Society

Historic Papers Found Hidden Inside Wall Of N.C. House

| by Sean Kelly
documents found at thomas patton's homedocuments found at thomas patton's home

An electrician working on a home renovation in North Carolina discovered a box that contained a number of historic documents — some signed by former presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.

Electrician German Martinez was running wire to a room at the Patton-Parker House in Asheville, North Carolina, in February when he took down a patch of drywall and discovered a secret compartment hidden next to a chimney, the Citizen-Times reports.

Martinez then pulled out a tin box, in which he found a stack of leather-bound books.

"I’ve worked in a lot of old houses, but I’ve never found anything like this," he told the Citizen-Times.

Inside the box were letters of business correspondence, as well as other documents, from the house's builder Thomas Patton. The Patton-Parker House's current owner, attorney Jim Siemens began looking over the documents with his girlfriend, Deborah Haft, in February and March, and they found two signatures from Jackson and Van Buren.

One was a land grant from property in Arizona signed over from Jackson to Patton in 1830. Another land grant was signed in 1837 by Van Buren.

"I haven’t seen anything nefarious," Siemens said. "But as a lawyer, it’s interesting for me to see how involved these guys were in the land transactions around Asheville."

 So far, he said, no other hidden documents or anything of significance has been found behind the other walls and floors of the house.

The Patton-Parker House was built by Patton, former Asheville mayor and Buncombe County commissioner, in 1868, according to the Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County. The PSABC put the house up for sale in early 2013.

At the time of the sale, PSABC Executive Director Jack Thomson assured that the house would be preserved for its historic nature.

"When the historic house is sold we will place preservation covenants in the deed that will protect the historic nature of this special place in perpetuity," he said.

The house was sold to Siemens as a location for his family law practice.

The house was notable as the location where a group of women met in 1894 to organize support women's right to vote. The next day, a gathering sponsored by Patton resulted in the formation of the North Carolina Equal Suffrage Association — which began the fight for women's right to vote in the state.

The house became a local landmark in 2000.

Sources: Citizen-Times, Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County / Photo credit: Citizen-Times via Twitter, PSABC

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