Local residents are aware of the large Odd Fellow & Rebekah complex on the edge of the city, on Route 78 north. It has been in the same location since 1894, originally housing the aged and the destitute. Odd Fellow members, widows and orphans lived in this estate then called Woodlawn. The Odd Fellow-organized entity, still running strong in 2016, has evolved into a well-respected senior care and rehabilitation center.
Just west of the Odd Fellows’ main complex, up on a hill, a 52-acre fruit farm was purchased in 1907, from a Mr. Lureman, for use as an orphanage. The farm, which included a house, a barn and outbuildings, was opened on Aug. 1, 1907.
After the orphanage closed in 1944, the house was privately used by the Carveth family. For many years it was boarded up and abandoned.
Unbeknown to most, as the house sat vacant, it was visited by a former resident, Phil Reed, now 97 years of age, who lived in the orphanage as a child. From Maryland, Phil and his daughters take the seasonal trip to 299 Old Niagara Road and are now welcomed by the Jones family. Phil stops every year to share his stories about living in the orphanage and to visit his sister’s grave in Royalton Mountain Ridge Cemetery. Mr. Reed reports his time spent in the orphanage as positive although, tragically, his sister passed away while living at the home. One of his visits is chronicled in the Union Sun & Journal’s Faces & Places magazine, December 2015 edition.
For Dan and Carrie Jones, living in an 1820s Lockport home has been a lesson in history. The list of former owners catalogues prominent New Yorkers and the early settlers of the area. Built of canal stone in 1823, to replace an earlier log cabin by Nathan Comstock Jr., the home’s past owners include Gov. Washington Hunt, Congressman Lewis Eaton and, for years, the Carveth family. It is still connected to the Carveth family through Carrie Jones, whose great-grandmother was Josephine Carveth.
As with other early houses, there are rumors of the house being used in the Underground Railroad and stories of fugitive slaves being hidden in the barn, wells and tunnels on the property. The tunnels are yet to be found, but there was a sizable barn behind the house and two large stone wells remain. As you can see by the pictures, Carrie and Dan Jones have done a beautiful job of renovating the historic property, which received a Buffalo Niagara Preservation Award in 2012.
The house has had many transitions: from a stone farm house, to a historic orphanage, then abandoned, and now a beautiful family home.
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I extend my thanks to Dan and Carrie Jones for their hospitality, and for providing information they had about their home.
“Grave Matters,” a presentation by representatives of the Western New York Association of Historical Agencies, will be held July 30 at the Museum of disABILITY History, 3826 Main St., Amherst. For more information, or to reserve spots, call 629-3626.
Lockport native Jim Boles is a senior researcher with the Museum of disABILITY History, focused on early care and healing in Niagara County. His US&J column “Abandoned History” is published every other Wednesday. Contact Boles at 629-3626 or email@example.com