Old Masser House a vessel of Fruita history
MASSER HOUSE FUN FACTS
According to the “Love That House” blog, the original owners of the house — Dr. Charles and Gertrude Masser — built the home sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The Massers moved to Fruita in 1888, and they had eight children. Dr. Masser was also known to be a “prohibitionist,” and he likely ran a drug store from the house on what’s now Aspen Avenue.
Blogger Heidi Marquardt also noted that “the piece of land (where the Masser House stands) has always been right there, but the address and street have changed over the years,”
“At one point the VA Hospital owned this house, and I’d love to know why,” new owner Donna Stratton said. “The more research we do, the more we want to do!”
— Caitlin Row, firstname.lastname@example.org
When Donna Stratton and her husband, Bill Holstein, purchased the old Masser House — at 404 E. Aspen Ave. in Fruita — on Aug. 30, 2013, “it was the day that will live on in infamy,” Stratton joked.
Having lived in the Grand Valley for more than two decades, Stratton and Holstein had long admired the historic Victorian on Fruita’s main drag. So, when the couple saw a “for sale” sign in its front window, they knew they had to save it. The Masser House, once a Fruita gem and a home to many for more than a century, was literally falling apart.
“We didn’t think it would make it another winter,” Stratton said, “but we’ve been hooked ever since we walked inside.”
“It is in rough shape,” Holstein agreed.
They purchased it for $123,000, and Holstein thinks they’ll need to put at least that or more into getting the house up and running.
“We’re going to do as much of the work as we possibly can,” Stratton said. “It’s something that we enjoy doing.”
Needed work includes major foundation repair, plumbing, electric and heating, plus window replacement and water damage repair.
“The carriage house needs to come down,” Holstein noted. “It’s very dangerous.”
But together, with help from friends, neighborhood volunteers and hopefully some grants (Stratton is doing research on funding options), this old house is getting restored for history’s sake and the good of the community.
Stratton and Holstein live only a few miles away in their primary Fruita residence; and though they work full-time at other jobs, all their free time is dedicated to renovations. Once the Masser House is fully repaired, they hope for someone to use it as a home, office space, a restaurant or even a museum.
“Anything is possible at this point,” Stratton said, as long as it fits in with the residential community. “It’s really a labor of love.”
And to record the Masser House’s long history, friend Heidi Marquardt of Whitewater pitched in by starting a blog called “Love that House.” There, she’s telling the story of the old home’s refurbishment, but more importantly, she’s publishing recollections from people who used to live there.
“The history is a living thing,” she explained.
According to Marquardt, until recently they thought the Victorian home was built in 1902 by Dr. Charles Masser and his wife, Gertrude. But an old photo dated back to 1893 turned up, showing the house already built.
“There are a lot of questions about the original deed (from 1902) that we don’t have answers for yet,” she said. “The deed was in Gertrude’s name, not his,” which was also unique for the time period because “women couldn’t vote then.”
Over the years, many children lived in and visited the Masser House as well; some of them have already recounted youthful tales of the Fruita home, which have been printed, mostly verbatim, on the “Love That House” blog.
For instance, Virginia Little Paul’s parents lived in the Masser House “from 1950 into 1978,” the blog said, and she often returned to visit them when she had her own family.
“Dad had always made sure there was a swing wherever we had lived, as children,” Little Paul recounted to Marquardt. “The one in the yard in Fruita was put up when the grandchildren came along, I imagine. … He also recognized the first grandchildren by putting their names in that concrete sidewalk in the backyard!”
Virginia’s brother, Roger Little, shared memories of his own with Marquardt: “I remember a big swing in the backyard that had been constructed out of railroad ties. It was very sturdy and very tall. I would swing as high as possible and jump out and see how far I could go.”
“The house had open vents in the floor upstairs that I could see through to downstairs,” Little continued. “I assume now that they were designed to transmit heat from downstairs to upstairs, but as a youngster I used them to keep track of what the adults were doing downstairs when I had been sent to bed.”
Stratton and Holstein now hope to find a swing for their property, and the names carved in the concrete are being saved for posterity. Stratton also said they’ll preserve the open vent upstairs in remembrance of Little’s youthful antics.
“The house is a structure; it’s the people who make it a living thing,” Stratton said. “This house was once the jewel in Fruita, and I want it to be that again.”
And for folks who are just curious about the Masser House or want to volunteer, Stratton and Holstein suggest stopping by to say “hi!” Everyone is welcome.
“The more the merrier!” Stratton said.
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