For the past six or seven years, Brad and Kim Preston have worked to restore their 119-year-old home at 162 Kennedy St. near Jackson Avenue that holds historic significance in the community.
That’s because the three-story home had once served as an early home for Zippo Manufacturing Co founder George G. Blaisdell and his young family sometime from the 1920s to the 1940s.
On Thursday, Brad Preston, a retired pastor from Sawyer Evangelical Church in Bradford, was found rebuilding a stone wall made of shale and mortar with his friend, Jim Rice, and two neighborhood boys, Eli and Isaac Moreth.
Preston said the restoration work has been ongoing to refurbish the home that was built in 1900 and had been in jeopardy of demolition if he and his wife hadn’t bought it and refurbished it.
The work on the home, which was the only structure to survive an arson fire in 2006 that destroyed four homes on that side of the street, has been noticed.
“I’ve been in Walmart when people came up to me and said, ‘You’re that guy — that guy (restoring) that house over near Jackson,” Preston stated. “And there are people who stop at the stop sign (on Jackson Avenue) and just stare at me” while working.
During their restoration of the home, the Prestons found historic jewels hidden under old wallpaper in a downstairs room.
While scraping off old wallpaper in one of the rooms, underneath they found the signatures of George Blaisdell, as well as those of Blaisdell’s young daughters, Sarah and Harriett (Hattie) who were known in later years by their married names, Sarah Dorn and Harriett Wick. A date of 1939 was written near the family names.
Information provided by Sally Costik, curator of Bradford Landmark Society, states the Blaisdells moved into the Kennedy Street home in November of 1923, having purchased the house from John O’Brien. Costik said O’Brien was living in Lima, Ohio, at the time, but shows up in the newspapers as a city councilman in 1900. The Blaisdells moved from their Kennedy Street residence to 160 Jackson Ave. in 1944, according to Bradford Landmark.
Preston said a memorable event occurred when the late Sarah Dorn contacted him several years ago and asked if she and her husband could walk through her old home.
“They walked through it on a Saturday and told us stories,” Preston said, noting this occurred approximately one year before Dorn died in 2016. “When she was permitted to come in, she was doubly excited” as she wasn’t able to walk through the home in the past.
Preston recalled one of Dorn’s stories told to him was that Blaisdell family members or others had packed Zippo lighters on the dining room table in the home, for one reason or another.
Kim Preston, a teacher at Bradford Area High School, told of the challenges in restoring the house with her husband, which included cleaning the beautiful woodwork found throughout the home. She also shared stories imparted to her by Dorn during the visit.
“We had to scrub (the woodwork) with different things to find what would work to clean it,” Kim Preston explained.
She said the home’s front room, near the front door and staircase, was off-limits to Sarah and Harriett as children, except on Christmas Eve.
As for the Blaisdells’ signatures on the wallpaper, Dorn had mentioned that this was a custom for people at the time who were refurbishing or renovating homes.
“They told me that back then, anybody putting wallpaper up, signed underneath them,” Kim Preston recounted.
The Prestons said they are 90 percent done with renovation work that included modernizing some areas, including an upstairs bathroom, while leaving fixtures that include a clawfoot bathtub and a matching antique sink intact in another bathroom.
Preston said another family that previously occupied the home, the Callahans, all have returned for tours of the house.
“They brought me pictures, too” of the home from years ago, she said.
On a final note, Costik said she is hopeful the Prestons’ home will be included on the Landmark Legends house tour of historic structures and homes on Sept. 28. More information will be published on the tour at a later date.