Uncle Tom's Cabin writer's house for sale on eBay

The house was built in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1774.
The house was built in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1774. PHOTO: EBAY

(NYTimes) - For the most part, the houses that Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in have been carefully preserved and protected - from the Brunswick, Maine, residence where she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin to the Hartford, Connecticut, house where she spent her last years. But if you have a few hundred thousand dollars lying around, you can log on to eBay and buy the house where she was born.

That house - built in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1774 and purchased by the Rev. Lyman Beecher, the author's father, in 1810 - has been the subject of much dispute in recent years. Stowe lived there until she was 13, when she became a student at the Hartford Female Seminary.

The house now sits disassembled in storage lockers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Art Pappas, an antiques dealer and the house's co-owner, listed it on eBay this month for US$400,000, but it did not attract any bids. On Monday, he relisted it.

He said he hoped the house would be restored and made open to the public.

"I've had people say, 'We'll take the house,' but with no proof that they can do anything with it," he said. "Our goal is for someone to do a proper restoration job."

How did the birthplace of such a hallowed American writer fall to an online public auction? Much of the hesitation over buying and restoring it has to do with the house's heavy use over the years. Folk singer Pete Seeger lived there in the 1920s; it served as a sanitarium, and then a school dormitory for half a century.

The house eventually went on sale in 1996. It drew interest but was passed on by organisations like the Connecticut Historical Commission and museums like the Harriet Beecher Stowe Centre. Zoning laws made it difficult to move, and experts were unsure how much of the house was actually from the original era. It was sold for US$1 in 1997 and deconstructed.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Centre "has emotional and intellectual interest, but we don't have the resources, of all kinds, to take that project on", Katherine Kane, the centre's executive director, said in an interview. "It's very sad to have it in this condition. It's disrespectful and irresponsible, on the part of all of its owners."

Pappas, however, disputed the characterisation of the house as in disrepair.

"When it was taken down, it was in mint condition," he said. "It's still as sound as it can be."

He said he had received "serious" interest from potential buyers. However, he said he would not rule out the possibility of eventually selling off pieces of the house as antiques and building material.

"At some point, the house is going to start rotting," he said.