The Secrets of Houses

I recently read a compelling graphic novel, Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft. In it, three children are subjected to the trauma of their father’s violent death and journey across the country with their mother to start over with their lives. The destination: their father’s childhood home, Keyhouse, a rambling manse with secrets. If you turn a special key and go through a certain doorway, you may turn into a “ghost,” able to roam free of your corporeal body. And that’s just one of the many keys, and the many doorways (find out more about Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke and Key at 

The twists and turns in this story led to thoughts on the Ferguson Mansion, still a relatively new work environment for me. People who visit The Filson often comment on how wonderful it must be to work in such a beautiful house. It’s true that there are many physical components of the house to absorb that are wonderfully appealing. What is also intriguing, however, is the history of this house, a place that has contained both families and a funeral home.

The Specially Sized Elevator

The biggest contrast in levels can be found between the first floor and the basement. The first floor contains carved mantels and sideboards, a mural that winds around the dining room, and portraits on almost every flat vertical surface. Here is where important family events took place from 1905 through the 1920’s, such as Margaret Ferguson’s wedding. Children ran through here, dinners were eaten here, parties were held here.

The basement, on the other hand, is a basic space that houses a kitchen, lockers, a lounge. It is here that I feel the echoes of the former Pearson’s Funeral Home are strongest. As I warm up water for my tea in the kitchen, I recall that the employee dining area was once designated for embalming bodies. Kelly Brennan, a Fellow who researched the changing processes of the funeral industry, was excited to learn that the elevator was purposefully created to hold coffins.

Any place where human beings have lived and worked for so long inevitably houses secrets. Working in a place with such an extended history, the Ferguson Mansion, is a wonderful process of discovery where the marvelous and macabre blend.

Filson Historical

One comment for “The Secrets of Houses

  1. SJ Poindexter

    What’s more, in the late 70′s the Ferguson Mansion was the headquarters for John Y. Brown, Jr.’s successful 1979 gubernatorial campaign. It’s fascinating to think of the great variety of energy and experience that has happen between the Filson walls as it has shift through time from being a family home, to a place of mourning & funeral ritual, then an epicenter of political activity, and finally a place of research & preservation.


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