Today we’re looking at the Ogdensburg Public Library located at 313 Washington Street in the downtown historic section of the Ogdensburg, New York. Behind the library is a green open space called Library Park, which is the home to the Spirit of Liberty monument that was installed in 1905.
The Ogdensburg Library as an organization dates back to 1828 and throughout the years moved around the city and never had a permanent home. That was the case until the 1890’s, through the efforts of Dr. Fred Van Dusen, the Ogdensburg Public Library saw some significant changes that would have lasting effects to the library’s establishment in the city. Changes included getting the library officially incorporated by the State Board of Regents in 1891 and eventually getting a permanent home for the library: the Clark House at 311 Washington Street.
The Clark House was a private residence built in 1888 for George C. Clark, a New York banker, who has used the house as a summer residence for his family. Prior to construction of the new Clark summer home, the property was originally the location of the Greek Revival home of Joseph Rosseel (also spelled Roselle) stood. Rosseel had been the land agent to David Parish one of the early landowners in St. Lawrence County. Rosseel employed Joseph Jacques Ramee to design his Greek Revival home in 1810. When Clark purchased the property, he had the old house demolished to build his Queen Anne home. By 1895, Clark was beginning to have second thoughts. Given the distance from Ogdensburg to New York City, Clark determined it would be better to have a summer residence closer to the city. Clark offered his home and entire block for the new home of the library for $35,000 ($10,000 of which Clark donated). The home was estimated to be worth $125,000. In addition, Clark gave his dock property (land between his residence and the streets) to be used as a park space in the city- this is today’s Riverside Park in Ogdensburg.
A side note about the Clark House, different sources say slightly different things about the house. One article reporting on the fire dated November 25, 1921 (Ogdensburg Republican Journal) said that Clark, “greatly overhauled and renovated,” the original 1812 structure for his summer residence. While other sources say that Clark completely demolished the older building to construct a completely new home. It’s unclear why there is a discrepancy in the information on what exactly happened but it would be safe to say that if any portion of the library is the original 1812 building still exists it would be difficult to determine given the level of renovations through the years and the 1921 fire.
In early 1921, funding was given from the estate of George Hall and John C. Howard to be used to complete needed renovations of the library’s main building and the library’s annex- George Hall’s house across the street. John West was hired as the contractor for the renovations, which were coming along fine and would have been completed by February of 1922 but a fire broke out on November 24, 1921 destroying most of the interior of the library.
Luckily, all of the collections were safe. The books, records, Frederick Remington paintings, and original bronzes had been placed at either the George Hall residence or in a massive safe in the library’s basement.
The fire was discovered around 7 am by a passerby on the way to the local market. The fire department was alerted immediately and the local firefighters in their response to the blaze, were assisted by sailors from the USS Chillicothe, which was moored at Riverside Park. They weren’t’ successful in putting the fire completely out until noon of that day.
John Wert originally estimated the damages could be anywhere between $25,000-$50,000, and the entire building was gutted. A few weeks later, the damages were able to be assessed and the losses only totaled $15,000, which was covered by insurance. The cause of the fire was determined to be an overheated hot air furnace. The flooring and the roof completely burned but the walls somehow remained in good shape, allowing reconstruction to still be possible. The reconstruction work that occurred resulted in the library that we see today- it was rebuilt as a replica of the old 1812 Rossell Mansion.
Associated with the public library is Library Park, which is home to the Spirit of Liberty, a sculpture by local Sally James Farnham. The Park is behind the library and was laid out in 1903- the area was also part of the Clark Property.
When the library acquired the Clark Mansion in 1895, it also acquired a fantastic open space that was planned out to be a park for the city. Plans were eventually created in 1903 and not finally completed until the following year. The plans for the landscaping of the Library Park as it was called, were drafted by Arnold E. Smith and Dr. Dusen assisted in getting the authorization to complete the layout around the library.
The Commercial Advertiser on July 5, 1904 reported that the park plans consisted of, “a horse-shoe or semi-circle of, prominent, outlining, the concave facing the river, the library building at the apex, forming the background. The fountain, as now located, the central figure; the proposed soldier’s monument about one hundred feet westerly there- from and a little lower down…” In addition to this description, the park was to have trees throughout the park such as cherry, Persian lilac, and hydrangea and principal walkways were to be laid out from corner to corner of the park, crossing at the center in front of the fountain.
In the same year that finishing touches were made to Library Park, Sally James Farnahm, won her first commission via competition- a Union soldier monument to be placed in the park. Sally had submitted to models to the monument committee of Ransom Post, GAR, “Defenders of the Flag” and the “Spirit of Liberty.” Funding for the monument came from a number of sources: Mr. and Mrs. George Hall, Swe-Kat-Si Chapter GAR, Fortieth Separate Company, Ransom Post GAR, Post Card Subscriptions, and even from Sally Farnham herself.
The Spirit of Liberty:
The Spirit of Liberty was installed at the Park in 1905. The city of Ogdensburg had held a competition for a Civil Ware monument for the Park for the soldiers and sailors from the town of Oswegatchie who died during the Civil War. Sally James Farnham submitted two different designs: Defenders of the Flag and the Spirit of Liberty. Out of 15 submissions, Sally’s Spirt of Liberty was chosen by the City.
Sally was born in 1869. Her mother passed away when she was 10 years old, for this reason Sally was very close to her father and they traveled around the world. While Sally wasn’t formally educated in an art medium, she was exposed to art throughout her travels with her father to France, Norway, Scotland, and even Japan. In 1896, Sally married George Paulding Farnham, who was the design director for jewelry and silver at Tiffany & Co. Yes, THE Tiffany & Co.
Sally’s first experience working with modeling clay was the result of both a personal tragedy- the death of her father- and a serious illness that left her bedridden. Her husband, George, during this time brought home clay for her to work with, hoping it would help improve her spirits. Sally greatly became interested in working with clay as an art medium- she was guided partly by her husband, who was a member of the National Sculpture Society, and more importantly by Frederick Remington, who was another native of Ogdensburg and a family friend of Sally’s. Remington supported and encouraged Sally’s artwork up until his death in 1909. Oddly enough Remington lived in the house across the street from the building that is the city’s public library. It’s fitting that Sally’s sculpture not only stands high in her hometown but also in view of her friend and mentor’s old house. The other unique thing about Sally James Farnham is that she was one of the first women to successfully compete for national sculpture commissions, like the one for the Ogdensburg Civil War monument.
In competing for the Ogdensburg Commission, Sally had a strong connection to wanting to design the city’s Civil War monument, not only was she obviously a local to the city but her father was Col. Edward C. James who commanded the 106th NY Volunteers during the war. Her winning design features a winged Victory with laurel wreath and flag atop of a 35-foot granite column and pedestal (the granite is from the quarries of Barre, Vermont). The pedestal features four bronze war eagles and shields. Originally, the base also had a life-sized bronze soldier, it has since been removed due to damages caused by vandalism. The monument was officially dedicated on August 23, 1905 and was attended by almost 20,000 people including the USA Vice President, Charles Fairbanks. Later in her career, Sally created a similar Civil War monument for Bloomfield, New Jersey, which was dedicated on June 11, 1912- in 2001 the monument was restored by the city.
Some of Sally’s other sculptures include: The Defenders of the Flag (1908), which is a Civil War monument located in the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY; the Frieze of Discovers (1910) located in the Pan American Union (now OAS) building in Washington D.C.; and the Simon Bolivar statue (1921), which is located in Central Park in New York City.
The Public Library, Library Park, and the Spirit of Liberty make up a portion of the Library Park Historic District in Ogdensburg. Other contributing properties include the Remington Museum and other houses along the square block made by Washington, etc. All of these sites are easily accessible in the historic downtown area of Ogdensburg, NY. The park is also in close proximity to the riverside where there is a walking trail that leads to the Maple City Trail and the Abbe Picquet Trail on Lighthouse Point!
Thanks for reading !
Resources and Further Information
John C. Howard, “A History of the Ogdensburg Public Library and Remington Art Memorial,” Ogdensburg Journal, May 31, 1938. The Trustees of the Ogdensburg Public Library.
John Harwood, National Register of Historic Places Inventory- Nomination Form, Library Park Historic District, Sept. 1982.
I’m now back in Sacramento after being home for a couple of weeks on vacation. The flight back was luckily, uneventful and there was only one delay at the tiny Massena, NY airport, which didn’t impact the other flights I had in Albany, NY and Chicago, IL.
This post is going to be focusing on another single building. I’ve been doing a lot of those lately because there’s so many awesome buildings that deserve recognition plus it makes you realize that all old buildings have a great story just waiting to be told. Today’s property is, Grace Cathedral, which is the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of California and the third largest Episcopal Cathedral in the county; I saw the cathedral the last time I was in San Francisco on my own. The reason I’m focusing on this property today is because it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and on March 28, 1964 the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a sermon during the Cathedral’s celebrations for its completion and consecration. I didn’t know that information before I visited the Cathedral; the reason I went to check it out was because it was listed as a cool place to visit at the San Francisco Downtown Hostel that I had stayed at when I was there last.
Grace Cathedral is located on Nob Hill, and it was the last place I was visiting on the Saturday and it was already late in the day- so I had to book it, which is easier said than done since San Francisco is so hilly. The hours of the Cathedral are Sundays 8-7, Thursdays 7-6, and the other days of the week are 8-6. Throughout the week there ares services and many other events going on, so if you’re interested in visiting, I would suggest double checking their website to see whats going on during your visit. For example when I arrived at the Cathedral it was around 4 pm and there were signs up saying they would be closing at 5 pm to set up for a concert later that evening.
Grace Cathedral has its beginnings with the Gold Rush of 1849- the year it was founded. The church was the “daughter” of the historic Grace Church (I assume the one located in Manhattan). The church went through a some location, building, and even name changes during its early history but all of that came to a halt thanks to the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, which completed destroyed the church. After the earthquake, the family of railroad baron and banker, William Henry Crocker,** gave their Nob Hill property for a new a cathedral to be constructed on- the Crocker’s mansion had also been destroyed during the earthquake. A cornerstone was laid in 1910 but construction really did not begin for a number of years until 1927. The cathedral was designed by architect, Lewis Hobart, who designed the property in the French Gothic style as a nod to the Crocker family; a major inspiration of the cathedral is Notre Dame located in Paris, France.
During the Great Depression, work on the Cathedral completely stopped and it officially wasn’t “completed” until 1964. The interior vaulting and the cast-stone walls are actually unfinished. Other really cool details of the building is that it’s frame is raw concrete and steel, which is unusual for cathedrals. There is some pre-fabricated cast stone for decorative details and Guastavino acoustic tiles were used for the vaulting. Other architectural features that indicate its a French Gothic style building include the twin towers, the building’s cruciform plan, rose window, and the polygonal apse (I sense a number of new jargon words to explore at a later date).
Another thing to mention before I get into some of the really amazing things of the building is that there are docent led tours of the building throughout the month Since my visit was spur of the moment, I didn’t really have time to plan my visiting during a tour but Grace Cathedral has a fantastic App that can be downloaded on your phone to do self-guided tours, which is what I used when I was there. The App is the reason I learned that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a sermon there in 1964.
Both the interior and the exterior of the cathedral are beautiful and offer a lot to see. Obviously, I had a very limited window of time to see the cathedral so I wasn’t able to see everything, luckily though a member of the Cathedral’s staff who was there closing parts of the building in preparation of the concert was kind enough to let me into the Chapel of Grace, which is the oldest part of the cathedral.
The gentleman who I think was either a deacon or verger for the cathedral stated talking to me and asking if I had visited the cathedral before. Talking with the staff member, I told him I didn’t know anything about the Cathedral and that it was the first time visiting the building but that the app was really useful for learning about the building, I also told him I didn’t know that Martin Luther King Jr. had spoke here during the Civil Rights Movement. And that’s when the behind-the-scene history adventure happened. The staff member said that he could show me the room that Dr. King prepared and got ready in before his sermon. The room is off the Chapel of Grace and I don’t think is open to the public. The gentleman told me that he believed the room was mostly unchanged since some of the furniture in the room could be seen in historic photographs of Dr. King in the same room. It was also suggested that I go check out the pulpit and that it was okay to step up into it. It was a little too much for me to do, so I didn’t mainly because I was having a lot of feelings, It was kind of like that scene in Wayne’s World when Garth and Wayne meet Alice Cooper and say, “We’re not worthy” or something along those lines. That’s kind of how I felt being told I could go stand in the same pulpit that really amazing people like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have spoken from. Hopefully that makes sense.
The following are some links from Grace Cathedral’s YouTube page where they have video recordings of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon:
The following area other art and architectural features of the cathedral that are amazing:
Stained Glass Windows:
There are a ton of murals along the walls of Grace Cathedral. A number of the murals were done by Jan Henryk De Rosen, a Polish painted who lived in exile in the United States after 1939. De Rosen was born in Poland to Jan Rosen and Wanda Hantke. His father was also a painter (Polish historical and genre) who worked at the court of the Russian Czars, Alexander III and Nicholas II. As a child, De Rosen moved to Paris to live with his sisters, Maria and Zofia (a sculptor) and from there enlisted in the French Army during World War 1. After the war he moved back to Poland and studied to be a painter in Warsaw. His painting skills were very much in high demand and he painted murals within many churches and cathedrals across Europe. He came to the United States in 1939 at the request of the Polish ambassador to paint murals at the Polish embassy in Washington DC. With the outbreak of World War 2, he stayed here in the United States where he taught and continued painting.
These doors are replicas of the famed Ghiberti Doors, The Gates of Paradise. The originals were installed at the Baptistry of the Duomo in Florence, Italy. The original doors were designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti and worked on by himself, his son, and the men in his workshop, which took them 27 years to complete. In 1990, the originals were housed in the Duomo Cathedral’s museum and replicas took their on the actual building. So how does Grace Cathedral have a set of replica Italian Renaissance doors who ask?
Way back during WW2, the original doors were removed and hidden. Bruno Bearzi, themaster founder and superintendent of the Florence’s art works, had them in his care where he cleaned them and had molds made with the intention of creating replicas to put in place of the originals and place the originals in a museum. That didn’t happen until 1990. But hearing that the molds and replicas existed, Grace Cathedral architects contacted Bearzi in the late 1950’s. Through the generosity of donors, Grace Cathedral was able to purchase the replicas and they were in place by November 20, 1964. The doors are made entirely of bronze with the sculptured portions finished in gold. Each door is 16 feet high, 4 inches think and 5 feet wide. Biblical events are depicted in the panels of the doors.
So after the wonderful and very short visit I had at the cathedral, I would highly suggest visiting it, if you’re in San Francisco. I know I would really like to visit it again and possibly join a docent led tour since there’s probably a lot I missed. Let me know what you think!
Thanks for reading 🙂
Below are some resources I used, most of the information came from brochures I collected while at Grace Cathedral and the websites helped supplement what the brochures had summarized. There’s also some links to my other blog posts that are linked to this one, like the Crocker Museum and the National Mall, which the Lincoln Memorial is part of. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” there in 1963.
**William Henry Crocker was the nephew of Edwin B. Crocker of Sacramento whose home is now part of the Crocker Art Museum:
As I sit bundled up in my apartment waiting for the bomb cyclone storm to hit Northern New York, I’m thinking about all the awesome things I experienced in 2017, which is odd to say since 2017 seemed overall craptastic. Last year I started a new and interesting job as a reservist with FEMA. So basically, FEMA sends me and other reservists wherever we may be needed after a disaster hits the country. Since June, I’ve been living in Sacramento, California where I’ve had many opportunities to see much of what the State has to offer and watch in horror as California has been in an almost constant state-of-emergency because of the devastating wild fires. Thankfully, Sacramento has not been in the way of the fires but it still has been a shock to see and read the daily news about the fires while I’ve been in California.
In comparison, since living almost my entire life in Northern New York I’ve never had to really think about wild fires or be worried about them. We get the occasionally, seasonal flooding, which happened this past May and it was worst than normal; and our winters can be brutal. Since arriving home on December 22nd for a holiday vacation, the warmest it’s been was 26 degrees Fahrenheit….for comparison purposes, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
As you can imagine, with the wild fires and flooding that California has faced in the past year, work has been super busy and stressful, meaning I haven’t been able to spend as much time as I would like on this history, adventure, and preservation blog. While working and living in California has been very different than what I’m use to in New York, I was able to visit a lot of amazing places that I plan on sharing on this blog in the new year- most of those places have been away from the wild fires.
Right now though, I want to share the one awesome consulting project I had time for, which was a Part 1 of the Historic Preservation Certificate Application for the Wellesley Hotel located in the community of Thousand Island Park.
Over the summer on my first break home from California, I spent two days in the Park, researching and photographing the Wellesley Hotel, as well as visiting old friends. Side Note: I’ve been working on odd projects in Thousand Island Park since I interned there during the summer of 2013.
To complete a Historic Preservation Certificate Application, it’s very much like a National Register nomination: basic information on the property is needed, as well as a detailed building description and a statement of significance (AKA: Why #ThisPlaceMatters). If a property is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it makes the job a little bit easier. In the case of the Wellesley Hotel, the property is part of the Thousand Island Park Historic District, which means the documentation for the application has to show that the individual property contributes (historically, thematically, etc.) to the historic district. Long story short, the Wellesley Hotel does contribute to the historic district of the community. I’d like to even push it so far as to say the entire Thousand Islands region.
The following are some snippets of the writing I did for the application for the Wellesley Hotel as well as photographs I’ve taken of the property over the years.
Description of Property
The Wellesley Hotel, in the community of Thousand Island Park, in the township of Orleans, Jefferson County, New York, is a highly intact 3 ½ story wooden frame structure with neoclassical elements, constructed in 1903 as an annex to the Columbian Hotel. There is a small 1-story addition located within the crook of the “L” shaped plan; this addition appears to be original to the property. The hotel occupies a central location at the corner of Rainbow Street and St. Lawrence Avenue within the historic community of Thousand Island Park; listed in the National Register of Historic Places 1982. The most prominent feature of the Wellesley Hotel is its two-story wrap-around veranda that extends from the south facade to the entirety of the east facade. The veranda on the first floor has Tuscan columns that support the roofed second story porch that extends into a balcony on the east facade. The interior of the Wellesley Hotel follows the original floor plans with the first and second floors currently in use. Elements seen with the historic hotel include pressed metal ceilings, hard wood floors, a brick fireplace on the first floor, a central staircase that leads to all floors including the attic and basement, and inter-connected rooms on the second and third floors. Since its construction, the Wellesley Hotel’s exterior has had some changes. The east facade porch and balcony were removed sometime from 1930’s-1980’s; it has been restored since then. There has also been the addition of fire escapes, which are currently in the north and west facades of the building. Other exterior changes include a wheel chair ramp that has been added to the north facade, along with a loading dock that leads into the one-story addition in the back. The interior has remained virtually untouched. The first and second floors have been restored and are currently used as a restaurant, with rooms on the first floor being used as hotel rooms and rental spaces to local businesses. The third floor and attic are currently not used and are in need of restoration. The Wellesley Hotel is in good condition with the only alterations to the property being general maintenance throughout the years; the restoration of the east facade porch has been done to using historic photographs to match the original porch. The maintenance changes and restoration of the east facade porch do not detract from the overall integrity of the Wellesley Hotel in terms of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
The Thousand Island Park Historic District (1982) contains an outstanding concentration of substantially intact late nineteenth and early twentieth century resort architecture. Embellished with elaborate and often unique details, the closely grouped structures in the planned campground represent a significant phase in the history of the internationally recognized resort community in the upper St. Lawrence River. The neoclassical Wellesley Hotel contributes to the significance and context of the Thousand Island Park Historic District because it harkens back to a time when the community was a summer resort destination. The Thousand Island Park was founded in 1874 by Reverend John F. Dayan as a Methodist summer camp. The Thousand Islands region began to evolve into a summer haven for vacationers escaping the dirty industrial cities such as Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York City. Through the years the community as a whole has survived through a number of difficulties including: devastating fires, financial hardship during the Great Depression, and the effects of both World Wars. Today, the Thousand Island Park Historic District maintains its historic character with the Wellesley Hotel as the heart of the surviving commercial block of the Thousand Island Park.
Thousand Island Park
In the early 1870’s the Thousand Islands gained national attention, when George Pullman, the developer of the Pullman sleeping car, invited President Ulysses S. Grant to his summer home on “Pullman Island,” located close to Alexandria Bay.1 News that the President of the United States had visited the area put the Islands on the map as an elite tourist destination for the upper and middle classes throughout the 1880’s until the early 20th century. Tourists and summer inhabitants of the Thousand Islands began to be grouped together under the term, “summer people,” referring to the fact that they only lived in the area during the summer months.2
The Thousand Islands and other similar summer resort areas grew in popularity during the Gilded Age for a number of factors. Reasons for the interest in summer vacation spots like the Thousand Islands, included the rise of industrialist capitalism; concerns for health and social issues within inner cities combined with the romantic movement and the celebration of nature; and rapid improvements to modes of transportation of railroads and steamboats.3 The Thousand Islands offered many opportunities to enjoy nature such as fishing, hunting, and boating. Entire families would visit the region, who would engage in more social activities, such as cruises on private yachts and dinner parties at local hotels like the Frontenac and the Columbian.
Not all people came to the islands for fanciful vacations, a number of summer people visited to attend Methodist or Baptist summer camps on a number of the islands. Thousand Island Park was originally one of those revival camps founded by Methodist Reverend John F. Dayan in 1875. Methodist revival camps in the early 19th century lasted one-two days and were located in the backwoods. After the Civil War, these types of church campgrounds and meetings were shunned by the churches because there was not enough teaching or rational thought. The Methodists moved towards more permanent and elaborate campgrounds that offered an extended camp meeting for specific purposes; this was in part inspired by the Methodist churches establishment of colleges throughout the country. An example of this new type of summer campground was the Chautauqua Institute located near Jamestown, New York. The Institute was established as a center for training Sunday School teachers.4
As early as 1867, Reverend Dayan began thinking and planning a summer camp in the Thousand Islands, with the camp’s main focus on encouraging interactions between the peoples of the United States and Canada 5 It was not until 1872, that Reverend Dayan really began to form his ideas and for two years worked to gain support for the project from various people. In 1874, Dayan was ready to get the approval of the plan from his colleagues and superiors. At the spring meeting of Methodist leaders in Carthage, New York at the Northern New York Conference of the Methodist Church, Reverend Dayan garnered enough support to a plan an excursion in the Thousand Islands in August of 1874. The purpose of the visit was to find a site for the future camp grounds. The visit happened as planned with 50 clergymen and laymen from both Canada and the United States meeting in Alexandria Bay to find a site. The large group really only viewed one site, Victoria Point, located on Wellesley Island- today known as Westminster Park. It was concluded by the group that another visit would be needed to explore other sites. A committee of 11 were chosen to view other locations and to establish connections with the ship routes and rail lines. The second visit occurred in September of the same year. This time the smaller group found the perfect spot. It was located also on Wellesley Island, just on the opposite end of the island away from Victoria Point.6
Within the first year of existence the Thousand Island Camp Meeting Association had not only purchased the land on Wellesley Island but they had constructed a “dining hall,” a shop and warehouse, a trustee’s office, and constructed a tabernacle tent. The Association decided to sell lots 40×80 feet to subscribers and those interested in purchasing a lot within the community. The first lots were sold June 9, 1875 and all were sold, meaning more of the land had to be surveyed and created into more lots to sell. Lot owners established shelters, mostly tents but a number of the lot holders built crude cottages. Attendees of the summer camp had opportunities to listen to daily sermons, lectures, and attend meetings.7
From there the Park community grew steadily and was transformed from a “tent city” to a permanent village of residences. During the 1880’s the Park saw management changes and a shift in focus from a campground to a Christian summer resort. Other developments within the community signifying this shift included the Thousand Island Camp Meeting Association changing their name to the Thousand Island Park Association in 1879. Then in 1881, Reverend Dayan resigned from the Thousand Island Park Association and that same year the Association began planning for the construction of a grand hotel. The Park newspapers also reflect these changes were in the 1880’s advertisements could be seen for schools such as Bordentown Female College, Ives Seminary, Syracuse University, and Cazenovia Seminary, along with advertisements for the Pulpit Bible. These types of advertisements slowly gave way to those for hotels, Dey Brothers Co. grocery store, and Watertown Boat and Canoe Co.8
Hotels in the Park
The construction of the Thousand Island Park Hotel lasted from 1881-83 and was designed by architect Noah Dillenbeck. The hotel was four stories tall with a three story colonnade surrounding the hotel along with a central tower with a mansard roof. The hotel had a Second Empire Style feel to it with its mansard roof, bracketed balconies, and french windows. This hotel lasted until August 21, 1890 when it burned down within 45 minutes, killing one person and destroying 13 other buildings. The Association decided to rebuild the hotel and by 1892, the Columbian Hotel was open for business on the same site as the previous hotel. The Columbian was designed by Syracuse architect, Archimedes Russell. The hotel was also four floors and could accommodate 300-400 people. While the Thousand Island Park Hotel had a distinctive architectural style, the Columbian did not and had a picturesque castle feel to it.9 The Thousand Island Park Hotel and the Columbian were two of the many hotels dotted along the Thousand Islands offering accommodations to the growing numbers of summer people.
The popularity of Thousand Island Park as a summer destination meant the Columbian was frequently packed with guests. By 1902, the Park Association had already begun to discuss and plans for another hotel in the community. A 1902 news article in the Watertown Reunion, estimated that the new hotel would be completed during the summer of 1903 for $15,000 and would be located on the site of the New England Dining Room.10 The Hotel Wellesley was completed in June of 1903 and located at the corner of Rainbow and St. Lawrence Avenue, diagonally from the Columbian adding to the commercial center of Thousand Island Park.
The Wellesley Hotel was different in appearance from the Columbian’s picturesque castle. In the documents related to the Wellesley, the architect is never named but they were inspired by the neoclassical style that was in vogue throughout the nation after the Chicago World Fair. The three-story structure’s most prominent feature is the wrap-around porch veranda on the first floor with a balcony porch above that supported by Tuscan columns that also wraps around the south and east facades. There are Georgian prototype dormers spaced around the roof. The Wellesley Hotel added another 40 rooms for guests to rent during their stay in the Park.11 The Association leased the hotel to Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Rogers, the first proprietors.12 The first floor of the hotel consisted of a main entrance on the east facade to the hotel that lead into the hotel’s lobby with main access to the upper floors, along with a dining room and parlor. Within the first year of the hotel being opened, the first floor of the Wellesley Hotel was used for the 22nd Reunion of the 14th New York Heavy Artillery in 1904.13
The Wellesley Hotel does not feature often in the local papers but it can be assumed business was as usual during the summer with both the Columbian and Wellesley Hotels being in operation in the early years of the 20th century. All of that changed on June 9, 1912. In the mid-afternoon, a fire had broken out in the store of H. H. Haller. What exactly caused the fire is unclear since the shop actually was closed for the day because of a funeral. The fire quickly spread and grew beyond the capabilities of the Thousand Island Park residents and fire brigade. The Columbian Hotel caught fire, spreading the flames through the eastern portion of the community. By the time the flames had been put out by the efforts of the residents and the help of Clayton and Alexandria Bay’s fire departments, the Columbian was completely destroyed, along with Haller’s store, three schools, a chapel, and 98 cottages. 500 people were homeless and the losses in the community were estimated at $500,000.
It was reported by local papers that the hotel would be rebuilt and that there would be “a better Columbian than ever next season.”14 Even with sensationalized news about the fire and the fact that the “…fire practically wiped out this famous summer outing place,” as stated in 1912 article about the disaster entitled “Terrible Holocaust,” the community survived and so did the Wellesley Hotel. In local papers, it was reported that the Wellesley was saved by the quick thinking of 17 year old, Paul Crouch, who stayed on the hotel’s roof, wrapped in wet blankets, to shovel off burning shingles. Crouch was finally relived by other residents and was unconscious for several hours after; Crouch did survive.15
A year after the fire, the Wellesley Hotel had minor renovations, to equip and update portions of the structure with to follow newly established fire code requirements including fire escapes and ensuring the doors would swing outwards.16 The hotel continued to be the main hotel at the Thousand Island Park, the Columbian was never rebuilt. The Columbian fire marks the beginning of the slow decline of not only Thousand Island Park but the region as a premier summer destination.
Throughout the 1910’s the Thousand Islands saw a decline due to a variety of reasons, including multiple large fires that destroyed a number of the popular hotels, such as the Columbian and the Frontenac on Round Island. These hotels were at times considered the social center of the Thousand Islands and after they burned in 1911 and 1912. The growing popularity of the automobile and lack of good roads to reach the Thousand Islands also negatively affected the region. The automobile allowed people to travel freely and not be limited to one area during the entire summer season. The deaths of the wealthiest summer people, including George Pullman, helped add in the lack of interest in the Thousand Islands. Political issues also put a damper on ability and means to visit summer resort areas especially World War I, which put an end of the popular steamboats because of government uses and shortages of supplies. This was followed by the stock market crash of 1929 and followed by the Great Depression that followed.17
In 1922, the Thousand Island Park Association made plans to build another floor to the Wellesley Hotel that would have added an additional 20 rooms. It is unclear what happened but the addition was never constructed given that photos of the Wellesley only ever show it as a three-story structure.18 This also indicates the financial problems the region was facing and the decline of vacationers during the summer months. The Wellesley finally closed for good in the early 1930’s during the Great Depression. The hotel was only used for special events and occasions during the years until the 1980’s when it was finally reopened by James A. Finger. The opening of the Wellesley Hotel allowed the property to be used again for accommodations and as a restaurant.19 Since then the Hotel has remained in business owned by the Thousand Island Park Corporation and leased to proprietors to run the hotel and restaurant.
The Thousand Island Park was listed as a historic district because the community is an outstanding collection of substantially intact late nineteenth and early twentieth century resort architecture. The Wellesley Hotel has been a landmark within the community of Thousand Island Park since its doors first opened in 1903. The hotel highlights the past and the changes the summer community went through as a Methodist summer camp community that evolved into a premier summer resort. Thousand Island Park as a whole reflects the historic changes that occurred throughout the entire region from 1870 to 1915, a period that is known as the Gilded Age. The Wellesley Hotel is in every way, a significant part of that story, surviving terrible fires and the community’s economical hardships, to exist today as the last remaining Gilded Age hotel within Thousand Island Park and the region as a whole.
Fast forward to today, the Part 1 of the Historic Preservation Certificate Application was officially approved by the National Park Service in November 2017. This means that should the owner of the Wellesley Hotel move forward with their plans on renovation of the upper floors of the Hotel, Parts 2 and 3 of the Certificate Application would need to be completed. Those parts are in regards to the actual proposed work through documentation of the current conditions of the Hotel and then the Hotel after the work has been completed.
1Susan Smith, The First Summer Peoples: The Thousand Islands 1650-1910 (Erin, Ont.: Boston Mills Press, 1993), 82.
2Laurie Ann Nulton, “The Golden Age of the Thousand Islands: Its People and its Castles” (M.A. diss., Georgetown University, 1981) 10.
4 Helen Jacox and Eugene Kleinhans, Thousand Island Park: One Hundred Years, and Then Some, A Centennial Year History; with “The Study, Architecture of Thousand Island Park,”by Paul Malo (Valhalla Printing Co. T.I.P. N.Y.., 1975 by the Centennial Book Project, Thousand Island Park, New York), 27.
It’s been awhile. I’ve been super busy with work in California and just haven’t had a lot of time to write. I have been able to see quite a few cool places: San Francisco, Hearst Castle, Tahoe National Forest hiking trails, Old Sacramento and a number of Gold Rush towns. I hope to share those awesome adventures on this blog in the near future but in the mean time I thought I’d do a simple post on one building.
A few weekends ago, I drove into downtown Sacramento to get a hair cut (a lob for those concerned) and that resulted in me getting dessert for lunch, exploring a used bookstore, and taking a number of photos of a few cute tiny Victorian houses in the area.
One of the houses I photographed had a “name” or maybe more of a label “label,” called “Winters House.” I figured if the house has a name, it must have a story, and this house does.
Winters House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places under Criteria C, which means its architectural significant! Winters House is important because of it’s Queen Anne-Eastlake style and because of its size. It’s one of the largest Victorian homes left in Sacramento!
The home was constructed in 1890 for Herman Winters, a local successful merchant, who was a German immigrant. When the home was constructed, it was located on the outskirts of Sacramento in an area considered to be the, “gypsy camping grounds” (words from the National Register nomination, not mine). Through the rest of the 1890’s the area developed into a residential area outside of the city- kind of like suburbs; today the area is known as Mid Town.
Winters hired experienced craftsmen to give the three-story home many intricate, wooden, ornamental details. The home has an asymmetrical front facade with key elements including: the bay window, stained glass windows, a sunburst pediment, scroll work sunbursts, brackets, lower porch balustrade, various shingle and wooden patterns, and overall delicate spindle work. According to the National Register nomination, the interior also consists of intricate details such as carved mantel spindles, tile work surrounding two fire places, and trim details. The home exemplifies what it means for a building to be a Queen Anne- Eastlake Victorian home.
Winters passed away in 1904 and his money, store, and home were divided between his widow and his two children from his first marriage. His widow, Effie Winters, inherited the home and put a lot of money into maintaining the home during her life. For example, Effie had the home elevated by ~ 2 feet in 1909 to build a flat under the first floor.
The interesting story of the home lies with Effie Winters. Apparently, Effie’s wealth and eccentricities did not sit well with her brother, Frank. In 1911, he petitioned the courts to get here declared incompetent. Luckily, the courts ruled in Effie’s favor based on her success in managing her inheritance from Herman. But that didn’t stop Frank’s crusade to have his sister declared of an “unsound mind.” Effie passed shortly after her brother petitioned the courts and when her will was read, Frank contested it because the primary beneficiary was L. S. Jones, her minister. The court records indicate that there was an investigation into the life and mental well being of the deceased Effie Winters. Records show that she had had a severe accident in 1901 when she was thrown from a buggy and hit a street car. She was unconscious for a number of days and when she finally pulled through, she had bouts of physical and mental distress; at least once, spent time in an asylum in Stockton, CA where she claimed to be the wife of Jesus Christ; she eventually was released. Her minister and others gave testimony to her character and lifestyle. It seems that those testimonies were not enough though and a postmortem autopsy was performed for examine her brain. Based on the testimony of five doctors who claimed Effie had a “small” brain, which meant she was of an “unsound mind” during life and in writing her will.
From the court finding, Frank, inherited the home she had lived in during her life. He did not keep the house for long and the Winters House went through a number of owners. That is until 1998, when the new owners began the long process of restoring the home to its former glory and getting the home placed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Resources and Further Information:
All of the information on the Winters House came from the National Register Nomination, prepared by Vickie M. Cosentino, 1998. See the following links for more information on the home and to see the National Register Nomination in its entirety.
Currently for work, I am living outside of Sacramento, California in Rancho Cordova. I have the weekends off, so I’ve been using those days to explore cool places in California. This past weekend, I visited the Crocker Art Museum, which is located on O Street in Sacramento. The streets in downtown Sacramento are named either by a letter or a number- it’s really interesting!
The Crocker Mansion that makes up part of the museum complex was constructed in 1853 for pioneer banker, B. F. Hastings. The home was designed by Seth Babson. The original style of the home was classical in style.
In 1868, Judge Edwin B. Crocker purchased the property, which included the home and out buildings. Judge Crocker, was a judge for the supreme court for the state of California. When the home was purchased Judge Crocker and his wife, Margaret, had an extensive art collection that had been started by a trip to Europe. The Crocker family commissioned Seth Babson to renovate the home that he had designed originally in the 1850’s. The new plans included changing the style of the home into an Italianate Villa mansion and to add a gallery for the art collection to be displayed. These renovations were completed by 1872. The following images show the interior of the home:
This view is of the ceiling seen upon entering the Crocker Mansion through the front doors.
Looking up towards the ceilings on the first and second floors of the Italian Villa.
Walking through the front doors of the Crocker Mansion brings you into a foyer where there are double staircases leading to the second floor. This is a view of one of the staircases.
There’s a ballroom…..it’s huge and located on the first floor. The space is used for events. When I was there, museum staff and volunteers were preparing for a kids art activity!
This room is within the historic building but is connected directly to the new modern structure (you would go through the hallway to the right to get to the new building). In this photo you can see how ornate the rooms of the Mansion are.
This wall safe is located in the old office room on the second floor!
Look at that door knob. All of the doors in the historic building were beautiful and these style of door knob was on a number of doors!
The Crocker family were also keen on supporting social and civil causes in Sacramento. By 1885, Edwin had passed away and Margaret worked to establish an art museum from their collection. The museum was originally named the “E. B. Crocker Art Gallery” and was given to the city and placed in “trust for the public.”
In 1887, Margaret moved east to New York, to be closer to her adult children. The E. B. Crocker Art Gallery happened to be the first public art building founded in the Western United States. The following are images of artwork I saw at the museum. The Museum allows non-flash photography throughout the galleries. All rights to the artwork are of the Crocker Art Museum:
This is a view of some of the beautiful Oceanic artifacts the Museum has in their collections.
This large painting was completed in 1911. Mathews was a well known for his murals and is credited for creating, “California Decorative Style,” which combined elements of European Art Nouveau, Classical, and California flora, fauna, and locals.
During the San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Stirling had created a “Colonnade of Stars,” which consisted of 95 Star Maidens of plaster. After the Exposition, the plaster versions of the Maidens were cast in bronze in 1914.
This is a Japanese suit of armor called “tosei gusoku,” which means modern equipment. It dates to the Edo Period of Japan and is from the 17th century. This style of armor is lightweight, flexible, and a key part of a Japanese warriors identity.
Aspara are celestial nymphs or spirit of the clouds or water in the Hindu and Buddhist religions.
McCormick painted this scene around 1893. It is one of here earliest paintings of California. She was inspired greatly by French Impressionism.
Painted in the 1890’s, this painting depicts one of the Greek Muses. The painting dates to a period of art in the United States called the “American Renaissance.”
The painting was painted in 1962 and is oli on canvas. This piece of art is considered Pop Art!
This piece of art is part of the exhibit, Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose. The exhibit marks the 10th anniversary of the art magazine, Hi-Fructose.
Sometime after Margaret passed away in 1901, the building was given to the Fairhaven Home for Girls and then basically abandoned. It remained vacant until 1911, when the City of Sacramento purchased the property with donated funding from a Mrs. Sloat Fassett….Mrs. Fassett actually was Jennie Crocker, one of the daughters of Edwin and Margaret!
In more recent years the art museum has continued to flourish. In 1970, the Crocker Art Gallery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and became a state historic landmark.
1989, saw the building go through a number of renovations. The main home and the art gallery were connected and the historic facade was completely restored. In 2000, plans were started to construct a new addition to the historic building and within 10 years, the Teel Family Pavilion was opened. This new space basically tripled the square footage of the museum, allowing for more room galleries, administrative offices, and educational spaces.
I’m super excited to tell you all that the George T. Robinson House has been officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places. I wrote the nomination for the property this past summer! Working with a representative from the State Historic Preservation office, we edited the nomination during the fall. It was submitted to the State for review in December and officially listed to the State Register in February. From there it was forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register to be reviewed and finally it was listed April 17, 2017!
Today’s post is going to look at sections of the nomination that I wrote and submitted during the late summer. At the end of this post, there is a link to the final copy of the nomination.
Building Description Summary The George T. Robinson House, located in the town of Clayton, Jefferson County, New York is a highly intact 2 ½ story, rear-facing “T” plan, Shingle Style home. The home occupies a center location on the southern side of Bluff Island overlooking the St. Lawrence River and mainland New York State. The home was constructed in 1901 and designed by Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania architect, Thorsten E. Billquist, for George T. Robinson and his family, also from Pittsburgh. The south-facing front facade is dominated by an open porch that almost wraps around the entire length of the first floor; the porch is supported by evenly spaced stone pillars. The walls and roof are finished with shingles, and the foundation and porch supports are built of red granite that originated from quarry located on Picton Island located to the north of Bluff Island. The interior of the home is finished with wood paneling and wainscoting from floor to ceiling. There is an 11 foot granite fireplace located within the wall that separates the living room and dining room, so that there is a fireplace in both rooms. The upstairs historically consisted of seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a living space in the attic for employed help. To the east of house once stood a 2-story boat house that collapsed sometime after 1966. Other important resources of the property include surface remains of walled garden located directly north of the house on a slight slope. While to the west of house there is a path that leads to the powerhouse that was once used for water pumping. The Robinson Family Estate is in good condition with the only alterations to the home being general maintenance throughout the years, and the current renovations to update the utilities of the property and replace shingles that have been severely weathered because of the elements. The maintenance changes and loss of the boat house do not detract from the overall integrity of the Robinson Family Estate in terms of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
Setting and Location:
The George T. Robinson House is located on the southerly side of Bluff Island, one of the islands situated in the St. Lawrence River; the Island is located within the township of Clayton located in Jefferson County, New York. Bluff Island is a 61 acre island, with the property of the Robinson Family Estate occupying 26 acres of the Island. The property is accessible by boat and is roughly two miles north-east of Clayton, while the closest islands are Picton Island to the north and Grindstone Island to the west. The home is located on rocky south point of Bluff Island, with the front facade facing south towards Round Island and the mainland of New York. To the east of the home is another summer cottage, once owned by Colonel Harry C. Kessler, once called “The Bluffs.” Today the property has a shop on it called “Boateak” and the shop features American arts, crafts, and antiques and is only opened during the summer months. To the west of the Robinson Family Estate is a modern style home situated on a rocky outcrop.
Before you check out the statement of significance, which is basically the WHY is this building important enough to be listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places…let me explain a little bit more about the statement. What you see below is literally only half of the statement. The section that is missing is related to the historical “context” that the house falls under. In this case the historical contexts for the George T. Robinson Houses includes the Gilded Age in the Thousand Islands Region and the commonly seen use of the shingle style in summer residences.
The other exciting part of this is that one of the main secondary sources I used in researching the Thousand Islands was the book, The First Summer People: The Thousand Islands 1650 – 1910, written by Susan Weston Smith and published in 1993. It is a great book and I suggest checking it out if you’re interested in learning more about the region and the history of the Thousand Islands, like all of the islands. So last weekend, I went to a writing fair located at TAUNY (a non-profit that focuses on folklore in Upstate NY). Susan Smith was there!!! I was able to thank her! And tell her how much her book helped me! I also told her about this nomination and how it was approved! I also told her about some of the other projects I might be working on in the area! It was wonderful to actually meet the person who had written a book that I used for research! I fan-girled out! I got a hug from her! It was beautiful!
Soooo anyways, here’s part of the statement of significance for the George T. Robinson House:
Statement of Significance Summary
The Robinson Summer Estate is locally significant under Criterion A, “property that is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.” The Robinson Summer Estate was designed by Thorsten E. Billquist in 1901 as the shingle-style summer home of George T. Robinson’s family. The Robinson family originated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Robinson worked in the steel and manufacturing industries. The property remained the summer residence of the Robinson family until 1948, when Anne H. Robinson passed away. It changed hands during the 1950’s, and ownership passed to Harry and Ruby Butcher. The couple ran the property as the “Bluff Island Lodge,” where tourists could stay while visiting the surrounding area. The Robinson Summer Estate relates to the summer resort era of the Thousand Islands during the turn of the 20th century and then again in the tourism boom of the 1950’s. The property is also locally significant under Criterion C, “property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction.” The summer home was designed by Pittsburgh architect, Thorsten E. Billquist, in the shingle-style, a style commonly used in summer resort areas. The Robinson Summer Estate is significant under these two criteria in regards to its connections to architecture (a Shingle style summer cottage), entertainment, recreational, and tourism values, as well as its connections to the social history of the Thousand Islands region as a tourist resort during the early 20th century and again in the 1950’s tourist boom in New York State.
George T. Robinson House: Social History
The Robinson Family Estate fits into the overarching social history of the Thousand Islands in regards to entertainment, recreational, and tourism in the sense that the home served as a private residence and was used as a fishing lodge briefly during the 1950’s. The home was constructed at the turn of the century in 1901, near the end of the Gilded Age, to be used as the summer residence of a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania family, the Robinson family. The home is also built in the Shingle Style, an architectural style that has been considered the leading cottage design during the Gilded Age; the home was designed by Pittsburgh architect, Thorsten E. Billquist.
George T. Robinson was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1838 to son of William C. Robinson and Ann Holdship. Ann was the daughter of Henry Holdship, who owned the largest paper making establishment in the area. William C. was a member of the firm, Robinson and Minis, which was a foundry that constructed engines. Specifically, William built steam boats and their engines; he himself owned a small fleet of steam boats.1 It was mostly likely because of his father’s work, that George became involved in the steel and engine building industry in Pennsylvania.
George married Althea Rebecca Dilworth on November 3, 1863. Together they had five children: Mary Mason, William Christopher, Anne Holdship, Stuart Holdship, and Henry Holdship. According to the United States census of 1880, George’s occupation was listed as, “iron founder and engine builder.”2 By the 1910 census, George’s occupation had changed to, “capitalist.”3 Up until 1897, George had been the president of Robinson-Rea Manufacturing Company, which was one of the first steel foundries in Pittsburgh, building engines and rolling mill machinery.4 In that same year his Robinson-Rea Manufacturing Company was consolidated with another Pittsburgh company, Leechburg Foundry and Machine Company, into a new larger organization, Mesta Machine Company. George still had a role to play in the new, larger company; he was a member of the board of directors for Mesta Machine Company. The plant that had been used by Robinson-Rae Manufacturing Company in the South Side, was still to be used by Mesta Machine Company.5
From his work in the steel industry, George was able to provide his family with a comfortable life, given the fact that he was able to purchase land in 1900 and then build a summer home on Bluff Island in the Thousand Islands in 1901. George bought land on Bluff Island from General Harry C. Kessler, who happened to be his brother-in-law. General Kessler was born in Philadelphia in 1844 and during the Civil War enlisted in the Union Army.6 Kessler had married Josephine Alden Dilworth on November 8, 1876; Josephine was a younger sister of George’s wife, Althea.7
From the deed records at the Jefferson County Clerk’s office, Harry and Josephine Kessler, who at the time were living in Montana, sold the northerly and western portion of Bluff Island to George T. Robinson. The transaction was recorded at the County Clerk’s office August 30, 1900. The Kessler’s had previously purchased the island from Fannie and Eugene Washburn and that transaction was recorded in the county records on August 20, 1900.8 The transaction was noted in the local paper, where Bluff Island was described as, “…one of the most desirable unimproved islands in this section of the river.”9 By the next summer, the Kessler and Robinson families had begun to build their summer homes. In May of 1901, the Watertown Re-Union, briefly reported that the construction work of the buildings on Bluff Island was “progressing rapidly.”10 George Robinson employed Pittsburgh architect, Thorsten E. Billquist to design his summer home; during the construction, the Robinson family vacationed on Grenell Island.11 Documents regarding the construction process of the Robinson Family Estate are lacking and consist solely of blue prints created by Billquist for the house and a boat house. The materials for the buildings are not mentioned in the blue prints but most likely were locally sourced. During the turn of the century, red granite quarries were located on both Grindstone and Picton Islands and Clayton and the surrounding area had a number of lumber businesses.12
View of the East Facade
View of the North Facade
View of the West Facade
The connection between the Kesslers, the Robinsons, and their ability to purchase a 60 acre island and build homes on the island, show the growth of wealth among those involved in industrial capitalism, which was common among America’s elite during the Gilded Age in summer resort areas. The summer people of the Gilded Age, looked for places where they could escape from the health and social problems of the inner cities by vacationing somewhere fresh and full of natural beauty much like the region of Thousand Islands and the St. Lawrence River. The Robinson family vacationed every summer at their cottage on Bluff Island. Snippets in the local newspapers of the Thousand Islands and even from Pittsburgh, give insight into how the upper class family lived during the summer. The Shingle home was officially finished by 1904, based on news reporting that members of the Robinson family were visiting Bluff Island. George’s son, William, his wife, and their young son visited the elder Robinson and his daughter, Anne Holdship for the summer.13
In 1909, the Robinson family prepared for two weddings at the Bluff Island cottage. The Hoffman- Kessler wedding was planned at George T. Robinson’s home on Bluff Island. The local paper documented activities of the members of the Robinson and Hoffman families such as when they dined at the Frontenac Hotel the week prior to the wedding.14 The bride was Althea Dilworth Hoffman, the daughter of Mary Mason Hoffman and granddaughter of George T. Robinson. The groom was her cousin, Harry C. Kessler Jr., the only son of Harry C. and Josephine Alden Kessler; their wedding was set for August 09, 1909. The second Robinson wedding of that year occurred on October 14, when Mary Mason Hoffman married her second husband, Frank J. Lynch at her father’s summer home.15
Interesting tidbits of the family’s summer activities are found in the most unusual places such as the annual report for the Carnegie Museum. The Museum’s annual report lists Anne H. Robinson under their donations for the year of April 1, 1911 to April 30, 1912. Anne donated land and fresh water shells from Bluff Island and the St. Lawrence River, collected in July of 1911. She also donated, “insects, particularly Odonata and their nymphs, from Bluff Island.”16 These snippets of information into the Robinson family’s summer vacations paint a picture of how Robinson Family Estate on Bluff Island emulates the summer activities common to the summer peoples of the Thousand Islands during the turn of the century. It was a place to relax, socialize, and enjoy the natural splendor of the St. Lawrence River and as The House Beautiful put it to escape the “city turmoil.”17
George T. Robinson died December 24, 1917, at his home in Pittsburgh. In his will, George left his home in Pittsburgh at 4926 Wallingford Street and all of its possessions to his daughter, Anne Holdship. Anne along with his other children also received shares of the stock in the Mesta Machine Company and money.18 Anne Holdship continued to reside there during the summers and was involved in the local summer community by hosting occasional garden meetings at her home on Bluff Island.19 From local newspapers of the time, it is clear that Anne was involved with the local garden clubs. In 1935, the Cape Vincent Eagle that four ladies of the “Ann Robinson Garden Club,” attended an improvement league meeting in Clayton.20 Anne was not present at the meeting. Another garden club was formed in 1938 as part of Clayton’s Improvement League, that club formed in June of that same year. Their first meeting was held on July 5th, at the home of Mrs. Joseph Davis. The second meeting was held in Clayton, at the summer home of, “Miss Ann Robinson “Bluff Island,” ” that meeting included members of both the Clayton and Cape Vincent garden clubs.21 Anne’s own garden club was still around and made the news again in 1941, when the “Anne Robinson Garden Club,” held their meeting and picnic at her home on Bluff Island.22 Though there is no photographic evidence of Anne’s gardens, the historic newspaper record points to Anne having some kind of garden. Summer cottages of the Gilded Age, much like the Robinson Family Estate, typically had formal landscaping such as terraces or flower beds.23 The granite wall surface remains that are located north of the house on a slope are most likely the remains of her gardens. There is no other location of the property that appears to contain stone walls that would have been associated with a garden. Anne Holdship Robinson continued to summer at Bluff Island until her death in 1948; she passed away at her home in Pittsburgh.24
The records for the history of the Robinson Family Estate after Anne’s death are scarce. The majority of the history comes from the Thousand Island Museum’s archives and the Jefferson County Clerk deed records. In Anne’s will, the Robinson Family Estate was left to her brother, William, in December of 1948. William and his immediate family had no need for the property and donated it to Clayton’s Christ Episcopal Church, which Anne had been a member of during her life. In 1951, Christ Episcopal Church sold the property because they too had no use for the home. At that time Harry and Ruby Butcher of Clayton purchased the property.25 Prior to purchasing the property on Bluff Island, the Butcher’s had run a popular snack shop, “Harry’s Snack Shop,” in Clayton. The Butcher’s has plans on turning the former single family residence of the Robinson Family Estate into a fishing lodge and for three summer’s from 1951 to 1954, the Butcher’s ran the “Bluff Island Lodge.”26
In 1954, the Butcher’s began to look into selling the “Bluff Island Lodge.” The Thousand Island Museum’s archives had a number of news clippings related to the sale and eventual purchase of the Lodge. The sale ad listed the lodge as having 7 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a 38′ living room, an 11′ stone fireplace, quarters on the third floor for help, a dining room large enough to accommodate 24 people, a pantry, and a large kitchen. At that time the property also had a boat house and even came with seven boats. By October of 1954, the Butcher’s had either sold or begun to lease the Bluff Island Lodge to Mr. and Mrs. Jack Cutler, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and they continued to use the property as a lodge.27 The Jefferson County Clerk’s Office deed records show something a little different. In 1956, Ruby sold the property to Willard Cutler. The Cutler family eventually sold to Timothy Hubbard in 1963, after the death of Willard Cutler.28
Since 1966, the Hubbard family continued to own the home and live there during the summers. Timothy Hubbard was a professor of Syracuse University and in 1986 wrote the Dolphin Book Club best seller, The Race. His daughter, Stephanie Hubbard, also is a writer and wrote Bluff Island Rescue Service, which is a memoir of growing up on Bluff Island; it was published in 2010.29 The Hubbard family used the property as a single-family residence up until 2016, when the home was sold to the current owner, David and Robin Lucas.
Robinson Family Estate: Architectural Significance
The Thousand Islands has been a summer resort area since the 1870’s, when George Pullman invited President Ulysses S. Grant to his summer home on “Pullman Island,” located close to Alexandria Bay, bringing national attention to the St. Lawrence River.30 Shingle Style homes are a common sight in many of the northeastern seaside resorts like Martha’s Vineyard and Bar Harbor, the same can be said about the Thousand Islands. Between the townships of Clayton and Alexandria Bay, which make up a majority of the Thousand Island Region, there are only three other Shingle Style properties listed on the State and National Registers. Those properties include: the Boldt Yacht House on Wellesley Island built in 1903 for George C. Boldt’s estate, listed 1978; the Densmore Church, constructed in 1900, also located on Wellesley Island, listed in 1988; and Ingelside, a private estate on Cherry Island that combines Queen Anne and Shingle Style architectural features, it was constructed sometime between 1899 and 1906, listed 1980.
George Robinson employed Pittsburgh architect, Thorsten E. Billquist to design his summer home on Bluff Island. Thorsten E. Billquist was educated at the University of Gothenburgh. He immigrated to the United States in 1892, first living in New York and working with the firm McKim, Mead, and White. He was involved to some extent with the designing of the Boston Public Library. Shortly after that, Billquist moved to Pittsburgh, where he worked for a brief time for the firm, Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow and then with architect William Ross Proctor. By 1896, Billquist had launched his own practice by having the winning entry for the Allegheny Observatory (added to the National Register June 22, 1979) in that year. By 1905, Billquist had partnered with Edward B. Lee, to create the firm Billquist and Lee that was active from 1905-1909.31
The Robinson Family Estate is located in a summer vacation area where Shingle Style homes were a common sight. There is also the previous work experience that Billquist had during his career at the firms of McKim, Mead and White and Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow. Both firms had key partners who had worked for Henry Hobson Richardson, the architect who designed the high style homes that emulated the key features of every popular architectural style of the late 19th and early 20th century. Both firms designed buildings that were key in creating the Shingle Style in America. Working with them most likely inspired Billquist in his own designs during his career.32
Billquist designed a summer home for the Robinson family that emulates many of the key architectural features commonly seen in Shingle Style summer homes. The home is a frame home that is clad in cedar shingles and has a raised basement constructed of rough cut red granite blocks. The front facade, which faces south towards mainland New York, is dominated by an open porch that is covered by the floor of the second story; the porch is supported by columns of rough cut red granite blocks. The interior of the home is finished exclusively in wood. The first floor of the home has a large, open layout, with spaces flowing into each via a hall running the length of the home. The first floor’s largest room is the living room, which is where all the main entrances open into. The room’s key features include a built in bench and an 11-foot granite fireplace. The fireplace is double sides, in that it is built within the wall that separates the living room from the dining room; both rooms could have a separate fire going simultaneous, if needed. Both of these rooms would have been used for family and social activities by the Robinson family and subsequent owners. The upstairs of the home had historically seven bedrooms, four bathrooms, and numerous closets. The historic layout of second floor is almost completely intact, the other differences are a bathroom and closet have been removed, most likely during the ownership of the Hubbard Family. The upstairs also a main hallway allowing easy movement throughout the different rooms; some rooms are connected to each other and even share bathrooms. The attic space was used to house the help during the summer months.
The Robinson Family Estate is locally significant under both Criteria A and Criteria C. The Robinson Summer Estate was designed by Thorsten E. Billquist in 1901 as the shingle-style summer home of George T. Robinson’s family. The Robinson family originated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Mr. Robinson worked in the steel and manufacturing industries. It changed hands during the 1950’s, and ownership passed to Harry and Ruby Butcher, who ran the property as the “Bluff Island Lodge,” where tourists could stay while visiting the surrounding area. The Robinson Summer Estate relates to the summer resort era of the Thousand Islands during the turn of the 20th century and then again in the tourism boom of the 1950’s. The property is also a great local architectural example of the Shingle Style. The summer home was designed by Pittsburgh architect, Thorsten E. Billquist, in the Shingle Style, a style commonly used in summer resort areas. Billquist also had ties and work experience in a number of important northeast architectural firms of McKim, Mead and White, and Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow. Both firms designed buildings that were key to creating the Shingle style in America. Both firms also had key partners who had worked with H. H. Richardson, the architect who can be credited with designing the prototype of the Shingle Style home in America, with the William Watts Sherman House. The Robinson Summer Estate is significant under these two criteria in regards to its connections to architecture (a Shingle style summer cottage), entertainment, recreational, and tourism values, as well as its connections to the social history of the Thousand Islands region as a tourist resort during the early 20th century and again in the 1950’s tourist boom in New York State.
If you have any questions of comments about the George T. Robinson House or about writing a national register nomination, let me know in the comment section below!
2United States Census Bureau, “United States Census, 1880, George T. Robinson, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States,” citing enumeration district ED1 166, sheet 357D, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington DC.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d, roll 1095, FHL microfilm 1,255,095, 1880), https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG7T-YRN (accessed July 17, 2016).
3United States Census Bureau, “United States Census, 1910, George T. Robinson, Pittsburgh Ward 7, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States,” citing enumeration district ED 360, sheet 5, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington DC.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d, FHL microfilm 1,375,314, 1910), https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG7T-YRN (accessed July 17, 2016).
7 United States Census Bureau, “United States Census, 1850, Joesphine Dilworth in household of William Dilworth, Allegheny City, Ward 1, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, United States,” citing family 82, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington DC.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d,), https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M44H-2LH (accessed July 17, 2016).
8“Deed of Sale from Fannie L. Washburn and Eugene R. Washburn to Harry C. Keesler August 20, 1900,” (filed August 30, 1900), Jefferson County Clerk’s Office: Watertown, New York, Liber 296 of Deeds, page 331-332.
9“Brevities,” The Watertown Herald, August 18, 1900.
10“Clayton,” The Watertown Re-Union, May 22, 1901.
11 Thousand Islands Museum Archives, “American Islands Binder A-M,” Clayton, New York.
12“Clayton News,” The Watertown Re-Union, March 31, 1906. “Clayton News,” The Watertown Re-Union, July 21, 1900. Smith, First Summer Peoples, 79, 81.
18 Thousand Islands Museum Archives, “Family Binder: Robinson,” Clayton, New York.
19“Last Will and Testament of George T. Robinson May 15, 1909, Sealed February 20,1917,” (filed October 20, 1920), Jefferson County Clerk’s Office: Watertown, New York, Liber 2361 of Deeds, page 571-572.
20“Improvement League Holds Meeting,” Cape Vincent Eagle, May 9, 1935.
21“Garden Club is Formed in Village,” Cape Vincent Eagle, June 23, 1938.
22“Garden Club to Meet,” Clayton News, August 12, 1941.
24 Thousand Islands Museum Archives, “Family Binder: Robinson,” Clayton, New York.
25“Deed of Sale from Christ Church of the Town of Clayton to Harry W. and Ruby K. Butcher October 9, 1951,” (filed October 9, 1951), Jefferson County Clerk’s Office: Watertown, New York, Liber 559 of Deeds, page 180-181. Thousand Islands Museum Archives, “Family Binder: Robinson,” Clayton, New York.
26 Thousand Islands Museum Archives, “American Islands Binder A-M,” Clayton, New York.
28“Deed of Sale from Willard Cutler to Timothy William Hubbard August 16, 1963” (filed September 16, 1963, Jefferson County Clerk’s Office: Watertown, New York, Liber 741 of Deeds, page 380.
29John Golden, “Island Author Navigates From Ocean to Banks,” Watertown Daily Times, July 9, 1995. Stephanie Hubbard, “Great Reviews Are Coming In! Get Your Own Copy! Tell Your Friends!,” Bluff Island Rescue Service: A Memoir Website, August 25, 2010, http://www.bluffislandrescueservice.com/ (accessed August 23, 2016).
So this blog is about my history and preservation adventures but have I told you about how much I love eating when I adventure around!?!
I enjoy finding unique eateries and stuffing my face fully of messy food. I also have a soft spot for anything made locally…so when I traveled to Rochester a couple of weekends ago, there were some really awesome places my friend, Amanda, took me to.
The first cool place we went to was a burger joint called, “The Playhouse and Swillburger,” which along with serving up classic American food, has a bar, and a number of old school arcade games. When we arrived at the restaurant, I was starving. I’m not good at planning for food stops when I’m traveling. I typically wait until I get to my destination…starving and questioning when we’re going to eat.
Sooo, I’m not just telling you about the Swillburger because of how awesome the vibe was or how great the food tasted. The building happens to be old and have a cool backstory!
This brings me to another topic I’ve been wanting to write more about- building rehabilitation and reuse stories. So the idea that an old, historic, unused property gets a Cinderella-type makeover into something cool and the building remains in use!
Check out the images of the exterior and interior of The Playhouse and Swillburger to see what the building once was. The captions for the photos will give a brief history of the building and how it got into its current state.
The church was constructed in 1890 for the congregation of the 2nd German Baptist Church. The congregation had formed two years prior when 50 people of the 1st German Baptist Church wanted to establish their own branch.
The brick building cost more than planned by the congregation. So they were in debt. As a way to raise money to pay off the costs of the church’s construction, the congregation began to host concerts open to the public. By 1902, the debt was paid off! In 1918, the 2nd German Baptist congregation rejoined the previous 1st German Baptist congregation. The building was left vacant.
For a brief time the former church was owned by the Standard Automatic Machine Company. In 1926, the Rochester Community Players ( a theater group) purchased the property and made it their home. They hired architects Arnold and Stern to renovate the interior – stages and balconies were built. The theater group called this place their home until 1984.
In 1985, the former church and theater, started a new chapter in it’s long history as the home for the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. It was used as a church again until 2013!
In 2013, the current owners purchased the property at the corner of South Clinton and Meigs Street. Brian Van Etten and Jeff Ching eventualy started a Kickstarter campaign to fund their plans on renovating the old church and theater space into a arcade/bar/burger joint combo. The fundraising campaign began in the summer of 2015 and before the end of that year, they were open for business!
So back to the burning question you have…was the food any good!?!
For the love of all foods good, cheap, and served quickly. Yes. Much good.
The crispy chicken sammie (sandwich) with Swillsauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and dad’s pickles? That was amazing and everything was so fresh tasting.
The “Smoke and Fire” french fries? Spicy and crunchy just the way I like my french fries.
The vegan chocolate milkshake? Creamy, thick, and chocolaty with a hint of coconut.
On a super nerdy yet slightly related note… For those familiar with the television show, Supernatural, there is a scene of a recurring character who is eating a hamburger, and he says something along the lines, “These make me very happy.” Here’s a link to the clip on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0bpejn__bQ
That’s exactly how I felt eating the food I ordered at Swillburger. The added facts that it was in a historic building and I was with my bff. Priceless.
There was one other food place Amanda and I went to while I was visiting and that was the Rochester Public Market. The market is open weekly on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; it’s a year round market place.
Amanda and I went to the Union Street Bakery for breakfast because Amanda said they have the best breakfast sandwiches around. The bakery is part of a row of buildings at the Public Market.
They did not disappoint!
This place was packed. It was hard to get a seat. Amanda and I initially went outside to eat but it was too cold so we came back inside. Luckily we found a seat.
These were the two guys in charge of making breakfast sandwiches to order! They were quick. I would say the wait was less than 10 minutes.
This is a section of the row buildings located at the market.
The Rochester Public Market has been in operation since 1827 when it was located at the west end of the Main Street Bridge. In 1905, the market was relocated to its current location on Union Street. Originally, the vendors who sold at the market could only sell products wholesale. That changed in 1913, when the city began to allow retailers to sell directly to the shoppers. When we visited the market it was chilly out and overcast but that didn’t seem to stop people from being out and shopping at the market!
Researching the Rochester Public Market I came across some interesting articles about plans for upgrades to the market. Apparently, the Public Market has received quite a bit of money to build a few buildings and to do general upgrades to the location. The weird thing was that this collection of news articles were from 2012-2013….in one of the articles, some peoples opinions on the future upgrades were reported on. The main concerns were that the upgrades would “yuppify” the market- more hipster coffee places and prices would rise pushing out certain groups of people from shopping at the market.
I’m not sure how much work has been done on the market. My friend, Amanda, made it sounds like the biggest upgrades still haven’t happened. I’m not sure. What I do know though is when I was there, there were lots of people from all walks of life. The vendors varied from handcrafts to produce to livestock. It was great to see so many people from different cultures- I don’t get to see that often in Northern New York. I like it.
The prices also were very inexpensive. Breakfast cost me $5 and that sandwich was glorious. Between Amanda and I, we probably spent barely $30.00 on produce. I think the most expensive thing purchased were frozen pierogies that we had for lunch. Not to be too weird but I still have apples in my crisper from the market and they’re still good!
Click through the images below to get a sense of what the Rochester Public Market is like!
This is the main market space where almost all of the vendors are set up. It is a horseshoe shaped space, so it curves around. There were lots of people there as can be seen in this image.
I haven’t had cider donuts since November. So these were wonderful to buy!
This was very interesting to say the least. I saw this in the as one building at the market-all of the refrigerated foods are in this building. You can buy fresh fish in there too!
There are these type of gateways all around the public market.
Both of these places were really awesome for food adventures! If you find yourself in Rochester, check them both out!
Here in Northern New York, there are a number of good building reuse stories for me to share in the future. For example, there’s an Italian restaurant in an old train depot around the corner from me!
Is there a place in your hometown, with a cool and unique building reuse story that you frequent often? Or is there an eatery that’s really awesome and serves great food? Or does your town have a public market that is open year round?
Let me know in the comment section! I love hearing about good food.
Check out some of the links in the “Further Information” section- there news articles about the Rochester Farmer’s Market and the Playhouse and Swillburger there, along with a link to historic photographs of the market!
Part deux of my adventures in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
The really cool part of being at the National Emergency Training Center is that it is right next door to the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. A tour was offered of the Basilica after hours if you were at the training center, so I took the opportunity to see the Shrine.
The grounds of the Shrine consists of a walking path, a number of buildings, and a cemetery. If you find yourself in the area, the grounds are open to walk around until dusk, while the Basilica and museum are open almost daily from 10- 4:30 pm.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) is the first native born United States citizen to be canonized, which means to be named a saint. She was canonized in 1975 by Pope Paul VI. In 1991 the chapel, which was originally designed as the chapel for the sisters in the Daughters of Charity, was designated as a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II; it was already the national shrine prior to this.
So, I’m sure you have some questions:
1. What exactly did Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton do during her life to be canonized?
2. What is a basilica, it sounds like architectural jargon!?! It is….
Anyways, I’ll answer the easier of the two.
Who exactly was Mother Seton?
The shortened biography goes something like this…Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born in 1774 into an Anglican family in New York City. In 1794, she married William Magee Seton and they had five children. William was not in the greatest health and because of this he, Elizabeth, and their eldest child, Anna Marie, sailed to Italy for warmer weather believing this would help William’s health. William also had business partners in Italy, Filippo and Antonio Filicchi, who they planned to stay with.
Sadly, the warmer weather did not help. William passed away before the end of 1803. While in Italy though, Elizabeth was introduced to the Catholic faith through the Filicchi family. Upon returning to the United States, she converted to the Roman Catholic Faith in 1805. By 1808, she was traveling with her family and companions, to Emmitsburg to start a school for girls. She was successful in starting a school, St. Joseph’s Academy, which eventually morphed into Saint Joseph’s College. She also created the congregation of religious sisters called, the Sisters of Charity.
This is the Stone House, where Mother Seton, her children, and companions first lived when they moved to Emmitsburg to start a school. The home was constructed in 1750 and is also known as the Fleming farmhouse. The size of home today is almost double what Mother Seton and her companions lived in. When they first arrived, the home only consisted of 4 rooms and there were 16 people living in them, and they managed to have space for a temporary chapel in the same building.
This was the only photo I managed to take of this home. This house was constructed in 1810 after Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore visited Mother Seton and saw the condition of the Stone House they were living in. He did not like the conditions of the Stone House and directed that a new home be built for the group. This building is also known as St. Joseph’s House and would have been the original location for the academy.
The cemetery contains the graves of Sisters and Daughters of Charity, along with priests.
This little chapel was constructed after Mother Seton passed away in 1821. Her son, William, financed the construction. Mother Seton’s remains were here from 1846 until the 1960’s when they were moved to the basilica after her beatification.
This is the original gravestone for Mother Seton, the stones in front of her are for her family members that traveled to Emmitsburg with her.
This leads us to the other question.
What exactly is a basilica?
So historically a basilica was a type of large public building found in Rome. It was used for business or legal matters- not religious matters. It typically would have been a semi-circular space roofed with a half dome. Finally, when Christianity was no longer illegal in the Roman Empire in the 4th century, Christians began to publicly construct basilicas.
The most basic interior layout of the basilica would have consisted of:
Nave – This is the central aisle that religious processions walk down
Aisles– One on each side of the central nave
Apse– This is the location where the altar is, typically it is opposite of the main entrance
From this basic interior plan, a basilica can greatly vary. For example there could be transepts, which would go off of the outer aisles expanding the layout into a “cross” plan. There can also be differences in the ceiling vaults. Examples: the central nave has a ceiling that extends upwards another story allowing for windows while the ceilings above the aisles are not as tall OR the height of all three ceilings and their vaults are all similar in size meaning there might not be windows.
To confuse matters a little more, “basilica” can also refer to an ecclesiastical status for a church.
There are two rankings for basilicas with this type of status: major and minor.
There are only four major or papal basilicas, these are all located in Rome and have something called a “holy door” it’s a very specific type of door.
Then there are minor basilicas, these are churches, chapels, etc. that have been decreed by the acting Pope to be designated as a minor basilica (typically a Papal brief is issued). This allows that building the right to conopaeum, a specific type of canopy to be displayed. It’s red and gold and looks like an umbrella. There is also the right to display a bell called, tintinnabulum, and the cappa magna, which is a robe. All of these link the basilica to the Pope.
The basilica at Emmitsburg was completed in 1965 and the interior was made entirely by German and Italian craftsmen and artisans. I tried researching more on the architecture of the basilica but I could find nothing! The church is definitely Italianate in style. It’s beautiful.
The following are images from within the basilica for Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. You should be able to “right click” on any of the images to open into a new page, this will allow you to slightly zoom into the images to see more details.
The central image is of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
This is an altar to Saint Louise de Marillac, who was a co-founder of the Daughters of Charity in France in 1633.
Stay tune for the next post on Gettysburg, which has a link to the Sisters of Charity!
Thanks for reading!
For More Information:
All of my information came from a handout I received at the Basilica and from the Shrine’s website. I attached the National Register nomination again because it does discuss the Stone House, the White House, and the cemetery. I can’t seem to conclude whether or not the Basilica is actually included in the district. I assume it is, but there’s no real information about the building and it’s construction, which is weird.
In honor of the holiday, I thought I’d share some finds from local sources on NYS Historic Newspapers related to St. Patrick’s Day!
The following is a poem that was printed in Ogdensburg’s The Daily Journal on March 17, 1869.
This is a poem about St. Patrick’s Day that was printed in Ogdensburg’s, “The Daily Journal” on March 17, 1869.
This is the second part of the poem.
The poem and advertisement were found just by searching, “saint patrick’s day” for St. Lawrence County in the search engine of the NYS Historic Newspapers: http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/. If you live in New York State, see if you can find some cool articles or advertisements for the holiday in your area!
On that, you didn’t think you’d get through a post without any buildings, did you?
This wouldn’t be a preservation adventure blog if I didn’t have some photos of architecture to share!
So, last weekend I traveled to Ottawa with my friends, Nate and Logan. While we were in the capital of Canada, we checked out the Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica , which is located on Sussex Drive across from the National Art Gallery.
The interior of the Basilica is very ornate and brightly colored. Click through the photographs below for more history and information about the structure.
The interior of the Basilica was planned by Canon Georges Bouillon. A team of craftsmen, sculptors, and carpenters made the plans a reality. The ceiling is based on 16th century Gothic Style and the stars are gold-leaf. It was restored in 1999!
The main altar is 52 feet high and seeped in Gothic ornamentation. It consists of three arches with reliefs of the Nativity, Jesus teaching, and the Resurrection. Surrounding the main altar are large wooden statues of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and saints.
A close-up of some of the statues in the sanctuary. There are a total of 30 statues and they were the work of three significant Canadian sculptors: Louis-Philippe Hebert, Pierre Rochon, and Philippe Parizeau.
A view of right side altar: The Blessed Virgin or also called the Altar of the Immaculate Conception; it was completed in 1885. In this photo you can see some of the narrow columns that are in the Basilica, they are all decoratively painted to look like stone. The statue seen here is of St. Anne holding Mary as a child.
So many Gothic Arches in this church! The first organ for the church was installed in 1850; carved in 1871 by Flavien Rochon. This organ was replaced in 1892 with a new organ built by Casavant & Co. That organi has been reconstructed and repaired multiple times, most recently in 1998 to recreate the organ as it would have sounded in 1892.
The first stained glass windows were installed in 1879. Other stained glass windows were installed in the 1950’s by Guido Nincheri of Montreal. These are some of those windows installed in the 1950’s.
This is a view of the right side aisle and the vaulting beneath the upper gallery.
This is a view of one of the stained glass windows seen in the aisle right to the nave (the center aisle of the church). You can also see the details of the ceiling vaults beneath the upper gallery.
So outside of the Basilica there was some interesting local architecture on a certain street. Can you guess the name of the street that runs alongside the Basilica?
If you guessed St. Patrick Street- you’re right!
Here are some of the cool buildings located on St. Patrick Street of Ottawa located in the Byward Market District.
This is 138 St. Patrick Street, named the Rochon Residence. This was the home of Pierre Rochon, who was one of the Canadian sculptors working on the church across the street. The home might have been built as early as 1832, is 1 1/2 stories tall and the architecture of the home is considered to be the traditional house style of Lower Town in Ottawa.
This building is located at 142-144 St. Patrick Street; it’s located right next to the Rochon Residence. Both homes are listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places. This home was constructed in 1866 for Dr. Francois-Xavier Valade, a Lower Town doctor. It combines both British elements (front entrance, high dormers) with French-Canadian architectural elements (casement windows, the stonework, the balcony, asymmetrical massing).
I couldn’t find any information about the history of this building. It is a Victorian era home and has some pretty neat Eastlake style elements with the roof line and the second story balcony. The building is currently the home of a art gallery: Jean Claude Bergeron.
Again, I have no information about the history of this building but it has some cool architectural elements such as the glass bricks in the center and the brick designs above that igivng it a Streamline Moderne vibe. Based on those elements, the building was probably constructed in the late 1920’s-30’s
Hopefully this inspires you to go check out your local “St. Patrick’s Street.”
The Military Turnpike is one of the main roads to and from Plattsburgh, New York when traveling east- west across Northern New York. The road is long, winding, and dangerous. There have been numerous accidents on the road throughout its history. At the same time though, the road has a couple of interesting and historical road side attractions that can easily be missed.
The last time I was traveling along the route, I stopped and checked out the historical sites on the Military Turnpike. Prior to the trip, it seemed like a good idea to check out the sites. That was until I actually pulled over. There’s not a lot of shoulder on the road to pull over onto and cars were zooming along on the road at full speed (a legal speed I hope). But some days I like to live dangerously, so I got out of my car to check out an old cemetery and a historical marker located on the Turnpike.
But before I delve into the historical marker and the cemetery. Let’s look at the Military Turnpike, which has its own interesting story and has repeatedly been considered the most historic roadway in Northern New York. Using my favorite, trusty, historic resource- New York Historical Newspapers-I discovered a lot of information on the Turnpike and how the historical sites on the road intertwine with the Military Turnpike’s history.
The road, in some capacity, was in use prior to 1811. It probably wasn’t a road in the sense of what you’re use to driving on. Think more of a path traveled by farmers, their livestock, by foot, and by wagons. That path also would not have been level. It probably would have been overgrown with vegetation at certain times of the year. While at other times it would have been mud. Or impassable because of snow. This was not a road but more of a trail cutting through Northern New York.
In 1811, a law was passed to have the locals actually improve the Old Military Turnpike located between Plattsburgh and Chateaugay. The money to fund this improvement early improvement program was to come from a “lottery” for the purchase of a botanical garden….i
This would be a good time for an interjection.
This is some interesting stuff right here. I have NO IDEA what in blazes, this “lottery” or “botanical gardens” was. It is not clear. The source doesn’t even explain where the “botanical gardens” were located or even who was in charge of the “lottery”. Were people bidding to win a garden? I have no idea. I assume somewhere in Plattsburgh. I hope it was nice.
Now back to the history.
Unsurprisingly, nothing was done to the road to improve the path. Maybe no one actually put money into the lottery because they too were confused about what was going on…So, as you’ll soon see, a common theme in the history of the Old Military Turnpike, is the fact that good maintenance and much needed improvements were few and far between throughout the years.
Nothing was done on the road until after the War of 1812. In 1817, President Monroe, ordered that a good road be completed from Plattsburgh to Chateaugay. It’s possible that during the War, it was discovered how crappy the major “road” from Lake Champlain to the American forts along the St. Lawrence River, actually was. Thinking that a future war with England’s territories to the North (Canada) might be possible again, having a good road to get military supplies from Plattsburgh to the other side of Northern New York would have made logical sense. There might have been another reason too, which I’ll talk about later. Troops that were stationed in Plattsburgh from the 6th Regiment worked on the road every year from 1817 until roughly 1826 (some sources said work ended earlier in 1822/23). Whatever the actual date is the troops were able to clear roughly 24 miles of the road. The road at this time was the main route from Plattsburgh to Hopkinton via Ellenburg, Chateaugay, and Malone.ii
It seems that not much was done to maintain the road for the next 100 years. In 1926, the Plattsburgh Sentinel featured a large article entitled, “All Endorse Improved Old Military Turnpike.” The paper advocated for improving the road that, “…passes through a prosperous farming and dairy country.”iii This article marks the beginning of the paper’s and the resident’s attempts at petitioning to the local government for money to improve the Old Military Road, which was also called the Monroe Highway by some.
It would take about 10 years before any money would be available to do the much needed improvements to the route. It’s mind boggling, reading the news articles from the Plattsburgh Sentinel, which went through some name changes during that time; to “Daily Times” and then the “Daily Press.” The frustration of the paper is apparent in almost every article they wrote about this touchy subject.
“It seems like delving into the dim recesses of the Stone Age since this paper began a campaign for the improvement of the “Old Military Turnpike” which would open up such a splendid area to convenient means of getting to and from the market, for shortening the route between this city and Ellenburgh, Chateaugay, Malone, and other points to the North.”iv
“It seems strange that this, one of our oldest highways, should be allowed to become entirely neglected. It must be all of eight or nine years ago that we began an agitation for the improvement of this highway in keeping with what was being done for other highways. The best we could get was that the road would be placed “on the maps.” This is all very well, but people cannot travel on maps.”v
The sass from this newspaper is amazing.
One can only imagine the frustration of the road’s inhabitants during this time as- stories ran highlighting different proposed public work projects related to the roads in New York, yet it seemed like no one cared about this very important highway.
Examples include an article from 1932 where it was reported that there was an estimated $35,000,000 to be put aside for road improvements across the state. Three years later, in 1935, the state saw another estimated proposal for $200,000,000 to be put aside for road improvements.vi Each time a new amount was named for road improvements, the Plattsburgh Daily Press would write extensively about the Old Military Turnpike, the importance of the route, and how they hoped local officials would use State money to improve the road. It seemed that each time a new amount would be available for road improvements that the Monroe Highway would miss out on the opportunity for improvements.
That is until January 2, 1936!
The road was finally listed on the County Road Program. Improvement work was planned for 1936 and even 1937, if not possibly beyond that. The Plattsburgh Daily Press had a long article announcing the planned improvements, writing:
“Improvement of this historic road has long been advocated by the Plattsburgh Press and the residents residing along its route from the Sunrise hotel corner to Ellenburg Corners, a distance of approximately 22 miles. Not only because of its historic value has construction of this road been advocated but because of its need to a large number of farmers and residents along its route who find it almost impassable during the spring freshets and after heavy rain storms.”vii
It was also during the 1930’s that the Military Turnpike, or the Monroe Highway, was given a new name- New York State Route 190, as part of the renumbering of the state highways.viii
My research into the history of the road ended around the late 1930’s but today on the road, you can see what those improvements in the 1930’s created for today’s route that is the Military Turnpike. The road itself isn’t the only historic feature between Plattsburgh and Ellenburgh, as I’ve already mentioned the road has at least one historic marker and an old cemetery both of which I checked out on my last drive on the road.
The historic marker is for a decaying house along the Monroe Highway, if you blink at just the right moment, you will miss the house. It’s also easy to miss the stone ruins because of the jungle of vines that have crept up the walls, helping the ruins blend in with the field the house stands in. The blue “Historic New York” marker by the side of the road indicates the property’s importance to the road’s history.
The stone ruins at one time was a very popular tavern used by travelers of the turnpike. The home was built in 1823 by Lewis Sage Robinson. His father, Daniel, had built a log tavern located just south of where the stone ruins stand today. Either way, the site’s claim to historic fame is that in 1817, President Monroe had travel plans to tour the Northern States. One of the his first stops was in Plattsburgh, New York. From there he traveled west to get to Sackets Harbor. President Monroe and his party traveled on the Turnpike and stopped on Daniel Robinson’s property, close to the structure that stands today, to enjoy a picnic catered by the townsfolk.
This is also why the Old Military Turnpike was also called the Monroe Highway in the 1930’s, to pay homage to the President who traveled through the area. If you remember from earlier I mentioned that in 1817, Monroe ordered that the road be improved by the troops at Plattsburgh. So while President Monroe may have ordered the road to be improved because of its possible military importance in moving supplies across the northern most territory of the country. He may have also ordered the improvements because of the hospitality he received from the local people on his trip, as a way to thank those living along the Old Military Turnpike.ix
The tavern ruins are connected to another historic site on the state highway. Down the road from the ruins is a small cemetery seen on the left when traveling eats to Plattsburgh. The cemetery is maintained well enough, yet the stones have obviously been affected by the elements of time- engravings are not easy to read and there are stones that have fallen down.
Luckily the cemetery was inscribed in the 1930’s by Hugh McLellan, his son Charles, and daughter-in-law, Hulda.x It appears the 1930’s was a very busy time on the turnpike! Anyways, from looking at the online records from the inscription project, and I was able to make some connections to the Robinson family.
So here’s some quick genealogy of the Robinson family. Daniel Robinson, the man who built the log tavern, was an American Revolutionary War veteran when he moved from Middletown, Connecticut to Plattsburgh. In 1783, the year he moved, he married Thankful Sage, also of Middletown. They had 12 children, one of which was Lewis, who built the stone tavern! Records about Lewis list him as “Lewis Sage” or “Lewis Samuel,” I’m not sure which was his actual middle name. Anyways, Lewis married Hannah Eldred and they had 7 children. The tavern was passed down to their youngest daughter, Samantha and her family; they lived at the homestead and cared for the aging Lewis and Hannah.
Another one of their children, Rosetta, married Hiram Walker; Rosetta and Hiram had eight children. Hiram’s parents were Jeremiah (Jerry) and Harriet; they happen to be buried at the small cemetery. Their daughter, Hiram’s sister, Fidelia (or spelled as “Phidella”) is also buried at the cemetery near Jeremiah and Harriet. There is another Walker, and actually a Robinson family member, buried at the cemetery. The other relevant gravestone is for Samantha, who was the daughter of Hiram and Rosetta, which makes Samantha the great-granddaughter of Daniel Robinson and granddaughter to Lewis Robinson, Rosetta’s father. Neither Rosetta or Hiram are buried at the cemetery and there are no other connections I could make to the Robinson family.xi
The connections between the Military Turnpike, the Robinson Tavern, and the cemetery are pretty neat, in my opinion. Research took awhile on this project but I’m happy with the results. I’m sure there is a lot more that could be researched on the Military Turnpike in regards to it’s maintenance.
The tavern seems to have still been in “good shape” in the 1970’s; news articles indicated that the owners might have been in the process of remodeling the home. I could find nothing after 1975 about the house through the Historic New York Newspapers search engine to figure out why the remodeling ended. Obviously, the ruins are beyond repair unless someone is willing to put a fortune into rebuilding the home and recycling the stone that is currently there in the rebuilding.
As I have written before in previous posts, there is a lot of forgotten history in Northern New York. There is also a long history where maintaining and even restoring historic sites seems to not be a local concern. The history of the Military Turnpike supports that. It is historic and significant to the area, yet the local residents, and even the Plattsburgh Daily Press, had a hell of a time convincing politicians of the importance AND NEED to improve the road. Looking at the tavern too, though President Monroe did not see the stone tavern in 1817 because it had yet to be built, the location of the site is related to this historic tour of the Northern States by a President Monroe and yet, the tavern is just a decaying ruin today.
It’s frustrating that this history is largely forgotten. At the same time though, it inspires me to continue research and share what I discover about history here in Northern New York and other places I visit.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Old Military Turnpike.
If you have any thoughts or comments, let me know below in the comment section!