The lovely cottage at 232 Washington Street is an excellent example of how a structure can go from a disaster to a thing of beauty.
The house was built in 1904 by Olga Froebel Umscheid. She lived there for a number of years, but by 1929 it had been converted into apartments. By the 1970s the cottage had fallen into disrepair and was essentially abandoned since property taxes had not been paid for many years.
In the 1980s, the neighborhood decided it was up to the King William Association to try to save the house from ruin. The Association paid back taxes and worked diligently with the city to get a clear title, but was met with a myriad of ownership disputes and legal entanglements, which caused them to finally give up. In the early 1990s, the house was posted on a Sheriff’s sale and was bought by Donald Noble. After a time, he was able to gain clear title.
Noble sold the house to his cousin, Jack Pancoast, who took on the task of felling a forest of bamboo in the backyard and clearing out the trees and shrubs that had grown up through the floor of the house, then went on to supervise the restoration. Being an accomplished woodworker, Jack was able to mill and replicate much of the missing and rotted woodwork himself. The house is currently owned by Jack’s widow, Anne Alexander.
- Bill Cogburn