Skinny House-A Memoir of Family is a story of perseverance in the face of ruin and a glimpse into the past of the inventive, remarkable people who gracefully ‘made it’ despite overwhelming societal and financial hurdles. It is a granddaughter’s story about the grandfather she never met. After digging through boxes of family memorabilia, the author weaves the legacy of Nathan Seely, one of the first African American homebuilders in Westchester County, New York. Nathan, an ambitious carpenter, establishes the Seely Bros. Construction Company in 1923 for the purpose of “building homes for colored people.” He has everything a man could want…a beautiful wife, smart children and a custom-built house in the Village of Mamaroneck, along the picturesque Long Island Sound.
Nathan’s success is short lived when The Great Depression roars through America, leaving him bankrupt and threatening to make his family homeless. Desperate to keep his family together, Nathan has to come up with a plan to rebuild his life. He will have to do it, literally, brick by brick.
Nathan’s 10-ft-wide, 3-story skinny home, built in 1932, still stands in Mamaroneck. Newspaper articles have focused on the architectural details of the famous house or the donated land upon which it is built, however the intimate story about the family who lived in the house has never been told. The author poses some intriguing questions for all of us. What do we really know about the lives, dreams and aspirations of our ancestors? How do the decisions our grandparents and parents made influence our lives? What are our roles as legacy makers?