We did some digging and think we have a pretty good idea who was here at Mezzacello from the start. The Auditor’s Office in our city (Columbus Ohio) burned to the ground in 1920. Therefore there are no records before 1920 in Columbus. When we first looked at the house on the auditor’s website its age was listed as “old”. To determine the history of our humble home we had to use a variety of resources; Census records, tax records, and newspapers.

Our research revealed that we had:

  • A lawyer and his teenage bride
  • A minister
  • A father and son doctors who used the house as home and office
  • An engineer
  • A travel agent
  • A widow lived here for 40 years
  • The house was a boarding house at one point
  • Twice the house has stood abandoned
  • Later it was divided into apartments
  • Jim’s father knew the last owner before us. Marvin (the previous owner) worked with Jim’s dad in Big Lots management.

Interesting fact:

The man who built the house died while it was under construction. He died of an apparent heart attack in 1868 in Baltimore, MD and his coffin was shipped in a large oak box back from Baltimore on the newly completed Baltimore-Ohio railroad. The coffin was transported on the train in a large shipping box, AKA a sarcophagus. When the coffin arrived the roof of the house was still under construction. The shipping box was far too large to bring into through the door. So the block and tackle for building the roofing was used to lift the sarcophagus and coffin into the house.

Why you might ask was it brought to the house? In 1868 there weren’t a lot of funeral homes. Bodies were displayed in the house (the showing) and then taken to the cemetery after the viewing. But only the coffin was taken to be buried, they left the coffin shipping box up there. It’s a rather large box; 85 cm x 2.5 m x 95 cm  and to this day it is still in the attic. It was so sturdy and heavy! I believe that once they finished the roof they apparently realized that it was too large to get down the stairs. So it is still structurally sturdy and it lives there still. Sometimes I refer to the house as Renfield House instead of Mezzacello. Those little windows amongst the corbel brackets are where the train casket shipping box (AKA sarcophagus) still resides…

The corbels around the coffin sarcophagus. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello

If there is any interest, I’ll share a photo of the box in the attic. Well there was interest. Here are some photos of our lonely attic with the Renfield box in it…

The Renfield Box in our dusty forgotten attic. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello
The tiny wheels that allowed the porters to move the box with the coffin inside easily around. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello
The interior of the Renfield box. The tar paper is original, I can’t speak to the 70’s era fabric in there. Jim Bruner | Mezzacello
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