It’s a breezy Sunday afternoon, and Associate Professor of Anthropology Kimmarie Murphy is standing in her dining room looking out into her front yard.
The window Murphy looks out of was once the front entrance to a one-room school house. In 2004, Murphy and husband Bruce Hardy, John B. McCoy Bank One distinguished teaching professor of anthropology, moved into their suburban Mount Vernon home — situated about 15 minutes from campus. The entire front half of the house and the garage, which are connected by a breezeway, were all part of an educational facility from 1853 until 1937, when it was converted into a living space. Murphy is fascinated by the home’s history and said she and Hardy hope to discover even more about their home. There is a volume on one-room schoolhouses in the Gambier public library, but extensive documentation of the family’s home is difficult to come by.
Since the building became a house, it has undergone extensive renovations and remodeling. The belltower that once adorned the top of the schoolhouse is now a guest bedroom and bath. A second, larger chimney now accompanies the first, which is no longer used, on the shingled roof.
Murphy and Hardy’s new house came with a few quirks. One unique feature is an old-fashioned ceiling vent next to the kitchen entrance. It resembles a silver airplane propellor and still functions, although the family rarely uses it. Another is a heater with an open coil that glowed when Hardy turned it on upon finding it about a decade ago. The family is not sure if it still works; Hardy remarked that after evaluating the safety of the contraption, the family wasn’t exactly inclined to use it.
Hardy’s favorite part of the house is the kitchen, which serves as a center for entertaining. He is an avid cook, and the family frequently hosts dinner parties for friends, serving dishes from an array of cuisines. As one minor renovation to the house, the couple splurged on a chrome gas stove, which Hardy uses frequently. This love of food is reflected in the name of one of the family’s two cats: Tchoupitoulas, or Toulie for short, named after a traditional Cajun dish made with meat — usually chicken — and potatoes. Many of Hardy and Murphy’s pets have been named after Cajun dishes, except for an energetic Fox Terrier named Ancho and a bushy-tailed “evil boy cat,” according to Murphy, called Puff — given to Murphy as a gift by one of her former advisees.
“That’s what happens when you let your kids name your cat,” Murphy said with a laugh.
Hardy and Murphy’s property bears the mark of a home well-worn by family life. Murphy loves to sew, and one item on display in the dining room is a sculpture of an antique sewing machine from her mother-in-law. She also has a table dedicated to her craft in a back room of the house; she is currently making a “shield warrior princess” Halloween costume for her daughter. The couple’s son Duncan, a freshman in high school, plays the acoustic bass, and his instrument sits in the corner of the living room.
Various trinkets — often of magical creatures, which Hardy’s father has a fondness for — also enliven the living room. The dining room is decorated with hand-painted china gifted by Hardy’s mother; many depict scenes of Zambia and Zimbabwe, countries where Murphy did anthropological work during graduate school. Murphy loves bright colors, so the walls of each room in Hardy and Murphy’s home are painted a different hue. Now that they have finished repainting, the family plans to reroof the house and update its siding, which is starting to wear down.
“Home ownership is a continual work in progress,” Murphy said.