighbor to Miss Kile, recalled that she seldom allowed people into the home and that the tree had actually begun to grow into the house.  She was warned to cut back the branches but she refused.  Instead, she had a handyman place rubber tires under the branches so that they would not do further damage into her already compromised roof.

Still living on her own in her early 90s, the home and the property became too much for Miss Kile to manage. With her place falling into ruin and her health beginning to fail, she moved to California to stay with relatives.  Larry Muncie reports that even while she was in California, she called long distance to her former neighbors along Beechwood Avenue to check on the tree.  She had tried unsuccessfully to get the city to buy the lot and turn the area into a park.  Upon her death, Irvington Landmarks and the Irvington Historical Society purchased the land with a grant to save the tree for as long as it remains on this planet.  Miss Kile's Victorian home was demolished in the 1970s and today wildflowers and native plants grow on the site of the Kile home.

In these historic images, provided by Chuck McCleery, you can see the Kile home shortly before its demolition in the early1970s. Once a beautiful home, now a sad wreck, the structure still had many of its Queen Anne elements including the wrap-around porch.  In the next photo, likely taken in 1967, the Kile home appears behind the construction of a small ranch home at 5945 Beechwood Avenue.  In the third photo, likely taken in 1977, the lot has been cleared and the Oak towers above the newer brick home.  The final photo shows the site of the Kile home in 2013.

The Kile home at 5939 Beechwood Avenue c1973. Shadows of the giant oak formed patterns on the lawn.

The Kile home at 5939 Beechwood Avenue looms above the newly built-McCleery home at 5945 Beechwood. You can also see the Kile Oak in this photo taken c1967.

The Kile Oak, a Burr Oak, c.1977

Wild flowers grow on the site of the former Kile Home in 2013.
Thanks to both Chuck McCleery and Larry Muncie for their contributions to this post.

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