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The name fits his profession of being a historical renovator

Tuesday, July 04, 2000

By Monica L. Haynes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

John Hancock, the renovator of homes, knows enough about John Hancock, the signer of the Declaration of Independence, that he could be the man with the big signature. But that would make him 263 years old and the odds-on favorite for the Guinness Book of World Records' oldest man.

  John Hancock talks with one of his employees in a home he is remodeling in the Mexican War Streets on the North Side. (Tony Tye, Post-Gazette)

No, this John Hancock, a dweller of the North Side, is a 46-year-old father of two who can't recall a day when someone hasn't ribbed him about his moniker.

"Most people think that's a fictitious name that I made up, but when they find out it's my real name they're surprised," the younger Hancock said. "It's a good name if you're independent in business."

As one who carries out historical renovations, a name like Hancock fits right in. Among other sites, he's done restorations in the North Side's architecturally revered and historically landmarked Mexican War Streets.

Like most Hancocks in this country, his ancestors hailed from Wales and western England. The contractor crossed paths with the British Hancocks when a lawyer researching Hancock ancestors who'd come to this country 200 years ago made his way to the North Side and Sharpsburg.

"He traces everyone's ancestry through military records," Hancock said of the lawyer.

Our Hancock is something of a history buff who knows a thing or two about the first man to sign the Declaration of Independence.

"He financed a large part of the Revolution," said the North Side Hancock. "He was hunted down like a dog by King George, and they put a price on his head."

He can also tell you that Hancock was a seven-time governor of Massachusetts and that he had no male heirs.

He's read enormous volumes of American Revolutionary history and numerous biographies of other pertinent figures from that period such as George Washington, Patrick Henry, John Adams, Samuel Adams, etc. Their act of rebellion wasn't that out of line, he said, for people who thought they were British subjects but were treated like the King's illegitimate children.

And, of course, that rebellion led to "a new nation on this Earth like there had never been before," he said.

Although Hancock has a great interest in Revolutionary history, his passion is in construction and restoration.

"I did it when I was a kid, I did it when I was a teen-ager and did it the whole time I was in college," said the Penn State grad. "It's a good career."

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