Lost Macon County
722 West Wood, Decatur
The Wiswell - Bachrach Home
Compiled by Gayle P. Jones
The abandoned, ramshackle house at 722 West Wood Street had once been a lovely,
elegant home, filled with family and friends. It had seen parties, births, anniversaries and
weddings, even death, but those events could not stop the march of time across the fabric of the
delapidated building. It had been stripped of everything of any value, while sheltering the
vagabond on chilly nights and playing to the curiosity of mischievous boys by day.
At an earlier time, the 14 room house was the home of James Wiswell, his
wife Sophronia and their children; Theodosia, Jesse, Estella, Mabel, Lillian and Roy. James
Wiswell was the President of the Niagra Pump Company(1), and was one of the
incorporators of The Decatur Manufacturing and Lumber Company(2). The parents
lost Mabel in 1879 (3), and Theodosia in 1881(4).
In 1894, Mr. C. Henry Bachrach bought the property at 722 West Wood Street from James Wiswell
for $4000 (5). He was quite well known around the city as the owner of Cheap
Charley's, a clothing store whose name was later changed to Bachrach's and had the distinction
of being the oldest clothing store in town (6).
The Bachrach's moved into the house in December 1894 (7), and in 1898
they celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversay (8) in those cheerful rooms. Many social
activities also occurred in the house. It was the stage for the marriage of Mattie Bachrach to Benjamin
F. Bornheim in 1901 (9).
The Bachrach's were famous for throwing annual picnics for the children in their neighborhood.
In 1904 they celebrated their 17th annual picnic on the farm of A.C. Birks, about 2 miles west
of Harristown. There were athletic events all day - football, baseball, sack race, shoe race, unmarried
ladies running race, married women's running race, fat women's race, fat men's race, bald headed men's race,
potato race. Both lunch and supper were served, then afterwards everyone returned to town(10).
Henry Bachrach died in 1917 (11) and the house changed hands over the years. In 1918, it was
occupied by Mrs. Lulu J. Lamb, in the newspaper relating that her only son Charles enlisted in the
army and had been sent to Deming, New Mexico(12). By 1925, the house had been abandoned,
tied up in the estate of S.O. Harvell (13).
Neighbors, at first forlorn that the house was falling into disrepair, grew increasingly
concerned as drifters wandered to and from the old house. The fire department had made several trips to the
house to put out fires and the police had been called to the site many times. Residents of the area
finally signed a petition, asking the city council to take action on the property. The mayor concurred
On 15 June 1928, the decision was announced that the old house had been sold by J.R. Paisley
to James O'Mara with the understanding that it would be torn down and removed within sixty days. Mr. O'Mara
planned to use the material in other construction work, though no plans at the time for the subsequent
vacant lot had been made (15).
It took two years for something to be done with the vacant lot that was once the site of a
proud home. In 1930, Charles R. Miller & Sons was given permission to construct a $30,000 apartment
building on that site (16), and in April of the following year, it was announced that
Mrs. Arlenna Donovan was the owner of the new building, and construction was underway for eight apartments
comprising 38 rooms and 8 baths at a cost of $50,000 (17).
Read an article about the sad
demise and destruction of this architectural treasure.
1. The Daily Review, 4 Jul 1886
2. Decatur Daily Republican, 5 Dec 1887
3. Mabel Wiswell - Obit
4. Theodosia Wiswell - Obit
5. Decatur Daily Republican, 21 Sep 1894
6. Decatur Sunday Review, 10 Jun 1928
7. The Daily Review, 22 Dec 1894
8. The Daily Review, 15 Jan 1898
9. The Daily Review, 8 May 1901
10. The Daily Review, 25 Aug 1904
11. Henry Bachrach - Obit
12. Decatur Review, 25 Aug 1918
13. Decatur Herald, 27 Jun 1927
14. Decatur Review, 8 Dec 1927
15. Decatur Review, 15 Jun 1928
16. Decatur Herald, 6 Jul 1930
17. Decatur Herald, 3 Apr 1931
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