Historic Structures

Augustus Donnelly House (David Harum House), Homer New York

Date added: February 15, 2010 Categories: New York House Gothic Revival

It is widely accepted that David Hannum, owner of the house, was the inspiration for the title character of "David Harum", a novel by Edward Noyes Westcott. Westcott's father knew Hannum and many of the events and places in Hannum's life appear in the novel.

Hannum was bom in Preble, New York, in 1823. He was married twice, first to Charlotte Hancock. They had one child who died at the age of eight, and shortly thereafter his wife died. He was married again to Lois Babcock, but the child of this union also died.

Hannum was a fairly successful merchant, although he died bankrupt. He had a reputation as a horse trader and story teller. Hannum took part in the "Cardiff Giant" hoax and was largely responsible for its being exhibited around the country.

David Hannum died a poor man in 1892. His furniture was sold by his sister at auction. Upon learning that Hannum had died bankrupt. Will Rogers, who had played David Harum in the movie of the same name, is said to have donated the memorial stone on Hannum's grave.

The main house: 49' 8" (three bays) x 36' 6" plus a wing: 30' 8" (two bays) x 21' 9" plus rear ell: 27' 2" long and rear garage: 40' 5" along Hannum Avenue. The house has a side hall plan with circular stairs at the end of the hall. Many of the details are taken from Asher Benjamin's books. The street facade of the house and wing has flush horizontal siding intended to give the appearance of stone with overlapping Ionic pilasters and triple arcade on main house, double arcade on wing. The sides and rear are clapboard.

Augustus Donnelly's law office stood to the south of the house. Although it matches the north wing, it is not known if it was attached to the house, or was a separate wing. Sometime before 1870, it was moved to the rear and attached to the house. The door on the south side appears to have been built at the same time as the front porch in the Gothic Revival style. The present door on the south side of the entrance hall is an outside entrance and not a door into a wing.

When the porch on the north wing was removed in the 1930's or earlier, the battlements were taken off the top of the roof of the south portico and from the roofs of the front porches.

Except for the installation of modem plumbing and bathrooms (and heat), there has been little change in the interior. About 1960, some partitions were removed in the kitchens and pantry to make a larger, more convenient kitchen for Mr. and Mrs. Pierson. All fireplaces have been removed (except for one in the wing).