Brick By Brick, Couple Hopes To Save Historic Somersworth Home
Love should be the foundation of any home, and one home in Somersworth has received plenty of love over the last three years.
There is, however, much more to the story of an old Victorian house that was built in 1885 by Samuel H. James, a prominent grocer at the time. The home has stood the test of time and has been loved by many families over those 155 years. The latest owners of the home, which has 10 rooms (5 bedrooms) and comes with 3,000 square feet of property on South Street, are Kelly and Edgar Marti.
To say they love the house would likely be considered an understatement by many.
From tragedy, opportunity
The story of how they came to be the current owners involves tragedy for the family who had resided there since 1974, the Millers. In May 2015 the house would be engulfed in flames and Janis Miller, 54, would perish in the fire despite many attempts to revive him at the scene. The fire would destroy the south wing of the sprawling house but worse was to come when it was discovered that the house was not insured, as the company had requested the Millers upgrade the old wiring several months before the fire. Due to financial constraints, the Millers had been unable to fulfill the request and as a result they would be forced to leave the house that they loved.
In 2016 a large community effort to clean out the house and make it more appealing to potential buyers was spearheaded by Somersworth Building Inspector Tim Metiever. One warm and sultry Saturday afternoon the community came together and cleared the property as much as was possible given the time constraints. Alas, it would not be enough to attract buyers and the property would remain empty until it went up for auction in August 2017.
This is when the current owners would enter the scene and purchase the property, warts and all. When asked what drew her to the house despite its dilapidated state, Kelly explained, “When I moved into the house I wanted to save it because of its history," she said. "You don’t see a lot of old houses on the market and it's always been a dream to rebuild a Victorian house.”
A community project
Three years later, that dream is still alive and kicking but taking on a project this big has proved to be more of a mountain than the couple had bargained for.
Edgar and Kelly have spent countless hours stripping the house down to bare bones, which thankfully according to the couple are in great shape. During the past three years they have suffered from a spate of break-ins and recently during one of those break-ins some serious damage was done to the property. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back and for a few minutes had the couple questioning if they wanted to carry on with the project.
That was when they decided to turn to the community and decided to ask for help in a somewhat unique way.
One of the house's chimneys was destroyed in the 2015 fire and that resulted in a large pile of bricks that represent much more than building blocks. They are part of the foundation that has kept the house and its occupants warm for the past century and the Marti family wants to offer the community an opportunity to literally leave their mark on the house.
For a minimum donation of just $1, donators can have one of those bricks engraved with their family name or a message of their choosing. Those bricks, according to Kelly, will form a memorial wall that will be built on the grounds using the bricks. She sees it as a perfect opportunity to help the community own their own piece of Somersworth history and, since the couple launched the idea on Sunday, the project has raised $1,475 already.
You can follow the couple's labor of love and secure your own unique place in history by purchasing your own brick on their facebook page.