“A few figs from thistles…”
by Howard A. Tabor
The Arts & Crafts style house at 104 on the east Avenue will be one hundred years old next year; many buildings in town will have achieved that status, but this one seems worth noting. Barely broken in by East Coast standards, it qualifies as “old” in these parts and tells an interesting story about its first occupants Aiden and Cordelia Archer.
A design by Chicago architect Lawrence Buck, it was built by David Parmalee as a wedding gift for his daughter; Buck had done work in Rockford, Illinois, for Parmalee. Archer—folks thought the family was related to our Double-A baseball team—had come to manage a factory owned by Parmalee that manufactured “Ironstone” enamel cookware (which often shows up at estate sales and antique shops). Unofficially, I suppose the Parmalee-Archers were part of the gentry, though there wasn’t much oblige in Archer’s noblesse. Great-grandmother Tennant has only this to say in her journal: “Baked a welcome pie for our new neighbors. Gave them some root from the patch.” Of course she meant rhubarb. Pie was one thing, however, but root from the patch went only to her near and dear. Rhubarb was her test for civility.
Cordelia Archer came with one child and bore two more while she was here. But the family were disengaged and departed pretty much as they had arrived, when the factory closed in the early Depression — with little fanfare and minimal disappointment.