Monday, September 29, 2008

More on George Atzerodt

Over the weekend, for some odd reason, a picture came to my head, one that I had shown Jim and April earlier this year. First a little refresher:

George Atzerodt was a conspirator in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

He lived in Port Tobacco with his common law wife Mary Wheeler.

He and his brother ran a carriage shop in town.

One of our objectives for the Preserve America grant has to do with finding that carriage shop. Information gathered led us to believe that the shop was behind the Chimney House.

When we were doing shovel test pits behind Chimney House and found nothing to lead us to believe it was there, we started talking. It was during this conversation that nobody could remember seeing any historic photos of the shop in all the pictures of the house. This is when I spoke up and said that Scott and I had seen one up on the top floor of the courthouse.

Well, as you can see from the picture below, it wasn't a picture, it was a sketch. According to the Wearmouth's book on Port Tobacco, this sketch was done by journalist George Alfred Townsend in 1885, noting that it was a repair/paint shop located behind the house.

Look at the sketch again. Notice anything else odd about it? In all the photos we have of Chimney House, not one of them has a covered front porch on it or even what appear to be remnants of one. If this sketch was done in 1885 and our earliest photographs of the house are in the early 1900's (roughly 1910), then it was torn down before.

Could this be a journalists imagination just trying to make the house look in better condition than it was? Remember that most of Port Tobacco was in shambles after the Civil War as people migrated out of town. Is the repair/paint shop located behind Chimney House?


- Peter


Scott said...

Something else comes into view as I look at this sketch. What is the small building to the right of Chimney House? Certainly, this isn't Stagg Hall. We all know the homes in Port Tobacco changed over time. It is not out of possibility that there was an addition and a porch to Chimney House at some point. Atzerodt's shop is still a big mystery. Sure would be nice if we could get the funds needed to support this effort!

April M. Beisaw said...

I am starting to think that this is not an actual sketch of a PT building in the sense that the artist did not sit in front of a specific house and draw it. It looks like something drawn from memory to me. We have no record of Chimney House having a porch of this style but Wade House did. Chimney probably could not have had a porch that wrapped around the side like that either. There are 2 windows in the chimneys in the sketch but 4 in reality at Chimney House. There is also no evidence for the first set of steps leading to Chimney's front yard. And we know any building behind Chimney House would have sat further down due to the topography behind the building.

My question is, was this described by the artist as Chimney House or have people interpreted it as Chimney House because of the three chimneys? We know that other houses (i.e. Wade) had double chimneys and there are some houses we have no images of (i.e. Mathews), so it is possible that there was another three chimneyed house in town.