David Wilcox |
PORT BYRON | Crouch on the corner of two dark, unpainted side roads, the asphalt-shingle shack at 78 South Street is as unremarkable in appearance as it is in location.
Richard Lambert plans to do something about it.
Lambert, a retired assistant United States attorney for the District of Utah who once aid in the investigation of “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, bought the Cayuga County property for $30,000 in April. He plans to restore the house next summer, and let its covered white clapboard see the light of day.
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Why Lambert bought a hut with no plumbing or electricity two-thirds of the way across the country is simple: his great-great-grandfather Brigham Young.
The house, built in 1818 by James and Lydia Pine, was home to the “Mormon Moses” and his first wife, Miriam, until 1829. They moved there no later than September 1825, when their first daughter, Elizabeth, moved there. was born, according to a plaque affixed to the house.
The year the Youngs arrived in Port Byron is just one detail of their time in the city that has become controversial. Some historical accounts instead, place them in a house on Seneca Street.
So Lambert, who is also vice-president of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and president of the Brigham Young Family Organization, checked out Young’s residence at 78 South St. before buying it. His search led him to the Salt Lake City Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he found a piece of 1891 correspondence from the Port Byron ground meat pioneer. Dr Julius Allen. The recipient: Lambert’s great-grandfather, George.
This letter was attached to another from 1869 that Allen had found – from Young to Lydia Pine.
“He says, ‘I have often remembered with great pleasure the time I spent at your house in Port Byron,'” Lambert said on Wednesday. “And he repeats it twice. So now we do indeed know this is home.”
Satisfied to have the right house, Lambert signed the documents in April.
He plans to create a historic nonprofit foundation in the coming weeks and turn the house over to it, he said. As for its restoration, Lambert seeks to appeal to the firm of Syracuse Crawford and Stearnswho previously worked with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the Joseph Smith Sr. Farmhouse in Palmyra. Lambert clarified, however, that the Brigham Young property is not an official church project.
Mormon historic sites like Joseph Smith Sr.’s farm draw thousands of visitors each year, Lambert said, and he thinks 78 South St. could prove just as popular. After all, his ancestor is important not only to the history of religion, but also to that of America: Leading Mormon migration west, Young founded Salt Lake City and served as the territory’s first governor. from Utah.
Lambert hopes the village of Port Byron will see his project the same way.
“It would bring commerce to the village,” he said. “It would be a boon to property values in the area.”
The neighbors at 78 South St. are already impressed.
Cliff Chilson, a South Street gate, said groups of volunteers “have busted their ass” this summer cutting down trees and taming grass up to the waist of the property. Ellen Witowski, one door down from Pine, expects this to be the end of youngsters throwing rocks through her windows.
Lambert hopes his acquisition of his ancestor’s Port Byron home will soon mean much more than that.
“It’s a historic gem,” he said. “That he survived this long is incredible.”
Lake Life editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.