The Gustave Luer House

The Gustave Luer House   

Gustave Luer House
June 23, 2021

     The Gustave Luer House was located on Washington Highway at the foot of John Mowry Road in Smithfield, R. I.  It was burned for training purposes by the fire department in June of 2021. (See photos below.)

     The house was the realization of a dream conceived by a man named Gaustave Luer, who was born on a farm near Brunswick, Germany, in 1888. He came to America in 1911, but had to return to Germany in 1914. While there he was conscripted into the Kaiser’s army and forced to fight in World War I. He saw action at what was known as the “Western Front”, and was shot through the right leg.

     When the war ended he made his way to South America, and eventually returned to the United States in 1922. He later met and married Isle Stoebr, and their union was blessed with two daughters. By 1941 the couple was living in Rhode Island where Gustave found work as a pastry chef at the former Narragansett Hotel in Providence.

     Gustave was now in his early 50s. He’d always dreamed of owning a home in the country, and in 1942 he purchased a parcel of land on Washington Highway in Smithfield. The lot had an abundance rocks and stones, which provided convenient and long lasting building materials.

     And thus Gustave began the long road to making his dream a reality. Originally working by himself, he laboriously moved each stone into place. It wasn’t long before he enlisted the help of a John Corelli, a busboy at the Narragansett Hotel, who agreed to help when he could. At the time, John was a student at Nathaniel Green Junior High in Providence.

     Together Gustave and John worked on the enormous project, an endeavor that would last for the next nine years. During that time John graduated La Salle Academy in 1947 and Providence College in 1952.

     In 1951 Gustave suffered a stroke and lost the use of one arm, but the setback didn’t deter him from his goal. Working with just one arm he carried on, mortaring stones in place.

     By 1953 the house was finally completed at a cost of $12,000, which was a substantial sum of money for the time, but the cost would have been much higher if Gustave and John hadn’t done most of the labor. The house was dubbed, “The House of Yesterday”. When a newspaper reporter asked Gustave about the name he replied, “Well, I couldn’t call it the House of Today, could I?”

     The completed building was something to behold. The main entrance hall contained a massive fire place, and four master rooms, a kitchen, and a bath, occupied the first floor. The second floor contained an apartment which was rented to a family with two children.

     On March 2, 1956, disaster struck as flames ripped through the two story structure. Fire companies from Georgiaville, Greenville, Johnston, and North Providence battled the stubborn fire, and laid 1,500 feet of hose to reach a water source to draw from. When it was over, the second floor was partially destroyed and gutted. Damage was estimated at $50,000, and the cause was determined to be faulty wiring. Fortunately all occupants were able to evacuate safely.

     One can only imagine the disappointment Mr. Luer felt as he watched nine years of his life’s hard work go up in smoke. However history has shown that the house was rebuilt.

     By the spring of 2021 the property had been sold and the house was slated for demolition to make way for modern development.    

     The following photos were taken on June 23, 2021.

Click on images to enlarge.





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