GREENVILLE — It has been a labor of love.
And Greenville resident Roberta Aubuchum has almost completely restored the Zachary Lansdowne house — a historical landmark — on the corner of Third and Locust in Greenville.
Many may be well aware of who Zachary Lansdowne was — others may not.
I had no idea (who Zachary Lansdowne was) when I bought the house,” Aubuchum said. “I just needed a big house with tall ceilings. My sister told me to talk to Fred Hoblit. That he was interested in selling the house.”
It didn’t take long for Aubuchum to look into the history of the historic house.
“I have always been into genealogy,” she said. “I have my family’sgeneology back to the 1700s in France. I would go to the courthouse, museums, cemeteries — anywhere you would go to get information.”
Born in Greenville, Lansdowne was appointed to the United States Naval Academy September 2, 1905 and commissioned Ensign June 5, 1911.
He subsequently served on the destroyer USS McCall (DD-28), and in the Ohio Naval Militia. After completing his aviation training, he became Naval Aviator 105.
Lansdowne was assigned to duty with the Royal Naval Air Service during and after World War I, to study dirigibles. He was awarded the Navy Cross “for distinguished service…as one of the crew of the British airship R-34, which in July 1919, made the first successful nonstop passage from England to the United States.”
He married Margaret Kennedy Ross (September 30, 1902 – June 9, 1982) on December 7, 1921 in Washington D.C. They had two children. She remarried after Lansdowne’s death.
On February 11, 1924 Lansdowne took command of the rigid lighter-than-air ship, USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), and was killed when she crashed at Ava, Ohio, September 3, 1925.
He was buried later that month in section four at Arlington National Cemetery.
But, Lansdowne knew before thee flight to Ohio that it would be a difficult — if not impossivle one.
In fact, he refused when first given the assignment, saying it would be too dangerous with all the lightning storms in Ohio at that time of the year. After he was told he had to, Lansdowne went over all his final papers with his wife before leaving.
The crash of the Shenandoah was the trigger for United States Army Colonel Billy Mitchell to heavily criticize the leadership of both the Army and the Navy, leading directly to his court-martial for insubordination and the end of his military career.
Along with Landowne, 12 crew members also lost their lives.
Lansdowne was played by Jack Lord in the 1955 film The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell.
Since buying the house 20 years ago, Aubuchum has been restoring the house to as it was originally wherever possible.
“I started 20 years ago and have been doing it ever since,” she said. “The big thing was I was battling cancer. Going through chemo and surgery, I would get a little done here and a little done there.
“There is still some work to be done with the porch. I found what it looked like. I have the pillars, I just have to find a contractor to do the work.”
The house is an amazing combination of items she has inherited from her family over the years and Lanstowne memorabilia as well — and that includes the backyard.
“It is (an amazing house),” she said.”The floors were all carpeted. I pulled it up to restore the hardwood floors. Almost all the glass is original. There are only three new panes of glass in the entire house. I am really pleased with the way everything has turned out.
“Zachary was born in Greenville. The family lived here and then the Hoblits. I am the first non-family member to live here. At Christmas time, I will put 20 Christmas trees up.”
Throughout the process, Aubuchum had one thing in mind.
“I wanted to do something that would please the Landtowne family,” she said.
And she has accomplished just that, with a labor of love.