WATERFORD — Five years after the Historical Society received the good news that the historic Lake House, located in the heart of the Waterford Historical District, had been sold and was to reopen as a restaurant, the house remains vacant and the search continues for missing items once displayed in the house.
Bonnie Parsons of the Historical Society said society members have been searching for nearly two dozen items on loan to the Lake House that disappeared before the building was auctioned off in 2011.
Only one item, an original hotel register said to contain the unverified signatures of notable guests including Micky Rooney, Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin and other celebrities, has been recovered. The silver screen stars were rumored to have stayed at the inn while visiting crooner Rudee Valle in his nearby summer home on Kezar Lake in Lovell.
What is known is that the items were not in the building at the time the historic Lake House at 686 Waterford Road was purchased at a foreclosure auction in 2011. Members of the society were allowed to go through the building prior to the auction and reported none of the items were found.
The pictures, Parsons said, were not original pictures, but were enlarged and beautifully framed copies that hung in the living room, sitting room and front dining room of the Lake House for years.
In 2016, the Lake House register was quietly returned to previous Lake House owners Suzanne and Michael Uhl-Myers, who restored and operated the inn in the 1980s and ’90s. It is now in the possession of the Historical Society.
The register had been kept in a display case that was also filled with 1940s postcards, old bottles and old calendars, according to Historical Society records.
According to the Historical Society records, the Uhl-Myers, wrote to the Historical Society in March 1995 that they wished to donate framed copies of selected pictures of the Lake House and Waterford Village they had collected, an original Lake House registrar they had received from an elderly man in Illinois and the original hand-painted sign which hung on the front of the building.
The agreement, according to the letter to the Historical Society, was that the items would continue to be hung in the Lake House as long as it remained a building for the public to access. Once it became a private dwelling, the items must be returned to the Historical Society for its museum.
The building was operated as a public inn through 2011.
The pictures were described as up to 20 turn-of-the-century photos that were blown up from pictures donated by Waterford residents and Lake House patrons over the years.
Parsons said the Historical Society hopes the items will be returned, just as the hotel register was, so they can be put on display at the Historical Society museum.
“We’re mainly concerned about the photographs,” Parsons said. “We’ve been renovating the Old Town House and we’d like to have the photographs displayed when people come in [for the open house hours.] We want to make collection available to community and people visiting.”
The return can be done anonymously and no questions will be asked.
Future inn plans
John DeLois, the current owner of the Lake House who lived in California at the time he made the purchase, told the Advertiser Democrat recently that he has no comment on future plans for the building.
DeLois, who co-owns the house with David Lindsey, according to town records, told the Advertiser Democrat, “I have nothing to say,” when asked about one of the anchor buildings in the National Historic District of Waterford Flats village that has sat vacant for the last five years.
DeLois purchased the historic Lake House for $250,000 at a foreclosure auction in 2011 after Norway Savings Bank foreclosed on the property in April 2011. The property was owned at that time by Allyson Johnson and Donald Johnson Jr., who bought the Lake House in 2006 and operated it as an inn until 2011.
Historical Society members had joined more than 50 people including four registered bidders, including DeLois, who showed up from as far away as New York and California to put a bid on the property in 2011.
DeLois, who is the brother of Camp Wigwam owner Jane Strauss of Waterford, also purchased all the contents of the house, which ranged from beds to dishes, pots and pans.
“I’m going to open a restaurant,” DeLois said, smiling broadly as neighbors in the National Historic District in the Waterford Flats village and others rushed over to introduce themselves and welcome him to the neighborhood that day.
The contents are now said to be gone from the house, and it remains vacant. Buildings on the National Register of Historic Places are not restrained by any regulations unless the town had adopted a local historic ordinance, which has not been done in this case.
Janet Truman of Paris Cape Realty told the Advertiser Democrat that she has shown the house several times since the auction at the request of clients and with the permission of the owners, but the building is not on the market.
“He can do with it what he wants, but it’s a shame. We were all kind of hoping something would happen,” Ralph MacKinnen of the Waterford Historical Society said recently.
List of missing items
Two enlarged old photos of the town of Waterford
Large snow scene
Small photo of town from Mt. Tirem
18-by-20-inch photo of stagecoach
Modern photo of the hotel circa 1930
Two early large photographs, one with stagecoach, one with carriages at the Lake House
Hodgkins painting, 1985 of Lake House
Miscellaneous contemporary pictures of the Lake House
Small photo of the Lake House
Two 5-by-7-inch photos of 20th century scenes
Three small old photos of Waterford, stagecoach and old cars.
As recalled by previous owner Suzanne Uhl-Meyers, the pictures had been placed in the Lake House in the following manner:
Living room, six pictures from the early 1900s
Two pictures of the stagecoach, also pictures of early automobiles in Waterford Village
Sitting Room: Four to six pictures
Front Dining Room: One or two pictures