The "William Blank House"
Built in 1901, this Queen Anne style Victorian house is a fine addition to the Heritage Society's holdings. While the St. Helenas and Museum relate the town's canal history and the Oberlin House shows blue-collar life during the 1800's, the William Blank House is indicative of the prosperity enjoyed by white-collar residents during the turn of the 19th century.
William Blank and his wife Harriet would contract the Gilcher Lumber Company to build them this stately home. Harriet herself drew up the plans for the house and, in true Victorian style, built into it both utility and elegance. The 'patchwork' siding along the tower was well in keeping with the fashion of such homes and she incorporated 'servant' stairs from the kitchen, walk-through closets and pocket doors to suit her own tastes.
William, and his brother John, ran a grocery store in town through the early 1900's [it was just across the road from William on the south-east corner of Cherry and Canal Streets]. The brothers would also have partnerships in the B & B Coal Company. Indeed, the Blank family dabbled in many interests around town, for their father operated the French Cereal Mill.
William and Harriet had several children. One of these, Dorothy, who went by Isabel - her middle name - lived most of her life in her parents' home at 116 South Canal Street where she would make many happy memories. 'Lil,' was the horse her father kept stabled at the back of the property to make grocery deliveries with (a job that her brother Arnold did before he left to go work at their grandfather's mill). Arnold's various duties around the village would make him well acquainted with almost everyone in town. Dorothy also remembered her father drawing a supply of water from the cistern in the back yard, pumping it up to a storage tank on the third floor for the family to utilize throughout the day. And she recalled fondly that her father played tuba and sang in the Canal Fulton Imperial Marching Band. The family's front porch proved a convenient stage from which the townsfolk could enjoy these band performances.
No doubt, Dorothy's fondest memories of the house were in raising her own children here (having had six kids, there is no doubt that she would have lots of stories to tell).
Preserving the past for the future
On June 14th, 1989, Dorothy deeded the property to the Heritage Society so that this grand Victorian house could stand as a reminder of all those memories of yester-year.
The house has had various waves of repairs over the years to try and restore it to its glory days. These efforts are in no small part due to the generosity and support that the community has shown. Truly, we don't know where we would currently be were it not for the many people over the years who have given their time, talents and resources to fixing up and preserving this property. Because of the efforts of such devoted members, volunteers and business supporters, the first two floors of house have been almost entirely refurbished. Much of the electricity and plumbing have been updated, heating [and cooling] units have replaced the cumbersome steam-boiler and painstaking interior work has been accomplished to bring the old house back to life.
With many of these major tasks being completed, we have been able to rent out portions of the property over the years for various retail and office businesses. This income has provided funds needed to maintain operations of the Society as well as helping to provide repairs to our various properties - thus ensuring that the legacies which devoted residents like the Hardgroves, Gaineys, Oberlins, McArdles have entrusted to this dedicated bunch of volunteers will not be lost.
The Blank House Today
Our efforts continue to be a "work in progress". Indeed, there has been so much to do and keep up with over these past years that our members and volunteers have been taking stride to "advance, encourage and promote" one step at a time. Our ever expanding archives have outgrown Gainy's 'world's smallest museum' and volunteers have been focusing on moving up our office, archives and holdings to the William Blank House. Meanwhile, our trustees' and members' efforts continue to go toward maintenance and repair of this historic property (and little by little the work is getting done).
The City of Canal Fulton also has our thanks for providing maintenance of these grounds [and for our other properties around town as well]. Nor must we fail to recognize the support of our tenants over these past years. Their efforts at keeping up the various museum and history displays, providing labor and materials for repair work, decorating the house and maintaining flower beds have been incalculable steps to preserving the unique atmosphere that the Heritage Society can offer this historic town.
Be sure to stop in and patronize our current tenants. The Dragonfly Tea Room & Gift Shop (located on the first floor) offers a marvelous menu selection as well as a charming atmosphere.