A morning with the Schwartzels, and a successful New Albany Historic Home Tour.

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Your humble correspondent is not accustomed to being, well, humbled, but Saturday was a notable exception.

Promptly at 10:05 a.m., the first historic home tourists were queued outside on the front steps. They proved to be a baker’s dozen descendents of the Schwartzels, who bought the house in 1913 and lived in it until after World War II.

Among them was the youngest (and last surviving) Schwartzel daughter, now aged 77, who left the house at the age of 17 in 1947 and had not returned since. Spry and sharp, she led the clan and one very attentive homeowner room by room through the house, dispensing anecdotes and details about its original configuration, which has been much altered on the ground floor.

She showed us where her father hid the hootch during Prohibition, explained that the dormitory-scale floorplan of the house was a crucial factor in its purchase by a couple intending to have a large family (they had 9 children in all), and referred to the physical location as an “island” during the 1937 flood, with only one pathway above water level leading out of the neighborhood to a grocery store down the street.

If the walls could talk, it would indeed be wonderful, but living history is far better. If not for the home tour, would we have had the opportunity to hear the tales told on Saturday morning?

It’s unlikely.

Kudos to the tour organizers. It was an honor to meet the Schwartzel kin and the day’s many other visitors. The good feeling evidently was shared by others who, like us, opened their homes for the day, as in this account at Diggin’ in the Dirt: Life After the Historic Homes Tour.

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