I was walking to Osborne Street with the leaves crunching beneath my feet and pumpkins galore decorating the houses. I came to the large brick building that consists of four townhouses 120-124. The building is set back from the street. I wanted to look at the back of the building so I walked down Osborne Street to the access road, across the foot bridge over the dam to Miller Street and to the end where Lizette Street ends. I looked at the back of the brick building sitting there with its porches and chairs, watching over the river as it has for over 100 years.
I did some research and looked at some older street maps and read some newspaper articles. The old apartment building was listed on a 1904 Auburn map as the M.M. Bancroft Ice Houses. Osborne Street was Mechanic Street then and previously had been Lumber Lane. The old Lizette Street bridge crossed the Owasco River nearby. I remember walking across that bridge and riding across it in the car with my family. This old building has had many owners. Marshal Bancroft bought the property in 1894 from Charles W. Tuttle and wife Alice and Charles Reed and his wife Margaret. They had bought the property from Bradley A. Tuttle and his wife Desdomona in 1879.
Marshal Bancroft converted the old ice house into an apartment building. The building consists of narrow two-story houses placed side-by-side. They have also been called railroad apartments.
The building is part of Unity House now and a supported living facility for people who have graduated from their other program at Grace House. Unity House was founded in 1977 and is dedicated to helping individuals lead lives of personal fulfillment in the community. They have made this building and others into useful assets again in our community.
My sources for this letter and further reading for those interested in Auburn history can be found at the Cayuga County Historians Office and the local History Discovery Center at the Seymour Library. The personnel at both of these places will answer your questions about Auburn history and point you in the right direction in your research. At the Cayuga Community College’s history room, you have to research this treasure trove of Auburn history on your own.
John St. Croix