THE HOUSE ON NESBIT LANE
by Lou Bernard
I see it and wonder about it every time I go by—It’s a small, brown house right across the alley from the Post Office’s parking lot. It’s along Nesbit Lane, and it’s basically the only house on that particular street. The address is 10 Nesbit Lane, and I’ve been curious about it for years. I’ve recently decided to check into it, because it was a slow day.
All of this information comes from the Ross Library’s archives—The Sanborn maps and the city directories, mostly. So today’s column is, essentially, “What Lou can find out without walking far from his desk.”
Nesbit Lane itself is named after Reverend Joseph Nesbit, a preacher from Great Island Presbyterian Church. He oversaw the moving of the church from East Water to West Water, to the present location. He may have been a conductor on the Underground Railroad; his journal somewhat hints at the possibility. Nesbit is buried in Highland Cemetery.
The little building, which looks like a pleasant little place, is right by the alley, behind the Greib Building. Maps show that it was first built between 1906 and 1914 as a garage, most likely for Ella Barner, who owned the property. Ella was the widow of George Barner, who died in 1899.
George was a local postmaster and teacher—Nobody ever had just one job back then. He and Ella were married, and had a daughter, Ada May. Ada passed away at one year old. Later, George and Ella adopted two daughters, Agnes and Elmira. Both of them grew up to marry and have families of their own.
So. Ten Nesbit Lane. I realize this column is straying all over the place here—This is not such an easy structure to get a handle on, history-wise. I’m trying to stick to the point. Bear with me.
Ella seems to be the one who had the small house built, probably as a place to store her car. It’s labeled “garage” on the 1916 Sanborn map. By 1925, it was changed to an apartment, but not actually lived in, according to the city directories—Nobody seems to have inhabited it. It’s very possible that she converted it to an apartment for use by one of her daughters, though I’m guessing there and I don’t know which one.
1925 also seems to be the earliest mention of Nesbit Lane going under that name. Joseph Nesbit passed away in 1894, and it seems that it took them a while to get around to naming the street after him. On the maps previous to 1925, it’s just an unnamed alley.
Joseph Nesbit, for the record, was born in Ireland and came to Lock Haven about 1860. He was chosen as the minister of the Presbyterian Church, and served there throughout the entire Civil War.
The structure was probably used as a garage or for storage for decades—I checked all the city directories, and it’s not occupied by anyone on record until 1970. At that point, an Alvaro Posada is listed as living there, but only briefly. By 1975, the place is vacant again. (There’s no obit on Alvaro Posada that I can find. Maybe he’s still alive.)
From 1978 to 1982, the building was occupied by a Robert W. Kenney, and there’s no obit on him, either. (Don’t go thinking I’m such a genius for this one—What I’m doing to research this building is basically just looking up the address in old directories.)
That basically sums up what I know about Ten Nesbit Lane. I thought it was an interesting structure, though, and one I wanted to learn a bit more about. The next time I ride by it, I won’t have to wonder about its history. And I did manage to get a column out of it, at any rate. So I have actually managed to learn something here; my slow day hasn’t been a total waste.