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The Ozmun Farmhouse

Required 60 Years
to Build Mahogany Stairway in Lansing Farmhouse:
It is Finally Completed by Expert
This farmhouse is now known as the "Rose Inn"

View a photo of the Rose Inn
View a photo of the Staircase
(Both photos donated by Catherine Machan Martin.)

Sadly, the Rose Inn burned on March 13, 2004, and was considered to be a total loss.
View the
article from the Ithaca Journal

Machinery cannot compete with human hand and ingenuity. An impressive example of this is the spiral staircase in the Ozmun house near North Lansing, construction of which was started over 60 years ago. To one man goes the credit of completing the task after two years of patient toil from early morning until late at night.

Strange as it may seem, this individual is not a man with any particular trade, in fact his entire path through life, has been a continuous round of ill luck. When WILLIAM HOUSER of Detroit, Mich., drove up to the door of the Ozmun farm about two years ago and introduced himself to Mr. and Mrs. CHARLES OZMUN, the latter had no idea that in such a short time would a certain oddity in the Ozmun homestead be completed after 60 years.

Mr. OZMUN is well along in years. He has passes that stage in life when he could perform the various duties on the farm with the vigor of youth and he is a firm believer in the saying that “good things come slow” and is grateful that he has lived to see his grandfather’s plans fulfilled.

A solid mahogany spiral staircase in the Ozmun homestead has caused not a little curiosity and interest during the past few months while the lone workman toiled with the last few sections remaining to complete the structure. Having been given up by some of the more expert stair builders of this section as an impossibility, the workman has completed the task entirely by hand. The stairway is now open to anyone desiring to visit the farm and already hundreds of people have viewed the work.

Mr. Ozmun’s grandfather was a mill wright and over a half century ago erected a home for himself and family, near North Lansing, not one which would crumble away within a few years but a dwelling that would be everlasting, to serve as a home for his family for generations to follow. His plans were well formed and before he dies he had completed the homestead with the exception of one portion.

This one portion was the winding staircase which he had planned to build from the first floor through to a large cupola on the roof, exceptionally large at the bottom and to gradually recede toward the center at the top. But the construction of the stairway had only been started when the builder died and no one could be found that could take up the work where he had left off. As a consequence the door leading to the foot of the stairs remained closed for years.

Hundreds of feet of Honduras mahogany, purchased at a small sum for the construction was stored away in an old hog shed on the farm where it remained untouched. About 40 years ago the work was resumed and to the builder was paid $1,000 for the job. But fate again intervened and the only man who had been found up until that time who could actually guarantee finishing the job, was taken suddenly ill and died before any progress was made.

Again the doors leading to the stairs were locked and remained so until Mr. OZMUN, who came into possession of the homestead at his father’s death, took up the task of completing the stairway. In this day of machinery and tools he had no idea that it would be difficult to resume the work, and in fact some of the leading builders agreed to do the work at various prices until it came to drawing the drafts. Then they not only backed out but decided that it was impossible.

Mr. OZMUN learned of William HOUSER of Detroit, Mich., but his efforts to secure the man’s services were unavailing and finally he gave up, decided to lock the doors and leave the job undone forever, or until the homestead was torn down. This was not to be, however, and about two years ago Mr. HOUSER inquired his way to the OZMUN farm, driving from Detroit in a Ford truck on which he carried a large packing case.

He was welcomed to the farm but was informed that the construction of the stairs had been abandoned because of the condition of the wood, which had remained in the hog shed for almost a half century. As proof however, that he could build the stairs Mr. HOUSER brought with him in the packing case a large writing desk which he had started to build in 1890 and had not yet completed.

The writing desk, unfinished, now occupies a prominent position near the entrance of the winding stairs in the Ozmun homestead and thus far Mr. HOUSER has used 27,684 pieces of wood in the making. He purchases old musical instruments using the best parts of the wood in the construction of the desk.

The first night at the Ozmun farm, Mr. HOUSER pried open the hog shed and carried one of the mahogany planks into the house. With a fine saw, he cut a slice from the plank as thin as paper. He declared the wood was as good as the day it was purchased and then and there the winding stairs began to take form.

For two years the expert has worked alone, cutting the lumber entirely by hand as he needed it. When the stairs were completed a few weeks ago, there was not enough of the lumber left to build a cigar box. The completed stairway is nothing less than a marvelous piece of work: true to the original plans in every respect.

In the construction of the stairs there are no two sections of the same design and a trained eye cannot find a single joint which does not fit as snugly as if it were one piece. In several places the workman was confronted with serious problems, the winding stairs not being a true circle, but those obstacles were overcome in time. One can hardly conceive that the odd work was accomplished by human hands.

Copied from a clipping taken from the Ithaca Journal, (Ithaca, NY) dated October 23, 1924.

Material donated to the Tompkins County NYGenWeb Site by John W. Walker Jr.
Thank you John for sharing this information.

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