Solving the Mystery

It’s a great source of pride, and dare I say, competition, to have one of the really old houses in Cape Charles. We are in hot pursuit of the year the house was built.

Our purchase documents, as well as the listing ad, said our house was built in 1920. Ken was searching online for information about the building next to us on the corner. It was originally a Presbyterian Church later the town library, and currently the Civic Center. He was able to find this picture of the church and our house in UVA library documents that was dated 1910.

I started my search in the town library where I was able to see a copy of the town plat. I found the cross street closest to our house, counted in 2 lots and determined we were Lot #473.

This has turned out to be crucial information in order to verify the sale of the lot, and later, the tax record on the house itself.

Cape Charles Library has just celebrated it’s 100th anniversary and there is a display case with memorabilia. I chatted with the librarian who told me a previous town librarian, Gladys Nottingham, lived in our house. She also knew Gladys inherited the house from her father. In the display case was a postcard of the same picture found in the UVA library. She took it out for me and the postmark date was August, 1909. Now we knew the house was built at least by 1909!

Next, I went to the courthouse in Eastville, which is the Northampton County Seat.

Fun fact, Eastville has the oldest continuous court records in the country, dating back to 1632. With some help from the office staff, I was able to pull up our title and find the date the previous owners bought the house and from whom. The deeds are recorded in these gigantic tomes that roll out of the shelves that you have to lift and take to a table. I wish I had a photo, but of course, the courthouse does not allow cell phones. I followed the trail of names from our sellers back to Glady Nottingham. I searched through Book 41 and Book 51 and a book of wills, and found that Gladys took ownership in 1938. I cross-checked everything by looking for specific names associated with Lot #473 to verify I was actually finding information about our house.

I discovered we are the third family to own the house, in over a hundred years! A gentleman named William E. Nottingham, Gladys’ father, purchased the land in 1901 from Walter B. Williams. He purchased the land in December, 1899 from Andrew Cassatt, brother of the artist Mary Cassatt. Mr. Cassatt, a native of Pennsylvania, developed much of Cape Charles due to his railroad and shipping interests. Andrew Cassatt is credited with building a number of homes, several on our street, for railroad employees and their families.

Come back soon! We will have an update in the next post!

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1 Comment

  1. This is great, Ami. I love the exploration and research to find out about this old house. It’s so worth documenting!! Good job on become an investigator and finding new ways to uncover the names, dates, and owners. Keep the blogs coming.

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