Anchorage holds 2nd ‘Mourning’ on Sunday

For the second year in a row, visitors came to the Anchorage in Marietta on Sunday to honor the passing of one of the home’s original residents.

Dozens of people passed through the doors of the historical home on George Street, built in the late 1850s by David Putnam for his wife, Eliza.

Members of the Washington County Historical Society hosted their second annual “Mourning for Eliza Putnam” event on Sunday afternoon at the home.

“We are actually doing a memorial service for Eliza Putnam, whom this house was actually built for,” said society member Valerie Wright. “She actually died 151 years ago (today).

“We did this (Sunday) because it was easier for people to come in.”

In the 1850s, Eliza Putnam took a trip to the East Coast in New Jersey and came across a house she very much loved which became the basis for the Marietta house. The home cost around $60,000 to build, which today would have cost $1.5 million to do, Wright said.

“The house was built with the woodwork and stonework all quarried and timbered from this property and some from Harmar Hill,” she said.

Visitors to the home Sunday learned about the history of the Putnam family and were able to tour the 22-room residence which was built from 1855-1859. They also learned about the funeral customs of the late 19th Century, the Victorian era.

“We are doing this to bring in people to see what has been done to the house by the historical society, because they are refurbishing the house,” Wright said. “The main floors have been redone.

“This event is going on to help them continue to raise money to help with the restoration and get the house back to the way it was when she lived here.”

Eliza Putnam died on Sept. 9, 1862, from heart failure at the age of 54, having only been able to spend a couple of years in the house.

Wright read Mrs. Putnam’s original obituary which appeared in the Marietta newspaper of the time and discussed some of the traditions and superstitions associated with death and funerals of that period.

Someone would actually sit with the deceased for a time in a tradition that became know as “a wake.” A wake was done to make sure a person was actually dead because people, at the time, were very worried about being buried alive.

The blinds in a home were also drawn when someone died. All the clocks would be stopped at that time to show the proper respect.

“Back in the Victorian Era, they believed the mirrors needed to be covered up because they thought that the next person to look in that mirror after someone died in the house was going to be the next person to die,” Wright said. “Others believed the mirrors had to be covered up or the soul of the deceased would become trapped or see themselves in the mirror and become confused.

“They were very big on their superstitions.”

Families would sometimes call on photographers to take pictures of the deceased with family members often propping up the deceased family member. Locks of hair from the deceased were taken and fashioned into things like broaches and other things to go with jewelry as a reminder of them.

One of Sunday’s visitors, Jackie Hendricks of Belleville, saw the event being mentioned on Facebook and decided to come and see it. She had been to the house previously during a ghost hunting event.

“I love this place,” Hendricks said. “I love the historical part of it and I liked the ghost hunt.”

She said she had interesting experiences through both programs.

“‘I liked both parts of it,” Hendricks said. “I like anything with historical value.

“I just love the architecture here. It is amazing.”

The proceeds from the tour go to the historical society for the Anchorage Restoration Project. The house has a number of needs and the historical society is looking at what can be done next. A lot of work is done by volunteers.

“It is a process,” Wright said. “It takes a lot of time.

“We have been coming up here for five years. The progress of this has been phenomenal.”

The house has hosted ghost hunting events in October and a masquerade ball in May in which money raised has gone to restoration efforts.

“This place is a home away from home,” Wright said. “We are here a lot.

“Everything we do is to refurbish the house.”