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Neighborhood mystery house, empty since 1977 fire, is finally demolished

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 11. 2018 11:29AM
Stephen Koziatek sits during the demolition of his house on Hanover Street, which has been boarded up for decades. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- The house at 567 Hanover St. is gone, and with it — perhaps — the rumors. Haunted house. Murder scene. Drug den. Vampire lair.

Stephen Koziatek has heard them all. But now he expects the tales will be buried with the rubble of the three-story, cedar-shingled home, which fell to the claw of an excavator on Thursday.

“After 36 years, it had to come down,” said Koziatek, a Manchester school teacher and architect who owns the property at the crest of the Hanover Street hill. He lives in a converted 700-square-foot carriage house on the acre-sized lot that is now much more visible. He has drawn up plans to landscape the spot where the house is.

The boarded-up house stood on meticulously arranged grounds, with hedges as straight as a planed piece of lumber and a lawn as trim as a crew cut. A wreath would appear on the front door at Christmas time, and at times Koziatek parked his stylish Audi in the driveway.

“I thought it was somebody probably doing drugs who lived there, or a vampire who didn’t like the sunlight,” said Keith Lemear, who lives about a block away and was walking his dog on Thursday. He was happy to see it come down.

The boarded up house with the huge yard near the top of Hanover Hill on Hanover Street in Manchester got demolished on Thursday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Koziatek said he’s never done anything to dispel the rumors, which though untrue have expanded, thanks to social media:

• It was the scene of an unsolved murder and police forbade its demolition.

• It was home to a light-averse albino.

• The city had once refused the owner a permit, so he let the house sit vacant out of spite. 

• And, of course, it’s haunted.

“Everybody asks about it, everybody,” said Dr. Bill Hickman, a chiropractor with offices across the street. He’s glad to see it go, in part because he will have a better view of the maples, spruce and cedars on the property.

To Koziatek, the history behind the house is better than any ghost story.

Architecturally, it was of the craftsman style, an American-based movement of simplicity and function that followed the ostentation of the Victorian era. Elliot Hospital surgeon Dr. John Franklin Holmes built the house in 1915 and modeled it after the homes he grew up in on his native Maine coast.

The boarded up brown house with the huge yard near the top of Hanover Hill on Hanover Street in Manchester got demolished on Thursday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Holmes picked the spot because it was walking distance to his work, Koziatek said. His wife could tell he’d soon be home when she looked south and saw the lights go out in the operating room.

In 1977, a fire rendered the home unlivable, Koziatek said. He purchased it from the Holmes family five years later with the hope of restoring it. But the fire damage was too great. He boarded up the main house, turned down repeated offers from developers, and used the house to store lawn equipment.

“I always tried to make it look presentable,” said Koziatek, a fourth-generation Manchester resident and teacher of architecture at Manchester School of Technology. But the house’s structural integrity continued to deteriorate, and it would soon be a danger if it remained standing.

“I’m going to miss it,” said Koziatek, who brings an architect’s appreciation of history and place to the conversation. “You can’t have shared a space with something for 36-odd years and not form a connection to it.”

Public Safety Real estate History Special Report

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