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Haddam Historical Society: The Cone House Rescue

By Elizabeth Malloy, Executive Director, Haddam Historical Society

(September 28, 2022) —For years, Haddam residents would drive by the dilapidated house at 37 Clark Road and wonder if it was going to make it another month. It appeared that the 1748 James Cone House was doomed by “demolition by neglect” and was perilously close to being no more.

Enter Zach Eddinger, “old house champion,” who, at that moment in his life, was looking for a project and found that saving and rebuilding the Cone House was just what he needed. He was drawn to the property for a number of reasons, including the quiet residential nature of the neighborhood, proximity to family and that the house had a lot of potential. He had lived in and worked on older houses before and loved the stories of the past as well as creating memories for the future. Older homes have been resided in for centuries and are not perfect, which makes them so appealing to live in. As the parent of four young children, Zach says, “the blemishes are loved, not tarnished, and because of that I am comfortable with making more.”

When Zach first acquired the house, it was in much worse shape than he thought. The entire back of the house was entirely shot and had to be completely reconstructed, which was no easy task. “The roof and back walls were all just basically hanging in the wind.” Other challenges included the deteriorated chimney and rotted main carrying posts. Saving the 270-year-old house was going to be a challenge. He fortunately had a good network of craftsmen, including himself and family members. The project engineer thought of creating temporary staging in the same form as the construction, which allowed the team to work safely, although a lot of construction was done above their heads from the top down rather than from the bottom up.

The rear and back ell had to be rebuilt, while much of the front of the house was rehabilitated. Zach notes that he was able to reuse some of the materials from the house in other areas, including building the new rear stairs out of old wall boards and reusing the old rear exterior door on the pantry. The front office exhibits early decorative paneling, while the new first floor bath uses the old front door. While not a pure restoration or preservation project, the interior of the building has been rehabilitated to meet the needs of a young, active family while the exterior retains its historic character.

When I first stopped at the house after seeing Zach start work, I got down on my knees and thanked him profusely for saving this historic house. Many Haddam residents and descendants have strong connections to the property and also would stop by to see what was happening. Locals have memories of Christmas parties or visiting relatives, all with a strong sense of love and affection. All visitors have been most appreciative of the rescue. Zach notes that the house and area have an amazing energy and he enjoyed every part of the rehab for both himself and the Cone House. The house restoration is being chronicled on Instagram at the_cone_house_rescue.

The James Cone House is one of six houses that will be on the Haddam Historical Society’s “Fresh Faces, Old Places” historic house tour on October 8, 2022. All six homes offer a fascinating look at how this next generation of old house champions has found beauty and tranquility in our town’s important historic structures, while balancing careful restoration and/or preserving historic elements with modern needs and lifestyles. Tickets are available in advance for $35 at www.haddamhistory.org. A boxed lunch is also available. To learn more, visit www.hadddamhistory.org. Tour headquarters on the day of the tour is at Haddam Old Town Hall, 21 Field Park Drive in Haddam.

 

Photos courtesy of Zach Eddinger/HHS

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