‘All the houses have names!’

In today’s highly mobile but highly regulated world, houses tend to not to be named or at least the names aren’t officially recognized.  One of the more astonishing characteristics of early mail in the US is the remarkable idea that by simply writing the person’s name and city on the envelope it would get there…  Apparently, at least some of the time, it did.  House names were an equally acceptable form of address.  Although the US adopted zip codes in the 1960’s, it was only recently (Relatively!!) that an address such as: ‘Esperanza Farm, R..F.D. 1, town X, State Y ceased to work.  House numbers have been around longer than zip codes, with the first ones appearing in the 1500’s in Europe, but in more rural areas they too have only recently become formalized.

Named houses have a long tradition, and (as elsewhere) in New Hartford they can be split into two distinct groupings.  In one, the majority, the house names are family names: Niles, Carpenter, Paine, Loomis; in the other, the names tend to be either descriptive or romantic: Stonehedges, Esperanza, Wyebrook, Rafters, Red Hill.  Generally, though not always, the more romantic/descriptive names tend to arise in the 1800’s in New Hartford, usually with summer visitors whose backgrounds are generally professional in nature.  This trend continues today, but the rise of regulated house numbers has tended to stifle the lasting quality of these names.  The family names are not always associated with the original builder, but do seem to lag by about a generation or two, usually picking up on a family or individual who is well remembered.  Not always, of course,but the long standing joke about how houses are referred to be family names several owners back, regardless of who lives there now, remains current.

Nonetheless, when examing a building or house, asking how, why, and when it got a name or didn’t can be a valuable starting point.


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