Location: 610 Springfield Avenue, Summit, Union, New Jersey, United States
Six-Ten - The 20th Century Ellis Homestead
- Theodore Horatio Ellis (1867-1945)
- Harriet Emily (Cumings) Ellis (1868-1922)
- Bernard Tenney Ellis Sr. (1889-1965)
- Charlotte Cumings (Ellis) Fenton (1895-1984)
- Minerva Tenney (Ellis) McCracken (1901-1996)
- Miriam Carmelita Cecilia (Delaney) Ellis (1894-1967)
- Bernard Tenney Ellis Jr. (1921-2010)
- John Theodore Ellis (1924-2014)
- Bradford J Powell (1904-1985)
(Continuation from reference in the profile of Theodore Horatio Ellis (1867-1945))
Though Theodore and Emily's children primarily grew up in Baltimore, were quite different in age, and had the normal absences for things such as boarding school, college, and military service, after WW I, they eventually all ended up living at Six-Ten as a family. The move was precipitated by Theodore's new job at Interocean Oil in New York City (the firm that had acquired his asphalt company in Baltimore), and perhaps was also influenced by the fact that his only surviving brother Albert had already settled in nearby Upper Montclair, New Jersey. When Bernard Sr/ finished college and his military service, his father recruited him to assist with Inter-Ocean's contracts to design and install Oil Refineries and Storage Facilies for the U.S. Shipping Board in the Caribbean, and they would later strike out on their own as independent consultants.
It was a great opportunity for Bernard--the only rub was that he had fallen in love with Miriam Delaney back in Baltimore. When one of the contracts would have meant a lengthy separation for the lovebirds, the couple hurriedly got married in Miriam's living room on Calvert Street in Baltimore, only ten days after her sister Kie had done the same thing, so that Miriam could join Bernard on his trip to Puerto Rico, and several other trips after that. One such trip was to St. Thomas Virgin Islands, which the US had bought from Denmark just one year prior, and where she gave birth to their first son, Bernard Jr.
Presumably to be close to the port of New York, where Theodore had had military duty, and where they could go straight to the Ocean Liners that would carry them to jobs all over the world, it was agreed that the entire extended family would live together in New Jersey, and to be close to the railroad, Summit, and Six-Ten, relatively new construction at that time, would be the place. There was certainly plenty of room for all. Charlotte and Minerva would frequently be home on breaks from boarding school or Smith College; Bernard brought his wife and then a new baby into the fold. Despite Prohibition, there were memorable holiday parties by the fire, as corsets, long hair and sherry yielded to flappers, bobs, gin fizzes and eggnog. But the happy, bustling home would suffer a major tragedy the following year in 1922, when Emily, their matriarch who was only in her fifties, died rather suddenly. She was sorely missed as Charlotte and Minerva eventually both got married, and joined their older brother in producing a healthy crop of grandchildren she would never get to meet.
The story goes that after a few years, retired widower Theodore Horatio was anxious to have his son buy out his share of "Six-Ten." He loved his grandsons Buddy and John, but they were noisy, and he and his new wife Alfreda "Prauncey" Brennan had their eyes on a snazzy new home on nearby Tulip Street. He also needed retirement cash, since Social Security did not yet exist. Bernard T. Ellis Sr. understood the situation but was far from thrilled with the timing. With two growing boys, affording the big house on his own was going to be a stretch, and he definitely couldn't handle a bigger mortgage payment on what he was making as the bridge inspector for Union County. He would have to find a way to pivot to something more lucrative back in the private sector, and that would take time--clearly more time than his father Thede intended to wait.
But Bernard couldn't imagine liquidating "Six-Ten." The large, beautiful home, drafty and expensive to heat though it may be, was already so full of memories for so many, and he couldn't live without his basement workshop and upstairs radio room. So that left only one way to get enough cash together to get his father Theodore off his back. He had no choice but to hastily sell all the stocks he had carefully researched for Buddy and John's college funds, and wouldn't you know it? He was going to have to get out of the game just as the market was really going gangbusters that summer, the Summer of 1929.
So, dear reader, you can probably guess that Bernard held onto that secure county job, and, from that point forward, Six-Ten was no longer just a home, but was treasured as a fortress that shielded the extended family from the worst of the Great Depression--and from each other! Relative newlyweds "Thede" and "Prauncie" enjoyed over fifteen years together on Tulip Street. One of the hobbies Theodore nurtured there was building and refinishing furniture. Great and great great grandchildren will recall a rustic footstool with the signature caption written with a Sharpie directly on the bark underneath: "Tulip Wood from Tulip Street." Though Minerva moved to the Albany area after she got married, Six-Ten was still where the extended family in New Jersey continued to gather. Bud and his family and whatever houseguests may have been in residence came from Madison for Sunday dinner every week for almost fifteen years.
FINALE' After Bernard Sr. died in 1965, Miriam, elderly by then, found herself no longer comfortable at Six-Ten, with its large rooms, vaulting stairs, and memories of her husband dominating her thoughts at every turned corner. Bud and Gerri had only just moved to a new home in Madison five years earlier, and Bud's job had him away for weeks at a time. Then came the surprise news that a new baby was coming, and the thought of taking on a move to Six-Ten, as well as all the repairs and maintenance he knew it would require, coming up with the cash to buy out his brother, not to mention settling four kids in new schools, all made the idea infeasible. Six-Ten was emptied of three generations worth of artifacts and sold, but the many memories created there continue to fill the minds that held them or had had them passed along.
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The man in the car is Bradford "Bud" Powell, Jr. Bud was a neighbor, and when he returned from WWII, his parents had passed away, and his family home had been sold. Bernard and Miriam welcomed him to stay with them until he got his bearings. He stayed for over 20 years! Until it was decided to close the house the year after Bernard's death in 1965, and he, Miriam, and another friend-turned-boarder Ceil McCormack all rented garden apartments at a nearby complex. Miriam died not much more than a year later, never having adjusted to life without her beloved husband Bernard, and not even able to refer to her new eponymous grandson, [Ellis-15229] by name, but rather as "That Baby" Ellis. "Uncle Bud" and "Aunty Ceil" continued to be regular fixtures at Ellis Sunday dinners as they had for decades, only now at Bud and Gerri Ellis's home in Madison, New Jersey.
Bernard D. Ellis April, 2017