NYACK, N.Y. — As a former trustee and current volunteer at the Edward Hopper House Art Center, I have spent a lot of time in the esteemed American realist painter’s birthplace home. In the mornings, I have heard noises in the Federalist/Queen Anne structure that give off warm vibes.
It could not be otherwise. Young Edward, from an early age, was encouraged to draw. His parents even sent him to art schools after Edward’s 1900 graduation from Nyack High School, a rarity in an age when middle-class families sought professional careers in the medical and legal professions for their offspring.
So, the house at 58 North Broadway, now number 82, must have been busy with family purring. Mother Elizabeth and sister Marion also drew, and father Garrett, a dry goods merchant in town, would rather keep the quiet and read and read.
I have done handyman work at the Hopper homestead for about 10 years, following in the footsteps of many volunteers who in the 1970s saved the then-rundown house from possible demolition. They tore up floors, restored the wide-plank pine boards, fixed sash, poured a basement floor, rewired, added a bathroom and restored and enhanced the gardens. Then they offered the house as an art center to showcase artists of all persuasion.
Today, the mission continues, with archival material from Edward’s Nyack years, more art installations, and plans to showcase the house as interest in Hopper’s iconic work persists. The Hopper House receives visitors from around the world.
Last Sunday I was installing electrical service and computer cables, drilling holes in a closet in the “new” master bedroom (added about 1882 to the 1858 home), when I again heard creaking noises, footstep-like sounds. And, again, they did not bother me, and I did not bother the ghosts.
I tolerate ghosts, have seen them in Rockland and at the old North Church in Boston, and have never felt threatened. I usually say something aloud, such as “Hi, hope you can leave this place and join happy eternity,” figuring a ghost is in this world because he or she still has an earthly connection that must be released.
Back at my handyman duties, snaking cable from the upstairs bedroom to a downstairs office, I had to drill a half-inch hole in the closet floor. The first one was off the mark, so I did another a foot away.
Eventually, the cables were in, but I was left with an extra hole and knew I needed a plug. Just as I banged the last nail, the very piece I longed for came popping out of nowhere in the closet. Fit like a glove.
I guess Edward, or someone at Hopper House, was my ghost-assistant. Thank you.
Art Gunther is a retired newspaperman. He can be reached at email@example.com. This piece was originally published at thecolumnrule.com.