Monday, November 8, 2010

The legend of the Mott Raynor House - Nancy Drew and the case of the crooked chimney

Mott Raynor House on Bedell Street in Freeport.

Mott Raynor House crooked chimney - no witches here!
This is a somewhat famous old house in Freeport and I have loved it ever since I first heard about it. The house is located on Bedell Street, just south of Raynor Street, right in the heart of the oldest part of town. That's one block west of South Main Street, all streets located in the oldest part of town. This house is known as the Mott Raynor House, and what sets it apart from all the other old houses in that area is that it has a distinctly crooked chimney that, according to legend, was intentionally built that way. Why, you ask? Well, to keep out witches of course!

I love a good superstition!

Anyway, my father and I were driving past the house the other day, and it reminded me how much I love that story, but now that I'm older and enjoy researching and finding evidence for the stories and legends and information I know, I decided to see what I could find out about the house and if there might be any truth to the crooked chimney story.

I don't know when this house was built, but according to census records, Mott Raynor (who is obviously descended from at least two old Long Island families, the Motts and the Raynors, and is a relation of mine somehow, as all Long Island Raynors are) was born in 1828. In the 1900 census, he is living on South Main Street in Freeport, so I assumed he was not living in the Mott Raynor House at that time. A Google search, though, of archived old photos from the Freeport library, reveal that the Mott Raynor House was actually originally located on South Main Street, and later moved one block west to Bedell Street. I can't find an exact date for when this happened, except that it was after but close to the year 1900, and I can't find a reason WHY this was done.

What's interesting though is that in the photo I found online of the house being moved to Bedell Street, the crooked chimney doesn't appear to be there. So was it added afterward? Is it crooked simply because of shoddy workmanship? A new mystery to delve into...

Okay, so while I look into that, I also decided to look into the idea of a crooked chimney being built intentionally for the express purpose of keeping out witches. A Google search gave me a ton of entries connecting "crooked chimney" to "witches" but all about witches living in houses with crooked chimneys. I finally found a forum where someone claimed to have lived in a house built with a crooked chimney to keep out witches. Now, were witches something 18th & 19th century Long Island farmers and oyster planters considered a real threat? Was that a superstition that would have been found in that place and time period? Is it something perhaps that could've been passed down to them by their English immigrant ancestors? Were the Mott Raynors a little crazy? Is this all a moot point if that old photo proves the chimney wasn't even in existence until after 1900? Am I intrigued enough by this subject that I don't care anymore if it applies to this particular situation?

All very good questions. Looks like Nancy Drew has a lot of detective work to do...

TO BE CONTINUED...

3 comments:

  1. My mother lived in that house as a girl in the 30's and early 40's. She always refers to it as the house on South Main St. so it was there until they moved. I am not sure if they owned the house, I think they were renters. She remembers it well and I will see if I can get her to post something for you here. No photos as far as I know.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The photo does not show the crooked chimney. Its called a witches chimney. They thought that if the chimney was crooked , then witches couldn't go down it. I watched the house as they moved it. I believe it was 1972

    ReplyDelete