Monday, February 7, 2011

ESR Acquires Retreat Center

Sometimes good things come completely out of the blue.

This summer, ESR was offered the chance to take possession of the Lauramoore Home, a former retirement home located near campus.  ESR jumped at the chance to add a 150-year-old 10-bedroom Victorian home to our resources.  Who wouldn’t?  You can read more about the house’s history on the main ESR website.

To start with, it’s hard to even approach to house without picturing Jane Austen or later Victorian novels.  There is a circular drive out front and a big entrance with the original hitching post next to the front door.  To the side of the main house is the original carriage house.  Perhaps the grill on the back porch and the clotheslines ruin the Victorian atmosphere, but you can’t see these from the front!

My first thought when I walked through the door was “wow, look at that crazy Victorian wallpaper.”  Then I realized that the furniture, decorations, and books match.  The first floor, except for the modern kitchen, might have looked exactly the same 120 years ago.  There is glassware, Victorian-era furniture with carved wood backs and arm rests, an old piano, and an ancient bible.  It’s truly lovely, and I adored the huge kitchen and dining room.  I had to be careful, however, not to touch anything, as I am well known in my own house for breaking plates and bowls accidentally (and my plates are merely pottery, not glass).

The upstairs is a maze of interconnected bedrooms and bathrooms.  (Seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, each open onto the main area around the stairs, but also having doors from one room, to a bathroom, to another room … )  I wonder how the walls were built in 1860, as they have clearly been rebuilt.  Were there suites, including a master’s suite?  A nursery?  Servant’s rooms?  How many people lived in the house?  There is a “grand” staircase with a wooden banister, and a back staircase that I would guess was the “servant’s” staircase at one time.  There is a wood-burning fireplace in every room upstairs, and I wonder how much soot and ash was produced as a side effect of keeping this building warm before it had a furnace!

I am imagining Victorian-era novels, imagining large families with many children, widowed aunts joining the household, visitors Lauramoore Home Exteriorcoming through for long periods, guests, perhaps soldiers recovering from war, etc.  The yard, over an acre and shaded by mature trees, brings visions of women in big dresses with bustles, strolling around with parasols while children play.  Perhaps I am on the wrong track in my imaginings, given that Quaker families would not typically have had sons returning from war and likely would not have worn the complicated and ornate Victorian fashions, but the vision is very tempting.

The house is quite clean and well lit, so it certainly doesn’t feel like the set for Casper or The Haunting . . . but if it were double its size and full of cobwebs, we could rent it out for horror films!  We had our ESR employee Christmas dinner there in December, which gave us an opportunity to wander around.  We spent the evening cracking jokes about murder mysteries and haunted house movies: “I’m going to walk around upstairs . . . if I don’t come back in 10 minutes, send up a search party!”  “I think that’s the plot of a horror movie I saw recently: one of us goes upstairs and disappears, and then another goes to look for that person and also disappears, then another  . . .”

A little bit of work updating the bathrooms, and the house is reborn as the Lauramoore Guesthouse and Retreat Center!  We plan to houseLauramoore Friends Home visitors and speakers here, students coming for intensives, host small retreats and meals, and other events.  I am glad that Lauramoore has found a new life; a house this large has very few private uses in 2011, and many older homes like this fall into disrepair.  Lauramoore needed very little work done (I say this somewhat comically, knowing how much effort our Business Manager, Tracy Crowe, put into getting estimates from contractors for a few remodeling projects, as well as snow removal and yard care . . . it’s still a lot of work!) and is looking quite good for its age.  We do not see this as a moneymaker, but rather have set prices for room rental at a level that will hopefully pay Lauramoore’s expenses.  (Plus, any Victorian aficionados out there?  Have I got some crazy wallpaper for you to look at!)  The ESR community can benefit from this house, and Lauramoore can benefit from the care ESR can give it.

If you would like to use Lauramoore for a retreat or meeting, please contact ESR’s Assistant to the Dean, Matthew Mosey ( for more information.

Blessings, Valerie Hurwitz

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