How would you like to own not one, but two historical homes? Well, Betty Gassman does, thanks to her remarkable father. And, as a bonus, she also owns one of the most charming boathouses on Lake Mohawk. The builder of those homes, Charles D. Ehrengart, Mrs. Gassman's father, led a very exuberant life. Born in 1898, he was once sent to Germany for two years for surgeons to repair a nasty broken leg. While there, one of his cousins saved him from drowning in the Rhine River. During World War I, he fought with the combined American and English forces in France and Germany and captured that same cousin during the Battle of the Seigfried Line. He volunteered to serve on the front lines as a stretcher-bearer and runner without a weapon. It was there that he was injured. Among the medals he earned were the American Silver Star and others from France and England for bravery under fire. After being discharged, the surgeons told him that he needed a long sea voyage to recuperate, so he promptly joined the Merchant Marines. For his next adventure, he and his shipmates were stranded on a sand bar off the coast of Cuba for six months. When he returned to the states, he settled down and went to college to study textile chemistry. After graduation, he became a salesman for a textile-dyeing firm, took them international and became president of the company. He retired early because of poor health but was never idle. He and his wife made seven trips around the world, sometimes as a guest lecturer on luxury liners and sometimes on a tramp steamer. He also played in an orchestra. In 1931 Ehrengart built the house on West Shore Trail across from the lake, doing most of the masonry himself and incorporating various tiles, jars and artifacts into the stair walls. In 1934, his parents hired a German architect and built the house next door. After his home was completed, Ehrengart looked around for another challenge. Around 1933, he decided to take on the project of building a log boathouse by himself on the Lakeside lot across the street. He styled it after a Swiss chalet and designed and made the banisters with heart-shaped cutouts and an elaborate trim around the roof. On the poop-deck there is a mural depicting King Neptune and the Seven Seas, a mermaid and the Arctic and Polar regions. Many other paintings by Mrs. Ehrengart's brother embellish the walls in this generously decorated building. Ehrengart was a talented wood sculptor and has numerous busts and works in the round to his credit. He also sculpted a charming self-portrait in wood that is displayed in Mrs. Gassman's home. Keeping busy, Ehrengart built the house beside the boathouse in 1938 and gave it to Mrs. Gassman, his only child. This rustic brick home features a half-dozen or so gristmill stones that he salvaged from the waters around Staten Island. He designed and constructed the stone masonry on the home himself and somehow lifted those gristmill stones and incorporated them into the walls. Mrs. Gassman has lived most of her life in these two homes. She has many fond memories of her enthusiastic and talented father, as well as funny stories such as the "Auntie" who came to visit for a weekend and stayed 25 years. Or the comical wooden horse on wheels that her father built and housed in a pretend barn constructed around a tree. When he pushed a switch, the barn doors flew open and the horse would roll down an incline, bearing all the makings for drinks for friends and neighbors. An avid collector, Ehrengart donated many articles to the town for a museum that was housed in the Sparta Public Library. The statue of Abraham Lincoln, "The Rail Splitter," to the left of the library door is dedicated to his memory as a benefactor and patron. It was sculpted by his friend Archimedes Giacomantonio and dedicated in 1987, a year after Ehrengart's death. The museum no longer exists. Mrs. Gassman, who taught at Helen Morgan School for 20 years, is now putting the lake house and boathouse on the market. Let us hope that the new owner will cherish these irreplaceable dwellings as an important part of Sparta's heritage. Article by Judy Dunn To suggest a topic of local interest, call the author at 973-729-4325.