An Odoriferous History

May 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

white cottageThe frame house just across the railroad tracks from the Dana-Thomas House that we all call the white cottage (In reality, its color is peeling brown.) has enough history to fill a book on its own. It will be the subject of many future blogs.

The cottage currently houses the office of the Dana-Thomas Foundation, and several weeks ago I was attending a meeting of a committee of the Foundation there. Regina Albanese, the Executive Director, was complaining of an unpleasant odor that she could not trace. She has eliminated odors from critters in crawl spaces and dirty furnace filters in the past, but she could not figure this one out. Finally she discovered that she was smelling sewer gas escaping from a drain in the basement.

Then there were Susan’s last days at the house. I describe them on page 97 of Susan Lawrence: The Enigma in the Wright House:

On May 8, 1942, Susan’s physician, Dr. Alex J. Jones, sent nurse Lucille Ramshaw to Susan’s home [then the white cottage] to take her to the hospital. Lucille found Susan refusing to move from a filthy bed in a filthy house…Lucille recalled that Susan was very dirty and almost dead from malnutrition when she got to the hospital.

One can only imagine the stench in the white cottage.

Recently I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Bill Lazarus. As a boy Dr. Lazarus lived with his aunts in the house next door to the white cottage. One of his fondest memories is the odor of salt water taffy wafting from the cottage. The house was briefly rented by a couple who made taffy at home and sold it at county fairs throughout Illinois each summer. Perhaps Regina should resurrect that practice. She could make it a living history re-enactment while earning money for the Foundation and improving her work environment. She just needs to make time to travel to those county fairs. I think I’m on to something!

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