There seems to be some misinformation as to what happened to the house where movie great Oliver Norvell Hardy was born. One story is that the house was moved. This is not true.
I would like to give some history about two different houses.
Oliver Hardy Sr. and Emily Norvell Tant were married in March 1890. They moved to Madison where they ran a hotel. Mr. Hardy for many years was tax collector for Columbia County. When Mrs. Hardy was ready to give birth to their baby, she returned to the home of her parents, the Norvells.
The Norvell house was located behind the railroad depot on what is now South Hicks Street in Harlem. Little Ollie was born there on Jan. 18, 1892.
This was a big house, and some folks remember it was painted brownish-yellow. There was a huge pomegranate bust growing in the yard, and all the children around Harlem would visit the house when the pomegranates were ripe, hoping to pluck one off the bush.
After the Norvells, there were a number of people who resided in the house. The house remained undisturbed until it was torn down in 1957.
A laundromat now adorns the site where the house stood. Sons of the Desert, Berthmarks Tent members placed a monument there, and seasonal flowers are planted around it.
A house on Freeman Harris Road was never moved from anywhere. You can very easily see that the chimneys and the hand-hewn beams under the house were put there when the house was built over a century and a half ago.
Several years ago, some members of city government, my daughter and I went out to look at this house. We examined underneath it, which was easy because it is high off the ground - in fact, all you have to do is duck your head and walk under. The purpose of this expedition was to see if the house could be moved.
This house was a family home on the Hardy side, located two miles from Punkin Center. Over the years Oliver would visit his relatives there and bring his movies to show to family and friends.
This in all probability is the house in which Oliver Sr. was born on Dec. 5, 1841 to Samuel and Catherine Hardy.
Harlem has paid tribute to its native son with the annual Oliver Hardy Festival for the past 13 years. The 14th annual Oliver Hardy Festival is planned for Oct. 5.
It is gratifying to see the Laurel and Hardy Museum open for fans to enjoy. Many items come in every day from all over the world and are proudly displayed.
Eugene Clary of Marietta, a former Harlem resident, has supported the museum by donating $25,000, and we are proud to say he is a native son. The building has been named and dedicated in his honor.
(Bette J. Sargent is a Harlem historian, and an organizer of the Oliver Hardy Museum. Her column will appear occasionally in The News-Times.)
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