I mentioned Adrian and Leslie Brisee in this newsletter more than a year ago. The New York couple read a listing for an abandoned school building on eBay. It sounded like what they were looking for; so, the couple drove from their home in New York to Iowa to inspect the building. They made an offer, and it was accepted soon after. Adrian said he needed the room to store his genealogy books. (You can read that article here.)
There must be a lot of books involved. The Brisee's previous home was a former hotel near Albany - not just a room, but the entire hotel. "The (hotel) ceilings were starting to sag because of the books," Leslie said. The books are Adrian's. He is into genealogy.
"It started as a hobby, but it got out of control," according to Adrian. Today he has over 12,000 items.
"I always wanted to live in a school," Adrian said. "We were looking for a bigger retirement place."
Since the article was published last October, the former New York couple packed up seven truckloads of his genealogy books, tapes, journals and CDs along with her dolls, craft supplies and writing materials. They drove the trucks to their new home in the former Irwin Elementary School of Irwin, Iowa.
The couple's new home is indeed a larger place. The three-story former school is now their 22,000 square-foot home. The building contains numerous classrooms, locker rooms, a full gymnasium and still has a large school bell on the roof.
The main floor of the Brisee's new home holds the genealogy center. The old kindergarten room houses her collection of dolls and doll furniture. She dresses up Barbies and other dolls in period clothing, which she makes in her craft/writing room.
"They are for display," she said. "I get attached to them and don't want to part with them." She's already had townspeople in to view the doll display.
The Brisees held an open house in June and invited the town to come see the old school and hear of their plans for it. The Brisees are also opening their doors to area genealogy enthusiasts. "We may offer genealogy classes here," Adrian said.
Apparently the life in Iowa agrees with the Brisees. An article in the Daily Nonpareil Online claims that the "New Yorkers are fitting right in to this southwest Iowa town of 372." In fact, the article quotes Leslie Brisee as saying, "We love the people here. Several people stopped by when we moved and invited us to church. That never happened in New York."
You can learn more about this privately-owned genealogy center on the Daily Nonpareil Online web site.