A large crowd of residents, elected state officials, city council members, city employees, as well as regional history enthusiasts recently attended an open house dedication ceremony for the City of Hazelwood’s oldest home, the Utz-Teson (Tesson) House.
Not only is The Utz-Teson known for its sequence of distinguished owners throughout the years, but also it shows the different construction techniques used to build and expand the structure since the 1780’s.
It began as a simple one-room log structure, hand hewn from the forest around 1782 just after the United States gained its independence.
The original location of the Utz-Teson House was at the northwest corner of Utz Lane and Tesson Park Drive. In 1997, it was offered for sale by RCW Corporation, a developer who wanted to put in a new subdivision of 19 homes known as Tesson Park Estates.
Unless somebody bought it, the home would be destroyed. The City of Hazelwood stepped in to save the home by paying one dollar to the developer. In 2003, another developer, the Mills Corporation, paid to have the historic structure moved in one-piece to its current spot at Brookes Park.
In addition, Hazelwood retained the services of restoration architect Ted Wofford to oversee the renovations of this home.
The purpose of the city’s restoration efforts has been to showcase the different construction methods used on the building. Plans are to make it a museum-house which will eventually be accessible to the public, illustrating how these techniques changed over time.
Restoration of the exterior portion of the building began about a year ago. The city pre-qualified Seal Enterprises, in partnership with The Country Gentlemen, because of their specialization in log cabin restoration.
Some of the exterior work on the home included the following: log replacement; rough sheathing; new siding; new wooden guttering; and a porch floor. Also, a new roof, using white oak shingles specifically hand-cut for this project, was added. Monies from the city’s economic development sales tax budget, which can be used for tourism purposes, were used to finance the project.
The open house event marked the successful completion of the exterior renovations of the home.
Wofford said restoring a structure like The Utz-Teson House "speaks to us of cultural continuity."
"It reinforces the notion that our past matters and plays an important role in shaping our present and future," he said. "Education of each new generation counts as well.
"What makes this house interesting and an asset to our region is what it can tell us about our heritage and therefore, ourselves.”
Hazelwood’s Historic Preservation Commission chairperson Jaelithe Judy used the quote of a famous author to explain the event’s purpose, Frederic Harrison, author of The Meaning of History.
“All our hopes for the future depend on a sound understanding of the past,” Judy said.
The completion of the home’s exterior renovations is the next step of the ongoing work at Brookes Park to preserve people’s understanding of Hazelwood’s past for future generations.