We recently caught up with Lawrence Ponzek, who had NO IDEA that listing an old family heirloom on eBay would launch him on a spontaneous little adventure back to his East Falls roots. We’re delighted he reached out to us, and shared his memories of the house and neighborhood in the 70’s.
Lawrence Ponzek lived in Hohenadel House from 1960 to 1976. He was the oldest son of four boys who all eventually wound up working for the family business, Lawrence Ponzek and Sons Grains Incorporated. The successful trucking company had been founded by his father, who also sold spent grain from Philadelphia breweries to dairy farmers in four states (we’re guessing the “pig farmer” rumor is wrapped up in this somewhere).
His room was the “turret room with the big round window spot.” He called the room the moment he saw it — his brothers were mad but what could they do? He was oldest! He laughed when we told him that Soleil (the Hawley’s firstborn) also picked that room out for herself.
Of course she would. It’s obviously the nicest.
They. Loved. This. House.
All of them, every inch of it. To hear Lawrence speak about his years here, it’s like he’s telling a fairy tale. Everything was beautiful. The pictures don’t do it justice. It was such a beautiful, impressive, magical, historical house.
In a “real neighborhood,” too! The kind where everyone knew each other, and all the kids played together when they were little, and hung out as teenagers. Lawrence learned to drive at Indian Queen Lane, on one of his father’s old company trucks. He eventually saved up for his own car but his father always drove a work truck, and every night he’d step out onto the Hohen Adle carriage stone, conveniently placed at the end of the driveway.
The stone was there when Lawrence & his family bought the house from the owner after John Hohenadel, who left town soon after his brewery closed. Apparently, the stone had been at his “parking space” on Conrad and he’d had it relocated to his home when the office shut its doors in 1953. Lawrence’s family, then, took it as a souvenir of their very special time in East Falls.
By 1976, Lawrence had a good position in the family business, and was THISCLOSE to buying Hohenadel House from his parents — his father had wanted to keep it in the family, and so did Lawrence, really. But at the time, the neighborhood was slipping into crime and poverty, and things looked to be getting worse.
The last straw: an elderly couple up the hill on Indian Queen Lane was robbed and murdered. He just couldn’t see staying after that. But clearly, a part of him still misses the house.
We chatted with Lawrence for about an hour. He grew up in the area, and is a wealth of names, stories, anecdotes and impressions. And pictures!
He’s got all the family’s photos — sixteen years of holidays, birthdays and gatherings in Hohenadel House and East Falls in the late 60s to mid 70’s. Unfortunately, Lawrence is in the process of moving, and his mementos have been boxed up & put in storage for the time being. Lawrence particularly wishes he could show us some really cool shots he was able to take after a big fire burned down the vacant twin right across the street.
After the land was cleared, Lawrence climbed up to the highest point for an overhead view of the whole house, including the dramatic stone wall encircling the front of the property. Such an amazing feature, that wall, very ornately carved. Anyone walking down Indian Queen Lane back then would’ve remembered it. “Without that wall now,” he told us, “The place doesn’t seem nearly as majestic.”
Lawrence hasn’t been past the place since probably the 90’s, but he recalls feeling sad about how neglected it looked, and seems truly thrilled his old home is being restored again. Of course, we’re getting Lawrence out here as soon as possible (he’ll be coming with his daughters, who are psyched to see the house they’ve heard so much about from their father & grandparents).
Stay tuned for Part Two of our interview with Lawrence: Secrets and Random Facts from Hohenadel House (underground caves?!).
More developments, too, as the Hohenadel Homecoming continues. Fingers crossed we’ll find that stone wall picture!