History of house that is now
The Book & Blanket Bed & Breakfast
Jay, New York
Drawing from Essex County deeds, one can trace the house back to Wm H Bostrick and then Dr. SS Holcomb sometime prior to 1876. Dr. SS Holcomb owned the property from sometime before 1876 at least until 1885. Dr. SS Holcomb's name is on the 1876 Essex County Map as owner of the house and lot and his property is referenced in another deed document stored in County files dating to 1885. According to the History of Essex County 1885, Dr. Holcomb was President of the Essex County Medical Society in 1870.
An addition to the house front (as seen in the accompanying photo copy) but which no longer exists today, was probably Dr. Holcomb's office. I can't find the direct link from Dr. Holcomb to the next owner, but by 1900, Dr. Albinus J. Merrill had purchased the property from the Primes. Presumably Dr. Merrill had his office in the front extension of the house. Dr. Merrill's daughter, Belle Bartlett, had full use of the house for herself and her daughters upon Dr. Merrill's death. Belle Bartlett was the town's Post Mistress as of April 17, 1915 and ran the Town of Jay Post Office from this house until she retired in 1940 when the Post Office moved from this location. (Dates came from the National Archives Trust Fund Board, Washington, D.C.)
According to Dr. Merrill's will and testament, "I give, devise and bequeath...for the use of my daughter Belle, now Mrs. Fred O. Bartlett of Jay, NY and her children..."
Interestingly, Dr. Merrill went on to leave nothing to Belle's husband, Fred. "I hereby give, devise, and bequeath to my son-in-law, Fred O. Bartlett, nothing, and I further decree that he be entirely excluded from any use and benefit of any property herein devised or bequeathed and that he be excluded from the use and enjoyment of my homestead located on Main St., Jay."
Of Belle's three daughters, it was Hazel Bartlett who lived in this house her entire life. Her sisters Marion and Grace released their claim to the property in January, 1946. At the same time Belle released the property to her daughter Hazel with a life use clause for herself.
According to neighbors, Hazel Bartlett never married but lived in the house with her friend Mitch for many years. It was Mitch who did much of the renovating and changing of the house. Also, during Hazel's lifetime the house served as a barracks for state troopers. In Hazel's later years, her sister Marion moved in with her. Marion died in 1986, several months before Hazel died. The house was left to nephews and nieces and the estate was sold to Timothy and Deborah Cox, December 3, 1987.
On Jan. 8, 1992, the house was sold from the Cox's to Fred Balzac and Kathy Recchia (the current owners). Since 1993, the house has served as The Book & Blanket Bed & Breakfast. Among the notable guests who have stayed at The Book & Blanket are:
Burton Bernstein, author of The Sticks, a history of Essex County; Thurber; not to mention being Leonard Bernstein's brother Brian Brown, author of TV, the Novel The Japanese fine artist Asoma Renowned sculptor Carey Boone Nelson Published writer/photographer Doug Gruenau Architecturally the house is Greek Revival. The exterior remains much as it always was.
Over the years the side porch was open, enclosed and opened up again. The Dr. office addition was removed.
Inside, the spiral staircase was removed and the bedrooms upstairs were rearranged sometime in the early or mid 1900s. Old woodstoves must have been removed and the oil-based heating system was put in along with a fireplace in the living room. Over the years, floors and ceilings were redone or covered up.
At this point, some of the older features of the house have been uncovered or redone. The dining room floor of carpet, linoleum and plywood was torn up to reveal a hardwood floor. A painted tin ceiling was just discovered this past year (2001) under the ceiling tile in the guest living room.
The house is a continuing work and history all on its own and will undoubtedly reveal more secrets over the years. --submitted by Kathleen Recchia, 9/7/01