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My parents, Betty and Sam Breene were good friends of the Morcks and Averys. As a child our family spent many happy times at Chamor. Bob Hadley (see his story below) did a great job of capturing the spirit and history of the house so I won’t reiterate what he has said. I do remember Ted Avery as larger than life. He was from Montana and went to Andover — a “cowboy” who recited Shakespeare. Gus was a sweetie who made a fuss over all the kids. Ted had some peculiar notions and one of them was that the pool did not need a filter; nature would provide a natural filtration system. The outcome of that experiment was a “cement pond” murky and green filled with frogs and who knew what. That episode was short lived and soon it was restored to clear, clean blue water.
Most of all I remember happy family parties where we played “sardines,” where I ate pizza for the first time, and where I played with Punky Morck. We ran around after Ted and Anne Avery and my sister, Abbie and brother, Charlie who would occasionally deign to include us. I do remember going there as a teenager with Ted Avery and his best friend, Mike Ritchie. I think I was there when Bob Hadley was the host, too. Lots of fun.
Gina Breene Wickwire
I used to go to Chamor many times when I was young as my parents and all the owners were friends. When I was little, the place was owned was by Ted and Gus Avery. Gus was the sister of Bill Morck and she and Bill inherited the house from their parents. Their mother’s maiden name was Chambers – thus the name Chamor ( Chambers and Morck). Bill Morck was my Godfather. Then the Avery’s and Forrest Koontz, President of Quaker State, actually traded houses and the Avery’s moved to West 6th Street. The Koontz’s didn’t stay there long. In the late 1950’s or early 1960’s my uncle, Lloyd Bracken and his wife Hazel bought the place from the Koontz’ and our family had Christmas dinner there every year. My sister [Barbara] had her wedding reception there in 1963. Funny story, Dick Frame, the congressman, showed up at the reception uninvited.
There was a beautiful concrete in-ground swimming pool there and I would go out there with my friends on hot summer days. The place was beautiful and well cared for when I used to go there. I can see where the pool was in the pic[ture] but not sure it is useable. There was a little changing room for the pool located at the end of the yard in the upper corner near the woods. If you were looking at the pool from the house it would have been to the left…maybe 75 yards from the pool. Not sure why it was so far from the pool. I used to take Gary Proper, Gene Showers, Ted Stoudt, Daisy Straub and others out there on hot summer days to swim. Ever since the Averys owned the property up through the Brackens I always had access to the pool whenever I wanted.
The master living room was huge with balconies on each end that led to bedrooms. Another funny story, in the winter that huge room had a fireplace at each end of the room and one day my father started a fire in both fireplaces. Bad idea because one fireplace was hotter than the other and drew smoke away from it and the entire living room was filled with smoke. I guess they resolved it rather quickly because no one called the the fire station.
They had white rabbits running wild out there because one Easter the Avery’s got white rabbits and after awhile just let them go and they multiplied. They were everywhere.
The Bracken’s sold the property to [the Feroz] family that lived in the area. They had several sons [Gary & Donald] that played locally in a rock band. I think is was an Italian name. I do not know who owns it now or what condition it is in.
I remember one time when I was young, maybe 12, that my elderly aunt was sitting in a chair in the large living room below one of the balcon[ies] and I lowered a fake rubber spider on a string and dangled in front of her…. I got in soooooo much trouble for that.
The tennis courts were on the opposite side of the house from the pool. Looking at the satellite pic[ture] the courts area is not shown… I would say they were up in the vicinity of where it says “closer look” in the caption of the previous birdhouse pic[ture]. We always considered the front of the house to be the side where the circular drive and garage is and the back of the house faced the pool. So the pool was actually in the backyard.
When my Uncle Lloyd Bracken died, Aunt Hazel, his widow, remained living there and married Mike Hazel. Ironically, she became Hazel Hazel… although Hazel was actually her nickname. To be honest I never knew her real first name. She was always Aunt Hazel to me. She was a lovely lady with a terrific smile. She was a nurse in her early years. She always called me Bobby… never Bob.
After they sold Chamor to Feroz, the Hazels moved to a nice brick house on the lower side of West First Street past Cowell Avenue but before Mayer Street. Mike Hazel was from Texas and they also had a home there, so they traveled between Oil City and Texas.
Mike Hazel actually got me my first job out of college at Oilwell. I worked there for 13 plus years.
The picture of the dining room is where we had our Christmas dinner during the Bracken years. One of the bathrooms is where I threw up at my sister’s reception in 1963 from drinking way too much champagne. My mother said I was just emotional because my sister got married (ha ha), to which my sister said “Yeah right Mom, he’s drunk ! ”
Ted Avery, Gus’ husband, was a cowboy in his youth and also a college football player (at least that is what people believed). I want to say he was from Montana or Wyoming but not sure… it was somewhere out west. They had a lot of western/cowboy art in the house. I remember a small statue of a cowboy on a bucking bronco and also a large painting of a cowboy riding on a prairie with mountains in the distance. He was a large man with a rather loud voice and very boisterous. Both the Avery’s liked to drink and Gus was such a happy person it was hard to tell if she had had a few or not.
Now my Uncle Lloyd Bracken was a different story. I think he drank all the time. All those people came from the Prohibition Era and drinking was just a way of life in their social circles. Not many drank beer, almost always mixed drinks for the ladies and booze on the rocks for the men. Everyone smoked constantly at their parties. Kind of reminds one of the Great Gatsby parties.
I believe the Avery’s used to live there. Mrs. Avery was a Morck. Her husband’s name was Ted. They had two children – Ann and Ted. I don’t think they ever went to public school, but attended private schools. When I knew them, they lived on West 6th St. You might want to ask the Jim Crawford if he knows anything because his parents were friends with the Averys.
I used to go to this mansion in Seneca and swim with a friend of mine who lived there with his family. It was a incredible place as I remember and the swimming pool was also very big at least to me as a kid. I think now that his name was Ted Avery?
George Shaw married Jennifer many years ago. He is in poor health in Fla. Jennifer had a huge auction last year  and sold many unique items George rounded up over the years. George was very interested in the history of the area and saw value in many “old” things long before we new about “antiques”.
Having a wonderful time (again!) looking at the great work you did on the River Ridge site. Very enjoyable on so many different levels! My sister and her family actually lived in the gatehouse for a short period and a friend rented Featherstone while attending Venango Campus. Great seeing all these features again!
I couldn’t help but notice the similarities to another more diminutive, but still great local mansion, Chamor, located next to the high school out in Cranberry. I became familiar with it when the Feroz family lived there, before it was sold to George Shaw and his ‘controversial’ lady friend, Jennifer Wesner. From what I understand, it was the combined household of two ladies with long time ties to Oil City history, The Ms’s Chay and Morck.
It had wonderful, if not rundown features when I frequented there many years ago, including tennis courts, a very large heated swimming pool, a greenhouse, servant’s quarters, huge fireplaces in the living room, outdoor rose gardens and traces of a scenic stream with fountains and spillways for their enjoyment. The living room featured a balcony overlooking it from one of the bedrooms; a much more common home feature these days, but very unique back then.
Not sure what the status of the place is these days, but often thought its days of glory would make a great story, before its lost to time.
Thanks again for your fabulous work!
PS: Upon viewing your Monarch Park site, I had to dig out my scrapbook of pictures taken from the Derrick when they ran the “Bringing Back the Days of Monarch Park” series in the 60’s, just to see if I had any views not included in your site. I did not! And mine are much more faded now…
I thought that it was built by Mr. and Mrs. Morck whose oil city residence is still very much evident on West First Street. Chay was the maiden name of Mrs. Morck and it was built as their summer home.
I’ve been in it and around the grounds when George Shaw first purchased it.
in one of the gardens the ground is completely covered in ivy and shade trees with the sun coming in rays thru the trees and a stone bench here and there. i told George that I felt I was in a scene from “A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream”. “Funny you should say that”, he said…”this was called the ‘Shakespearian Garden’ on the grounds landscaping prints”…which he had at the time.
I’ve only been to Chamor once, so I can’t provide many details. It has been owned by Jennifer Wesner Shaw of Knox (she probably still goes by Wesner) and, I think, her husband George Shaw of Shaw Industries. I THINK she was going to try to sell it, according to recent rumors. She bought it so she could have her family reunions there. George, who is old and feeble, lives in Florida with his daughter, Carol, or in a nursing home there. Jennifer, I believe, is still in Knox. I’m sure she would be more than happy to talk about Chamor.
Chamor is a spectacular home. I have been in parts of it a couple different times about 40-45 years ago. I know that George Shaw (Shaw Industries) bought it 20-30 years ago. The place is nothing even close to what River Ridge is. Do you know where the new Cranberry Elementary and Cranberry High School are? It’s the driveway just to the right of the entrance to the new schools. I am not sure if George Shaw is still alive, but a large portion of his antique collection was sold off a couple years ago and he was not at the auction. I thought that he must have been in a nursing home and his girl friend (her name escapes me right now, she was the infamous mayor of Knox at one time) was in charge of selling the antiques. I believe that she still lives at Chamor Manor. I call her the crazy old blond lady from Knox. If I remember correctly, about a year or so ago, there was an article in the Derrick about Chamor. It was either build by oil money or by a banker. As I recall, it definitely does not have the history behind it that River Ridge has. However, please don’t stop searching for information. There may be something of interest there.
I remember swimming in the pool at Chamor that is shown on the Google Map at the web site. I must have been around age 10, but I clearly remember wanting to be invited to the house to swim. My parents were friends with the Morcks and the Averys who owned the property after the Morcks. The Averys had a daughter, Anne, who was my or my brother’s age and I believe that was our entrée to visit. The Averys sold the house sometime prior to 1960 and moved to 6th Av so the pool parties stopped.