Siblings hope to save grandparents' former house at Old Appleton

Sunday, July 20, 2008
AARON DOHOGNE ~ adohogne@semissourian.com Paul Abrisz, left, and John Meyer stood in front of the house Abrisz bought almost two years ago. Abrisz said the house, which use to be Meyer's grandmother's, would take too much money to restore, and he and his wife have been tearing it down ever since they bought it. Meyer said he is sad knowing his grandmother's old house is being torn down.

Walking through their grandparents' old house, a brother and sister hope a miracle can save what they call "heaven on earth." The house, at 328 Old Appleton Main St. in Old Appleton, contains both nostalgic and historical value for them.

From 1921 to 1974 John Meyer's and Dorothy Mullen's grandparents, Victoria and Hugo Wucher, owned the house, and for almost 25 years it has been out of their possession. In 1974, Victoria Wucher died, preceding her husband by 20 years. The house was sold that year. Since then it has passed through six owners although only five have lived in it. The sixth and current owner, Paul Abrisz, is tearing it down.

At least once a month for almost 20 years Meyer and Mullen visited their grandmother at her house, Mullen said. Mullen remembers how her grandmother made the best cinnamon rolls out of mashed potatoes in an oven without a temperature gauge. Meyer remembers Wucher making homemade ketchup from the tomatoes in her garden and storing it in corked bottles in the walk-in cellar underneath the house.

Mullen and Meyer said they respect their grandparents for the way they treated people during the Great Depression. Hungry people often came to their grandparents' store looking for food. On one occasion Hugo Wucher asked what one of them could trade for a bologna sandwich. The man ran down to Apple Creek and painted a picture of it. When he came back he got his sandwich, Mullen said.

Meyer and Mullen said they will miss the historical value of the building. According to reviewers at the Mapping and Planning Office of Cape Girardeau County, the building was constructed in 1821. Meyer said he liked the old architectural style of the building.

"It feels like a home because of the wood they used and the way it was designed," Meyer said. "They didn't have power tools back then. They took pride in building stuff."

Mullen said the building is part of the local history in Old Appleton because it is so old.

AARON DOHOGNE ~ adohogne@semissourian.com Straw and mud use to daub much more of the room in John Meyer's and Dorothy Mullen's grandparents old house. The house is now owned by Paul Abrisz, who has been cleaning up the straw and mud and working to dismantle the "eyesore," or the house, Abrisz said.

"What were the early pioneers struggling for?" she asked. "So it could be ripped down and tossed away like an old shoe?"

When the house was bought, Abrisz said, the roof had been partially blown off, the foundation on the north side was collapsing and engine blocks were scattered on the front porch, which was missing support beams.

"It's an eyesore," Abrisz said. "When we bought it, people expected it to be torn down."

Meyer said he would have liked to buy the house at the last auction but that he missed the opportunity to bid on it.

AARON DOHOGNE ~ adohogne@semissourian.com From the left , Dorothy Mullen, Paul Abrisz and John Meyer stand in the room of Mullen's and Meyer's grandparent's old house where their parents slept when their family used to visit. Meyer and Mullen think this visit to the house may be the last one.

Abrisz bought the house for $1,200 at a public auction for back taxes Aug. 28, 2006. He now thinks the house needs at least $100,000 to $150,000 worth of repairs.

At the time of the auction, Meyer thought he could've made repairs for $30,000.

On Friday, Abrisz showed up while Meyer and Mullen were walking through the two-story building, which has also housed a doctor's office and apartments. Meyer, who lives in St. Peters, Mo., said he hopes someone will want to reconstruct the house. Meyer said he and Mullen, who lives in Troy, Mo., talked Friday with three people who said they would miss it.

Meyer said he wanted to see the building torn down and reconstructed in Defiance, Mo., at Boonesfield Village, which is a "living-history village" that reconstructs Missouri buildings from around the time it gained statehood in 1821. Meyer and Abrisz said Boonesfield Village declined the offer. For Abrisz, who had been waiting to hear back from Boonesfield Village, the decline was the green light to tear it down.

While Abrisz was walking back to his house, two blocks away, Mullen and Meyer stood in front of the building, possibly for the last time, Meyer said.

"I guess there's nothing we can do now," Meyer said.

"We can always hope," Mullen said. "Maybe someone will want to fix it up."

adohogne@semissourian.com

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