Restored house built in 1870s to receive historic marker

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published October 14, 2015


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — There are no other homes in Shelby Township like the one owned by Myrna Mazure on 21 Mile Road, east of Van Dyke Avenue.

Gardner Hunt Runyan, a carpenter and farmer, built the structure in the 1870s near Van Dyke and Canal Road, a site behind the current BP gas station in Utica. He died in 1919 inside the home and is buried in the Utica Cemetery, along with his wife, parents and brothers.

In 1955, the house was moved to a farm near Hahn Road so that a local business could expand its parking lot.

“It was fortuitous that they moved it instead of tearing it down,” said Hilary Davis, of the Shelby Township Historical Committee. “I’m grateful for the person who did that. We don’t know who it was.”

Mazure said the house sat on the farm for an unknown length of time because the farmer wanted a fee to cross his property. Once it was paid, or whatever negotiations were made, she said the structure was moved to its current location.

“The neighbors thought it was either a hotel or an orphanage — something big. These were all single flat homes with no basements, and this one had a basement and is 2 1/2 stories,” she said.

In 1958, Joseph Mazure purchased the house and moved in with his first wife and their four children. He began expanding and renovating it. It now has 14 rooms, with running water and heat. He also added a kitchen to the upstairs and rented it out.

“You had to build your own closets because these houses didn’t have closets — they used armoires,” Mazure said.

In 1984, Myrna Mazure married Joseph, and the couple raised her two children from her first marriage until Joseph’s death in 2001. Her son, Shawn Priest; his wife, Alexis Priest; and their 11-year-old son, Ian, live in the upstairs unit of the home.

For years, the house remained white with black shutters.

Alexis, who grew up in New Baltimore, said she often passed the house as a teenager and thought that it was haunted.

“It was the creepiest-looking house,” she said. “Who would have thought this frog would have turned into a prince?”

Mazure said the house has spirits, but nothing malignant.

“Lights turn on and off. Appliances turn on by themselves. Doors close by themselves. We’ve had some movement, and of course, the house creaks anyway because it’s been moved,” she said. “Since (Runyan) died in (the front bedroom), nobody sleeps there, and we use it as an office.”

In August, Mazure had the wooden adornments painted blue and red, and in September, she had sterling gray vinyl put on the house.

“When you looked at the house (before), you never noticed all of the gingerbread on it, and no one saw all the molding. I wanted to get color on it so people could actually see how much detail there is,” Mazure said. “You can tell (Runyan) was a carpenter. He put an awful lot of molding into this house.

Davis said the criteria to receive a historical marker is that the property must be at least 50 years old and have significance to the history of Shelby Township. The Historical Committee, she said, will order the marker soon.

“The way she did the paint job just brought out the incredible trim. It’s eye-popping,” Davis said. “It’s wonderful to know that there are people who live in this township who love their historic homes, and Mrs. Mazure is definitely one of them. She and her children love that house.”