First published: Summer 2002
One of many rewards of the business of buying and restoring derelict historic buildings is the occasional discovery of artifacts left behind by former residents. Typical finds include old bottles, vintage clothing and books and photographs of long forgotten relatives. Occasionally, one comes across a real treasure.
This happened during the restoration of an early 19th century post-and-beam house in a remote village in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where, stashed under numerous moldy boxes of antique books, fabric scraps and furniture fragments, we discovered a leather-hinged wooden box overflowing with seemingly worthless notepaper. Closer examination revealed the significance of our discovery: the box contained more than 800 drawings.
The house had been unoccupied for nearly fifty years. The last occupant had lived there without running water, plumbing, or central heating. These works of art compelled us to find out more; we began researching the history of the building and its former residents. After numerous interviews with local villagers, we discovered that Pearl Blauvelt, still referred to by some residents as the 'Village Witch', had occupied the house from the early part of the 20th century until the 1950s, when she was declared incompetent and moved to a nearby assisted-living facility where she resided until her death in the 1970s.