Malcolm Bender, of Fayetteville, and business partner Aaron Bort purchased the house at 303 E. Genesee St. in Aug. 2008 with plans to renovate and restore.
“[The house] had been in disrepair for many years; what was once a beautiful Stick Victorian built for a young family in 1886 was now a seven-unit apartment house,” said Pamela Bender, Malcolm’s wife.
One of the first steps in restoring this home was to remove all electric meters and panels in the basement. Upon doing this, Bort found initials chiseled into the limestone foundation that read “L.B.S. ’86.”
This prompted Pamela to investigate. She knew from reading the abstract that Platt H. Smith and his wife, Katherine, purchased the property in April of 1885 and sold the house to Beach H. Beard in April of 1888.
“I questioned why they only owned it for a short time,” Pamela said.
Her search started with the initials. She found a book entitled “Jessie Smith, His Ancestors and Descendants” written by L. Bertrand Smith, and found that the author was indeed the son of Platt and Katherine Smith. L. Bertrand Smith was born in Fayetteville on Dec. 12, 1863. He was named Levi, after his maternal grandfather Levi Snell; he never liked his first name, so he never used it.
L. Bertrand Smith was married to Ladye Love Hall on Feb. 19, 1885, at the First Presbyterian Church of Syracuse. Ladye Love, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson Hall and Fracesca Cleveland, was born July 9, 1864.
“The rest of this story, sadly, can be found in an obituary for Ladye Love Smith,” Bender said. Ladye Love died on Sept. 20, 1986.
From the obituary
The funeral services of Mrs. L. Bertrand Smith were held at the residence on Genesee Street at three o’clock last Thursday afternoon. The new and beautiful house, fitted up with so much taste and care, and occupied as a home less than three weeks, was filled to overflowing by a throng of sympathizing relatives and friends.
Ladye Love Smith had given birth to a baby girl on Sept. 19, 1886; she died the day after. The baby was named Lady Katharine Smith. Ladye Katharine was raised by L. Bertrand Smith’s parents as he moved to Boston Mass. On December 15th, 1886.
“Our questions were answered of whose initials were engraved in the limestone foundation and why the house was only owned by the Smith family for a short time,” said Pamela Bender, “leading to a story of love and resignation.”
Bender’s search was not up; she wanted to know if Ladye Katharine Smith ever married and had children.
“What I found was very rewarding,” she said. “I found that indeed Ladye Katharine Smith did marry. She married Steven Cheney of Manlius and had a daughter named Charlotte.”
Bender contacted Charlotte, who is now Charlotte Cheney Crosby and lives in Connecticut, and invited her to visit Fayetteville to see the house that her grandfather, L. Bertrand Smith, and grandmother, Ladye Love Smith, lived in for those short three weeks.
“I told Charlotte I wanted her to put her hand on her grandfather’s initials,” Bender said.
On Aug. 6, Charlotte, at age 97, visited Fayetteville with her daughter, Katherine “Kay” Wall, and did just that. They were joined by Pamela and Malcolm Bender, village and town historian Barbara Rivette, Historic Preservation chairman Craig Polhamus and Historic Preservation Committee member Virginia Denton.
The Eagle Bulletin spoke with Charlotte at the Bender’s home on Salt Springs Road upon her return from 303 E. Genesee St.
“I was thrilled,” Charlotte said. “And I was thrilled just to find out about [the house] in the beginning, you see, because I didn’t know about it. All I knew was that my grandfather left the baby with his parents … who brought her up.”
Pamela Bender was equally thrilled to assist in the experience.
“Having Charlotte come to Fayetteville to see for the first time at the age of 97 the house that her grandfather L Bertrand Smith and her grandmother Ladye Love Hall Smith built in 1886 gave me a feeling of joy and satisfaction that was very special,” Bender said. “The act of bringing this Victorian house back to its near original condition has been enhanced by finding Charlotte. Watching her walk over the threshold of this home and for her to touch those initials of her grandfather was heaven sent.”