Recently released novel set in Newton, can be purchased at Anderson’s

Brent Rueb talks outside of his and his wife, Sheree Rueb's, home, where the novel, "We, the House" takes place. Warren Ashworth and Susan Kander of New York wrote the book, and Ashworth's great-grandparents lived at the home. Wendy Nugent/HC Now

By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now

NEWTON—A home built in the Italianate architecture style on Ambleside Lane in Newton is one many probably haven’t seen, let alone known of its existence.

Built in 1883, it contains the figurative spirits of the past, written about in the book “We, the House,” in the form of history, as well as period décor.

Several people have resided in the home, which supplies the setting for the book, written by New York residents Warren Ashworth and Susan Kander, and published in print Oct. 7, 2021, and Oct. 13 on Kindle.

The work of fiction incorporates people who actually lived there, including Ashworth’s great-grandparents, Henry and Emmaline Hart. Henry Hart was an early Newton resident and Civil War veteran. The Harts had the Hart building downtown, which still stands at West Fifth and Main streets on the southwest corner, said Kris Schmucker, curator at the Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives in Newton, and Sheree Rueb, one of the current co-owners of the home, along with husband Brent Rueb.

The two-story structure encompasses 2,700 square feet.

“The original house was a little smaller,” Brent said. “There was an addition put on at some point.”

The ceilings are rather high and vary from room to room with the tallest being 10 feet, he said.

“The house is amazing—the original at least,” he said.

A former porch was enclosed into a room and was added quite a long time ago. The floor covers the stairs to nowhere, Brent added.

Sheree said the book’s authors visited the home about 12 years ago and that she didn’t think they had ever been there. Ashworth brought the Ruebs photos of the house from a long time ago with one that might’ve been a newspaper clipping with a road leading straight to the house. That road doesn’t appear to exist anymore.

“The house was here all by itself,” Sheree said.

They’ve done work to the home, including Sheree spending years on ladders stenciling ceilings, and they redid the kitchen, because when they purchased it, it had a 1960s flair.

“This is basically a farmhouse,” Brent said. “A big chunk [of land] on the west side of Sand Creek was theirs. The land went roughly to 12th Street north and encompassed most of Youthville.”

Hart had an icehouse on Sand Creek and businesses in town. In his research, Brent found Hart listed as being an entrepreneur and loaner of money.

The home has four bedrooms, two and a half baths, a trunk room where the family stored trunks used in traveling, women’s parlor, men’s parlor, dining room, kitchen, butler pantry and seating area in the former porch. While a fireplace is in the true-to-period decorated women’s parlor, the men’s parlor, also decorated true to the time, has a cast iron and metal stove.

Each parlor had a separate door, so men could enter from the outside into their parlor and women could enter from another area.

What would happen if they didn’t have divided access?

“People would talk,” Brent said, laughing.

The Ruebs found evidence in their home of it having a dumb waiter.

“This is the happiest old home we’ve ever been in,” Sheree said.

Original owner Henry Hart died in the home on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day, 1914. Emmaline, who was much younger, died circa 1945.

“We always found that interesting,” Sheree said. “Everybody who’s lived here has come to visit over the years.”

The Ruebs have had the home for 27 years. Names of people who’ve also resided there include the Cains, Longs, Arlen Anderson, Lances and Rose Sizemore.

“Interestingly enough, people can’t remember things,” Sheree said, adding details about history fade over time.

Brent said they can’t find any photos of the home’s interior from days gone by.

The book

Ashworth got the idea for the book during the holidays one year.

“This book started in my head one New Year’s Eve in the dining room of some friends,” he wrote in the book’s acknowledgments. “This couple, Brooke Schooley and David Head, live in an 18th century farmhouse that they restored with the utmost attention to detail. There were 10 of us sitting around the dining room table eating sumptuously and enjoying the champagne, the company, the candlelight and the fire in the fireplace.”

Hanging on a wall above a sideboard was an anonymous early-American portrait of a woman.

“I was seated next to our hostess, who was commenting on some aspect of 18th-century restoration, and then she turned to the portrait and said to her, ‘But you know all this, don’t you?'” Ashworth wrote.

He had the outline for the book four days later.

“The love/friendship relationship is between Mrs. Peale and the house itself, named Ambleside,” Kander said about what the book is about. “Mrs. Peale is a woman in a portrait that hangs on the wall of the house.”

The family characters are real in station and name, although the authors, who are married and have two children, fictionalized the characters.

“There was never a Mrs. Peale; however her painter, Ammi Phillips, is very real,” Kander said.

When touring the home, the couple was impressed and liked a variety of things about it.

“Its history, longevity, its gracious design and the fact that it was so lovingly rescued from neglect and ruin by its current owners, Brent and Sheree Rueb,” Kander said.

The name of the book is important.

“It underscores that Ambleside speaks in the first-person plural, and the story is entirely told by him,” Kander said.

The name of the home is Ambleside.

This is the couple’s first book.

“We have not done any other literary projects together, but we have been building carpentry projects since before we were married, and I worked for Warren as a cabinet maker’s assistant,” said Kander, who’s from Kansas City. “Among our post-marriage projects have been a cradle for our children and grandchildren, endless numbers of bookshelves, a magical custom music cabinet for our musician son, a magical wall unit bookshelf for our writer son, a timber-framed chuppa, and of course, the principal joint projects, two sons.”

Finding the book

The book can be purchased from Blue Cedar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Abe’s Books or ordered from any bookstore. The book also can be purchased locally at Anderson’s Books in downtown Newton.

 

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