Frenchville Historic Society preserves Wylie House, now open to public

11 July 2012

FRENCHVILLE - In 2005, the Wylie family donated their family home, the Wylie House, located on Route 1 in Frenchville in front of the water tower, to the Frenchville Historical Society. Since then, the society has been working to restore the home to its original glory and now the piece of history is officially open to the public.

“It was a decision [made] by the family,” said Dave Wylie.

In the early 1900s, George Bouchard built the Wylie house. He was the first owner. Austin and Rita Wylie then purchased the house. Mr. and Mrs. Wylie had five children, Glen, David, Dawn, Andrew, and Brian.

Austin Warner Wylie was born with a disease that caused him to use a cane on August 6, 1917 in Barton, Vermont.

“My Dad used a cane because of a disease called Osteomyelitis which is an infection of the bone. He had this since he was a small child. He also had a bout with polio when he was young,” said Dawn Bragdon, Mr. Wylie’s daughter.

Records show Mr. Wylie served in the legislature for a one-year term in 1953, but he also enjoyed a special hobby.

“His favorite all time hobby was fly-fishing. He loved driving up to the Allagash with his good fishing buddies. He was very particular about who was to fish with him. He'd invite his boys sometimes, which was a big event,” said Bragdon.

“He was into all kinds of activities,” said Camielle Bernier.

His son Glen eventually became the new owner of the house.

“Glen was an avid fisherman,” said Donna Levesque.

When Glen was alive, he and his brother Dave were in the back of the house working on a boat when a representative from the Historical Society approached them to ask if the house was for sale. They initially turned down the offer, but when Glen died in 2004 the family decided to give it to the Historical Society knowing that they were already interested.

“It’s in our brother and parents memory,” said Dave.

The house is decorated with donated items that represent the lifestyle of the 1940s and 50s. Some donations include the living room set, an organ from Dr. Raymond’s family, a fainting couch, old clothing, and a blanket which Claire Marquis donated. A fainting couch was for women whose corsets were too tight. When they felt like fainting, they would lay down on the couch.

Coming soon, the Historical Society plans to add a playroom on the third floor, a donated gas stove, and a spinning wheel.

From 1920 to 1933, there was a national ban on all sales, manufactures, and transportation of alcohol. This ban was mandated in the 18th Amendment of the Constitution, causing people to find loopholes around the law. On the third floor of the Wylie house, a circular window is facing Canada. This window was used to signal people from Canada, informing them that the coast was clear to cross with their contraband.

Mr. Wylie’s daughter Dawn and son Dave have many memories, but they each have special memories that stand out from their time in the house.

“My personal favorite memory of that house was a small crawl space under the stairway. There was a small door in the kitchen that allowed you access to it. I pretended that was my little house and I used a stove shaped cookie jar as my pretend cooking stove and would play house in there for hours. Back then the neighborhood was full of kids to play with and places to explore. We were never bored. My dad and mom had even built a skating rink in our backyard one winter and in the summer the backyard served as the local baseball field,” said Dawn.

“I stayed in the attic, and made it into a work and sleep area, and I would read up there,” said Dave. “In those days we had a neighborhood and kids came and played in the back yard. I had a real childhood.”

Dave remembers his first impression of the house from when his family first moved in between the years of 1956 and 1957. “We ate beef stew on the first night. I love the huge ceilings,” he said.

The Wylie house is open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesday thru Sunday. On August 4, the Historical Society will host a grand opening, and the hours will change from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the Acadian Festival. The final day the house will be open for the season is weekend of Labor Day.

The Frenchville Historical Society greatly appreciates any donations.