Transcribed by Jaylyn Thacher

The Spectator, May 26, 1985


Couple Restores Haunted Renwick House in Belfast Photo 1 of 1

Couple restores ‘haunted’ Renwick House in Belfast

By Judy Burt

BELFAST – Since they bought the Robert Renwick House in Belfast about a year ago, Candy and Louis Marino of Fillmore have been attempting to restore the 132-year-old pre-Civil War landmark to its original condition.

After months of work, two rooms – of more than a dozen, at least one of which is “haunted” – have been completely restored. The house opened this weekend as a retail outlet for the works of Allegany County artisans.

“We started working on (the house) in march,” Candy said. All work on the house has been done under National Historic Register guidelines. One of the first projects to be tackled was stripping off the many layers of paint on the woodwork.

A heat gun was used to do the stripping, because “they would prefer that if you are going to use something that might damage the wood, that the damage show up right away.”

After all the work that was put into stripping off the old paint, “there was a lot of discussion about painting it,” she noted. “They wouldn’t have let their pine show” in 1853.

Candy said she just got the news that the National Register has assigned a person to help her with the mountain of paperwork involved in applying to have the house listed.

“The National Register would give us low-cost loans to use in the restoration,” she explained.

Though the Renwick House started out as a family home, when Robert’s son William inherited it, he turned the house into a hotel – the Massasoit House. William was not very good at handling finances, and it was not long before the house was sold in a sheriff’s sale. Jenny Broadbent bought the hotel, and the last person to live there was her daughter, Elva Lockwood.

Before the Marinos bought the house last year, none of the owners since Elva Lockwood had done much to restore the home to its original condition.

A house that is more than a century old is bound to have interesting history – and maybe a few ghosts. The Renwick House is no exception.

When the Marinos bought the house, they heard stories from people who used to play there as children about rocking chairs that rocked by themselves. But they didn’t hear from the “ghost” until earlier this year.

“The room rejects anything new being brought into it,” she said. “If you try to bring in something new, the doors close, even though they were all hung straight.”

Further “proof” of the haunting was discovered when a tape-recorded conversation that took place in the room was played back.

“A heartbeat was picked up on the tape,” Candy said. “I’ve tried everything I can think of to reproduce that sound – I thought it might be a glitch in the tape – but I can’t get it to happen again.”

The sound is heard at 72 beats per minute on the tape.

The haunting “seems to be contained in that room,” she said, adding that during renovation, it will probably be turned into a “bathroom or walkthrough,” but definitely not a bedroom.

The house will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Monday and will be open the same hours from Thursday to Sunday every week. The locally made items that will be available include Amish dolls, chairs and rockers; wrought-iron art such as dish warmers and candelabra; cornhusk dolls, ceramic music boxes, oil paintings, doll cradles and handmade wool braided rugs.