Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Diamond in the Rough

As construction winded down on the chateau, we noticed some extraordinary activity (or rather lack of) from the house immediately south of us.

Normally, much of this activity had been boisterous - loud rock music, domestic fights at 3am, and kids flooding the front yard and sidewalk day and night. It was not the type of activity one would associate with a resident on Hannibal's Millionaire Row, at least not of late with the influx of newcomers snapping up property to renovate them into B&B's, restaurants, and private offices.

We were to learn that the residents next door were evicted by the local bank down the street for failure to keep up mortgage payments. Could it really be? For two years, officers had been called in the middle of the night to quell disturbances at the house. The disturbances had become more frequent with time as did other things, such as the spreading of yard litter throughout the neighborhood and unfamiliar visitors coming to and going from the house. Could it really be that the neighborhood was finally rid of these incidents?

We were to soon learn that this indeed was the case. Some brief history is in order. The house had been purchased by a retired Californian a few years earlier. The family was a typical nuclear family with a father, mother and two nearly grown offsprings. The offsprings flew the nest, however the father died shortly after (two years ago). The man's son and his family began living in the house and two years later, mortgage payments were defaulted upon. The bank took possession of the property and after a few attempts to evict the family, they were gone.

This house was the final residence of Laura Hawkins, the model for Becky Thatcher in Mark Twain's novel, Tom Sawyer. The house which shows evidence of being at one time a glorious Queen Anne was built two years after our chateau was built in 1895. The untimely death of her husband (Dr. Frazer) left Laura a widow at age 45, and she moved into the house shortly after it was built in 1897 with her son Judge Edward Frazer. Laura Hawkins lived in this house until her death in 1928, at the age of 91.

So, there it was, staring at us in the dead of winter – a diamond in the rough with all the potential one could imagine…

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