The bungalow at 114 E 34th Street was my childhood home, where I grew up, in the neighborhood of my youth. I have strong memories of playing in Baker’s Field behind my backyard, walking to Jefferson School playground with my cousins and neighborhood friends, hosting our annual “Don’t Let the End of Summer Be A Bummer” picnics in the huge backyard (which was essentially an entire un-built lot), riding my bike past the mansions of Glenwood Hills nearby, venturing into the woods by Mill Creek off Eliot Road. The home held many memories of the time my family owned it (from 1981-2007) and my mother has asked me numerous times to figure out its history. So for my mom, Pam, on Mother’s Day, here is what I came up with.
The home at 114 East 34th Street was originally owned by George and Helen “Nellie” Vance. They purchased the home after it was built in 1928 and owned the home until Helen’s death in 1964. George Vance was born in 1884 in Dunkirk NY but moved to Erie as a child. His father worked at Erie Malleable Iron Works at 12th and Cherry (which will soon no longer be standing) and the family lived at 645 W 10th Street (which is no longer standing) in 1900 and at 558 W 11th (which is no longer standing) in 1920, eventually moving to 562 W 8th Street (which IS still standing). George’s father, George Sr. was from Canada and his mother, Kate Froehlich Vance, was of German descent and grew up in Dunkirk NY. George was an engineer for the New York Central Railway his entire career, retiring in 1951.
Helen was born in Erie in 1888 to Samuel and Cecelia Hauck. Her family lived in McKean and her father Samuel was a grocer. Her mother, Cecelia, was of Ohio Mennonite lineage and grew up on a farm. Helen’s family later moved to the City where her father worked as a merchant at Common Hose (women’s hosiery).
Helen and George married in 1917. The couple had one child, John Richard Vance, who died at one year of age from gastro-enteritis. They never had any other children.
After Helen died in 1964, the home was purchased by Edwin and Eileen Wagner who lived there for four years. Edwin and Eileen were both employees of General Electric.
Then it was occupied briefly from 1968-1970 by David and Kristina Kendell. And in 1970 it was purchased by John and Loretta Brumfield, who owned the home up until my parents, Pamela and Dennis Nemenz purchased the home in the early 1980s.
In his youth, John Brumfield was a standout baseball pitcher (who pitched a 7 inning 1 hitter against Strong Vincent, setting a long standing record, in his freshman year) and football Quarterback for Tech Memorial. He played for All Star Leagues and was a local high school baseball phenom (his name was in the papers constantly for his outstanding pitching prowess). He continued to play baseball as an adult for different local leagues. John and Loretta were married in 1964, they had a son, Tommy, who passed away at 2 years old. They went on to have three more children. Upon selling the home in 1981, the Brumfields moved to Texas.
It was the Brumfield family who took the home from the 1920s to the 1970s and I recall vividly the puce green shag carpeting, the avocado tub and toilet, and the textured ceilings in the living room and dining room. I do recall a few remnants of the old, original home. There were original windows when we lived there that were replaced, but a couple remained: one rope and wood window in the first floor bathroom and one original casement window on the eastern side of the living room. There was still unpainted beadboard on the front porch ceiling as well as in parts of the kitchen, which also had a couple of original wood doors.
My mother sold the home to downsize in 2007 and it was sold again in 2017 and in 2020. The interior has been totally renovated, with an open floor plan on the entire first floor. At some point, a large garage was constructed in what was previously the most spacious yard on the block (which is triangle shaped, and begins doubled homes along 34th and 33rd after 114 E 34th St). In some small 1970s victory to someone somewhere, the wood paneling that covered the second floor is still there (although it has been painted).