Inside the Caretaker's House at Sigsbee Reservoir
One of the most famous houses in Erie is located on West 26th Street at the Sigsbee Reservoir. It's the Old Caretaker's House built in 1873. Many people who pass by the house probably wonder what it would be like to live there. Well, there's only one person who really knows.
Jerry Grafius is 90 years old. He claims he is the only person still around today that lived in the Caretaker's House.
"There's nobody left. I'm it,” he says.
Jerry lived in the Caretakers House from the time he was an infant in 1931 until he was 14 years old. His grandfather, Frederick Wittenburg, was the caretaker at the reservoir from 1906 until the time he died in 1944. Jerry remembers every inch of the Caretaker's House. He says the first floor contained a dining room on the 26th Street side. It contained a kitchen on the Sigsbee Street side.
"Where we kept the washing machine, the hot water tank, the stove, and the ice box. Not a refrigerator, but an ice box,” remembers Jerry.
The second floor was where Jerry's grandparents had their bedroom. There also was a living room with a balcony that overlooks 26th Street. Jerry says every December his family placed a Christmas tree in the balcony window. That practice continues today by Erie Water Works. Jerry remembers those family Christmases at the Caretaker’s House.
"They brought the Christmas tree up the ramp in through my grandfather's bedroom because you could never get it up those steps. It would never make the turn."
Those steps are not very wide and they are very steep.
"Oh, I could fly up those steps and down those steps. Yes. Yes. Even the ones that went to the third floor."
The third floor has two bedrooms. Jerry shared one room with his brother and his mother. The other bedroom belonged to his uncle. There was a space heater but it was still cold inside during the winter.
"My brother and I would see who was the toughest because the windows would freeze. We would go and see who would hold their hand against the glass before they had to pull off."
Speaking of tough, Jerry would help his grandfather mow the steep slanted lawn surrounding the entire reservoir. They did it with a push mower. It was the Depression Era but he was happy.
"You were young. You don't know any better,” he says.
Jerry believes there was only one person who succeeded his grandfather as caretaker and lived at the Caretaker's House. It's believed that man was there for only a couple of years until 1947.