Saturday, December 26, 2015

Walking tour Edgewater Hill

Remarks by Dean Markham

Sunday April 19, 2015

Chatham Historical Society Walking Tour of Edgewater Hill

Many thanks to Mary Loos for sharing the background of her father John Weinzierl and history of the family and this property here at 140 East High Street;  and to Steve and Lisa Motto for including me today, as I've found from some of my research that I also have some personal and family ties to their property here at Edgewater Hills.

One of the iconic landmarks dotting the countryside as Americans ventured forth to explore this vast country and recreate from their toils was the wayside inn or hotel, or what we fondly call the motel. East Hampton, through the likes of a Bavarian immigrant, John Weinzierl, saw his dream come to fruition in 1952 when he started the White House Motel that until a year ago, stood on this site.

Let’s jump back, however, to 1673. Middletown was awarded additional land by the General Assembly on the east side of the Connecticut River - what was called the second Three Mile Division. This tract started at the boarder of East Middletown, what is now Portland, running north-south about 9 miles and east 3 miles to the Colchester line. The Selectmen in Middletown impaneled a surveying or proprietors committee in 1714 headed by Captain Cornwell and later William Whitmore whose task it was to survey the 3 mile division and lay out parcels of land. This process took over 20 years. The term "lots" derived from the lottery process that Middletown land owners were able to select a parcel in the new territory. They drew lots or numbers that entitled them to receive one or more of the predesignated parcels. There were 273 - 40 acre - parcels. Depending of your assessed property value in Middletown, you received rights to full or partial shares. One had the option of paying the per share price for the lot, selling or trading it. The wealthier or more enterprising drew multiple lots. My ancestor, John Markham, had the fortune of selecting the equivalent of 2 1/2 lots or 100 acres. His draw, as it happens, included the land from Pocotopaug on the point, along the shore of the bay and eastward to this site. Originally known as Markham's Point, it is now Meek's Point, after Arthur Meek acquired most of it in the late 1930s early 1940s. The first Markham home, constructed around 1750 is a Cape style home just across the way on Old Marlborough Road, owned by Steve and Rhonda Kissinger. John Markham also acquired land to Bear Swamp including this Edgewater Hills site. And I guess my family surrounded this site as my Great-Great Grandfather, Edwin Baker, owned what is now the Lake Vista Condo's - it being referred to as Baker Hill.

John Weinzierl, as an 18 year old with $10 in his pocket, and a cousin, Joe Rankl (Marlborough) as a sponsor, came to the United States. Enterprising, John did odd jobs - worked in the bell foundry, did haying and bought land from tax or estate sales - piece by piece. He married at St. Andrew's Church in Colchester in 1935, living on the lake but planning to build a house at 138 East High. John saw the design of a house he liked in Southington while driving his truck, and commissioned Ralph Strong to put his saw mill here on the property (Steve Strong now operates the mill) who cut the lumber. In 1937, Al Knotek (my Grandmother Rose's brother) built the house. John did the bulldozing and excavation and sold wood and fence posts from the lumbering.

Many people who visited our Lake Resorts desired rooms with private bathrooms, so in 1952, to meet the budding demand, John built the White House Motel with 8 rooms. He added efficiency apartments and finished the office on June 24, 1955 in time for his daughter Mary's wedding to George Loos. The old garage at 140 East High was converted to a house in 1965. George and Mary bought the motel in 1966.

In 1989 they sold the White House to their daughter, who in turn sold the property to Steve and Lisa Motto. I think John Weinzierl would have been very impressed and proud of what has developed here, beginning with the entrepreneurial aspirations of a young man seeking his fortunes and opportunity in America to a new generation carrying on the tradition.

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