On 52 Maple Avenue stands a blue house with a big white porch. While many Colgate students might recognize it as a landmark, few know the history behind it. According to Village Historian Jack Loop ’73, this is the most historically significant home in Hamilton, representing centuries of important history for both Hamilton and Colgate. If the house isn’t sold by June, it will be demolished. Loop describes it as “the finest example of Second Empire architecture the Village has.” In other words, it has a mansard-style slate roof typical of French Second Empire architecture.
Local lore has it that 52 Maple Avenue was the inspiration for the famous Addams Family house. Charles Addams, the creator of the cartoon that eventually became a television series, attended Colgate for two years in the 1920s. Some believe that he drew from his experiences boarding with a family at 52 Maple Avenue to create the series. 52 Maple Avenue has housed other well-known figures. Mason Jones, a world-renowned hornist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, was born in Hamilton in 1919 and has also lived there.
In recent years, 52 Maple has been occupied by people connected to Colgate. Former professor Jerry Balmuth, who taught at Colgate for 57 years, owned the house for several decades, until shortly before his death. Today, Colgate still has the annual Balmuth Award, which “recognizes a Colgate faculty member who demonstrates distinctively successful and transformative teaching, regardless of methodology,” according to Colgate University News.
The house was sold to new owners on May 26, 2017, who reportedly intended to demolish the existing house to build a new one. On Tuesday, April 3, many villagers gathered to say goodbye to the house, which was scheduled for destruction. A backhoe was parked beside the structure. Many have expressed sadness and anger at the planned demolition, as evidenced by the dozens of comments on the Next Door Hamilton site posting.
The village administrator confirmed on Wednesday, April 4, that though everything was in order for demolition, the owners had just withdrawn the application. The house has been re-listed for $219,000 until June, after Colgate’s Reunion Weekend, a time when Colgate alums sometimes buy real estate. It is listed on Zillow.com.
Many have joined the effort to prevent the house from being torn down.
Community member Heidi Ziemer has created a GoFundMe page to help buy the house and live there with her two children as they restore it.
“As a librarian with a true love of preservation I have begun researching the process to register the house on The National Register of Historic Places. The house was built in 1876 by Lyman Wells, a prominent retired farmer… My hope is for this architectural gem to be not only restored but also preserved and protected for future generations,” the page reads.
The house has meaning not just to Hamilton locals, but to Colgate students as well. Senior Megan Goss has lived across the street from 52 Maple this year.
“I see 52 Maple each time I look out my bedroom window and it really is a beautiful and striking house in every season. And after learning about its historical significance, I think it would be a real loss to the Hamilton community if it were demolished,” Goss said.
Contact Sarah Anderson at [email protected]