Block Party

By Sarah E. Mitchell and Henry H. Mitchell

Gammon-Edwards House

The Gammon-Edwards house, made of concrete blocks pressed on the site.

Unique in the area, the Homestead-style Gammon-Edwards house at 214 Whittle Street in Chatham was constructed with concrete blocks made in a Sears, Roebuck, & Co. hand-operated Wizard press (see illustration below.) G. W. Gammon, a local merchant, had the house built for his family's use in 1906, on a lot purchased in 1900. After G. W. Gammon's death, the house was bought at auction in 1936 by his niece, Verna Giles Edwards, and her husband John. It has remained in the Edwards family ever since.

The small frame dependency to the rear is of earlier construction. It served during the period 1883-1893 as a harness shop owned and operated by a Mr. Shepherd. Later it was a servant's quarters.

Gammon-Edwards House dependency

The old Shepherd harness shop serves as a dependency for the later Gammon-Edwards house.

According to a family anecdote told by Mary Ruth Edwards, Gammon hired a man to press the blocks in advance of the house construction, and provided him with living quarters in the old harness shop building (below). The blockmaker took the better part of a year completing his task, mostly due to his heavy consumption of alcohol. Family members who lived nearby recalled hearing him singing loudly at night, in the dark, and his work week seemed to be rather limited. In spite of delays and distractions, his work was successful and the house built.

At the time Mary Ruth Edwards relayed the story to Henry Mitchell, she showed him the Wizard press, which was still stored in the harness shop building. When Henry returned to photograph the press, they both discovered that a worker hired to remove unwanted clutter from the building had had also removed the press and disposed of it.

block press

Sears catalog illustration of the Wizard concrete block press.

For further information, see:

Further sources: conversations in April 1998 among Sarah Mitchell, Paul Shelton, and Lucy Campbell concerning recollections of the dependency's use. Mr. Shelton, proprietor of Shelton's Saddlery next door, recalled being advised of the Shepherd harness shop by neighbor Mr. White. Mrs. Campbell remembered the servant's quarters from when her family first moved to Whittletown in the early 1900's.

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