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33 years after wrecking-ball rescue, village's oldest home reaches 200

In 1974, Jim and Pollie Paul of East Aurora were in the market for a home. Rather than search for a new one, saving an old one became their mission.

The Hamburg Street home the Pauls rescued from the wrecking ball celebrates its 200th birthday today and is believed to be the oldest home still standing in the village.

It was 33 years ago that Liberty Bank had torn down a Victorian house on Hamburg Street and was planning to bring down another home to make room for a driveway when Jim Paul contacted the bank.

"My wife and I were driving through the village one night when she pointed to a house and told me they were going to tear it down," said Jim Paul, 86. "I said to her, 'Let's try and get it.' I called up the bank, and they said to call their real estate company."

After agreeing to the company's guidelines, which included moving the house to a new location within six weeks, the Pauls purchased the 178-year-old house for $1.

"My parents found a house-mover and on February 19th [1975], the home was on wheels and rolling down Main Street," said their daughter Darshan Dawson, 53.

The Pauls relocated their new home to 65 N. Willow St., where it stands today.

The public is invited to attend a birthday party and join tours through the house, scheduled to take place from 1 to 5 p.m. today as a part of the village's Heritage and Reunion Weekend.

During the celebration, East Aurora Mayor David DiPietro will present a proclamation to Jim Paul in recognition of his efforts to save the Phineas Stephens House, which was named for the owner who erected it in 1807.

Although Paul arranged the purchase, he says his wife -- who died in 1998 -- supplied the initiative to save the home.

"I hope nobody gives me too much credit," said Paul. "My wife was the driving force in getting the house. I was the labor, she was the brains."

Throughout the 25 years they lived in the home, Dawson said, her parents tried to maintain its "rustic" look.

"Its construction is kind of like a barn," said Paul. "They exposed a lot of the [hand hewn] beams and incorporated certain architectural aspects from other buildings in town."

The Pauls added various vintage elements, including windows from the Jewett Farm's covered racetrack and box windows from the Margaret Price House in East Aurora that the Pauls had found in the garbage.

"We salvaged anything we could," said Paul. "I made one of the doors myself. My wife and I even tore down an old barn and used some of its beams."

Katie and Michael Meyer, who purchased the home from Paul in 2003, believe that the home's age adds character that could not be duplicated by stylish furnishings.

"We never had to add anything to the house, like decorations," said Katie Meyer, 32. "It's almost like less is better. The house is a showpiece in itself."

The Meyers also will be honored in the proclamation for their stewardship, and the Aurora Historical Society will unveil a plaque in honor of the home's long history.


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