Beloved Ballston home dates back to 18th Century
Not much is known about the history of the Scribner Home.
The blue and yellow historical marker that stands out front says that Zaccheus Scribner settled there in 1773, that his sons, Aaron and Thadeus, served in the militia and that Thadeus was Ballston’s first mail carrier.
Betty Warden, who for more than 50 years has lived in the pretty brown house that borders Ballston Lake, speculated about the marker’s message:
“It’s kind of vague as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
But she’s not intent on tracking down her home’s exact history.
“I make up my own,” she declared with a bright smile.
According to Ballston Town Historian Rick Reynolds, Zaccheus Scribner, who was born sometime before 1723 and died in 1799, was one of the 40 original settlers of the town of Ballston. “They came here mainly because the land was good here,” he said. “A lot of these people were farmers at that time.”
It’s unclear if Scribner was a farmer, but Warden said she believes his home was a one-room farmhouse when it was first built. The approximately 250-square-foot room where Scribner and his family likely cooked, ate and slept is now a living room with a brick fireplace and wide plank pine floors.
Not much in the room is how it was when the Scribners called it home. Windows have been added, the woodwork updated and the original fireplace replaced with a modest brick one. Judging from the ample supports in the basement, the fireplace the Scribners cooked their food in was large enough to walk into.
The warm pine floors and the hand-hewn beams that span the ceiling are original, and the steep staircase at one end of the room is likely the same one that led to a loft where the Scribners may have slept, Warden said.
She and her husband, Jim, moved to the house with their family in the early 1960s.
“I was pushing more for a development and Jim wanted a place where he could grow dandelions and it wouldn’t matter,” she recalled.
The home once sat on about 160 acres of land, but the Wardens purchased it with just 10, she said.
By the time they moved there, prior owners had added a room to the first floor and a second floor with four bedrooms and a small bathroom.
Dark, knotty pine
The place wasn’t much to look at, Warden recalled.
“It was like a den. It was so dark. They had dark, dark, dark wallpaper — dark, dark green in one room, deep red in the other, and then knotty pine all over the place,” she said.
The house was in rough shape when they moved in, and the previous owners were less than honest about the grounds, which were covered in snow when the Wardens signed the purchase papers.
“When we bought it, they said, ‘Oh, there’s a lovely patio back there, cement.’ Well, when the snow all left, the patio was a dump. They dumped all their cans and everything back there, so [there was] no patio at all,” she said.
The family spent long days clearing the property so daughter Susan could pasture a horse there. They tackled the majority of the home renovations themselves as well.
Room by room
“Every summer was a renovation of room by room by room,” recalled Warden’s son, Jim Jr.
The effort was a study in patience.
“If you did a project, you were back and forth to the hardware store five or six times a day, just trying to fix things up,” he recalled.
The home’s walls were filled with bricks, so insulation was added to the exterior and new clapboard siding installed.
Where an attached shed once was, the Wardens added a dining room. They converted the summer kitchen into one that is used year-round.
The house now measures about 2,000 square feet, Jim Warden Jr. estimated.
Betty Warden wanted to hold on to the home’s historic charm, but much was lost in the renovations, she said. The original plaster had been removed from the walls, so she decided to do what she could to restore them to their original appearance.
“I took plaster with a putty knife and went around to make it look old. As you can see, it’s not even,” she said, pointing to flaws she’d purposefully planted in the plaster. “Wasn’t that dumb? Nobody even notices.”
But the history her family has shared in the home has clearly made its mark.
There’s a door jamb, purposely left unpainted, where over the years the heights of the growing Warden children were recorded in pencil. There’s an in-ground pool out back where the Wardens’ kids once swam and now their grandchildren do. There’s the long wooden table in the dining room that speaks of many shared meals.
“It’s not wonderful, it’s not elegant, it’s not formal, it’s very informal, wonderful for family and children. You can’t hurt this place,” Warden said, looking fondly around her home. “We’ve been here a long time, raised kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Isn’t that wonderful? I am so blessed. I am incredibly blessed.”