Friday, July 28, 2017

Possibly my dream house, but I need to venture inside for myself

By Shuvaev (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this summer, returning from a baseball game, we found ourselves traveling through Parts Unknown in eastern Pennsylvania, with only Siri as our guide. We like to live on the edge that way. The road curved and we came upon a small town that looked as if it had seen better days or better decades; Pennsylvania is famous for towns of this type. We had come upon Slatington (Pop. 4,200).

As we passed through on the borough's main road, we came upon an incredible-looking house, situated on a corner. We didn't have time to snap a photograph, but Wikipedia had one, and it's shown at the top of this post. I can tell you, unreservedly, that the house no longer looks as good as it does in the Wikipedia photo. It's in much worse condition. There was a for-sale sign, but it looked like wishful thinking more than anything.

Yet I had to know what the story was with this place. And it turns out it has a name: the Alfred Kern House.

The Kerns were an important family in Slatington history. In 1737, Nicholas Kern was the area's first white settler. It was more than a century later that Alfred J. Kern came along. He was born in 1847 and made his mark as a miller and a businessman in Slatington. The house bearing his name was built in 1903, on the site of an old family mill, at the corner of Main and Diamond streets.

Alfred died in 1933, but his last surviving child, Beulah F. Kern (1890-1991) lived in her father's house until her death at age 101. She was, at one point, Slatington's oldest living resident.

It's not clear what became of the Alfred Kern House after Beulah died in 1991. Nothing too great, it seems. Some interior photos from last year are available on this 2016 post from Old House Dreams, but they're kind of heartbreaking. I'd love to take my own look inside, and really explore the nooks and crannies. A house like that must hold a lot of history ... and mysteries ... and ephemera ... and, who knows, maybe a secret passage or a hand of glory or a walled-up clock, plus a ghost or two.

I think I might still prefer the house with the goat on its roof, but the Alfred Kern House is definitely intriguing!


  1. I'm still voting for the goathouse, but we can buy this as our summer home.

  2. A walled-up clock, eh? Is that a nod to John Bellairs?

    1. Absolutely, Tom! There's a hand of glory in that story, too.

    2. I'd forgotten that. Coincidentally enough, I discovered the John Bellairs books at a garage sale years ago. I'd never read them until then. I thought they were great books and have always wondered why they weren't better known.

    3. Before I read the books, I was introduced to the story by the 1979 TV adaptation starring Severn Darden and narrated by Vincent Price. It was suitably creepy and memorable for 8-year-old me.

    4. I've seen the TV adaption, but it was in recent years after reading the books, which is odd because I always rarely missed those kind of shows when I was a kid.

    5. I'm not really in a hurry to watch it as an adult. It cast a spell as a kid that I'm not sure I want broken by my adult eyes.