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William Clague House (1860s)

William Clague House (1860s)

The owners of this cottage and carriage house are a throwback to the 1970s when young couples would buy historic homes and invest “sweat equity” into renovating the property. It takes vision, determination and a lot of hard work to take what was old and make it new again. At the time of this writing, the house interior was little more than unpainted dry wall as they reconfigured a warren of small rooms into larger more livable spaces. It will likely remain a work in progress at the time of the tour.

As early as 1866, City Directories show that William H. H. Clague,a printer turned office supplies merchant, was “boarding” at this address, although a few years later he becomes its owner. In 1890, George Simpson purchased the property and, from the “brick barn” (as he once called it), he operated a livery business, renting horses, carriages and drivers. There was more than one livery operating in the Third Ward but “Simpson’s carriages had more style,” according to an early resident. In time, Simpson moved into the theatrical business and became president of the East Avenue Amusement Company, which built and operated The Regent, a grand movie house at the corner of East Avenue and Chestnut Street.

After Simpson, that “brick barn” served many other purposes: it housed a business devoted to “skill devices” (more widely known as pinball machines), which ran afoul of a law that considered them gambling devices; another person used it to sell pigeons; it became a parking garage; then a garage that serviced Buick automobiles and sold Sunoco gasoline; and later a tool and dye company. This property has a unique history of adapting to the times.