Allendale: A Shunned House Part 2

The house was—and for that matter still is—noticeably different than its neighbors. Older by almost sixty years than what we think of as the grand, old antebellum mansions, Allendale was, in its day, a grand home for a man who has succeeded in taming the frontier. It started out, as so many houses back then did, as a one room cabin built by men for men to stay in. Once the women and children were sent for, a cellar was dug, a second room across an open breezeway was added, and the home took a familiar dog-trot shape. Later, though no later than 1815, a second story and a grand staircase were added and the whole thing was enclosed in white siding. The logs of the original cabin were, it’s said, left in place under the lathing and the plaster, so that traveling through the house is a bit like traveling back through time—one can travel from 1815 to 1790 just by going downstairs and entering the front room on the right, though it should be noted that the slight difference in sizes of the two front rooms, which otherwise appear to be mirror images of each other, might account for some of the sense of unease the house causes. Your mind is aware that something is wrong with the proportions, if not what.

An addition was put on in the 1960s, which juts out from the back of the house like the back of an uppercase L. This was when they dug the walk-out basement, from which you can see views of the river only slightly less spectacular than those viewed from the front of the house. This was supposed to update the house and make it more fitting for the modern families who might want to rent it, though no family lived in it again after the people for whom the addition was put on broke their lease. The new addition sits against the older part of the house like two drunks on a park bench, though perhaps the fact that the house is not square was only noticeable from the driveway.

The yard had a peculiar quality in that all the rocky surfaces seemed always to have some condensation on them. In the middle of a hot August afternoon, when the grass was brown and crisp, the stone steps that stretch down almost Peach Valley Road were slick, as if it has just rained, the moss that grew on them deep and lush. Even the stone chimneys sparkled most of the day, as if you have just missed a passing thunderstorm.