This week, we return to one of my favorite things: architectural jargon!
While you may think of it as useless architectural history, I promise you that it will come in handy someday during a trivia Tuesday.
Someday, someone will be impressed with your knowledge of oriel windows.
So, what are they exactly? My handy-dandy Guide to Vermont Architecture uses the following definition:
“Multi-sided window that projects from the wall of a building, and whose base does not reach the ground.”
If the window starts on the first floor then you can call it a “bay” window; bay windows can be more than one story in height much like oriel windows.
Another definition comes from Thought Co.:
“An oriel window is a set of windows, arranged together in a bay, that protrudes from the face of a building on an upper floor and is braced underneath by a bracket or corbel.”
Here’s a definition of oriel windows from John Britton’s, A Dictionary of the Architecture and Archaeology of the Middle Ages: Including Words Used by Ancient and Modern Authors in Treating of Architectural and other Antiquities: With Etymology, Definition, Description, and Historical Elucidation: Also, Biographical Notices of Ancient Architects, which was printed in 1838:
So, where’d the idea of these windows come from you’re probably wondering!
Well, oriel windows most likely originated in the Middle Ages, not just in Europe but also in the Middles East.
In Europe, it may have developed from the word for porch or gallery, “oriolum,” which is medieval Latin. As you can see there’s a connection between the words, “oriel” and “oriolum.” Merriam Webster’s dictionary points to the first known usage of the word in the 14th century while the Encyclopedia Britannica says “oriel” became “prevalent” in the 15th century and were often placed over gateways or entrances to manor houses and public buildings.
So why would you want an oriel window- besides using it to spy on who’s coming to the manor for dinner tonight? It also allowed more light into a room and expanded the flood plan. The window style also offered a way for air ventilation and keeping a room cooler, which would have been ideal in the Middle East. In the Middle East, this style of window first appeared in 12th century Baghdad during the Abbasid Period. The window was called, mashrabiya, and were known for their ornamental lattice screens. In the Middle Eastern architecture, they were typically found on the side of the buildings and/or on the courtyard side of a house. Through the ages, the mashrabiya often would be designed based on the current architectural styles of the time, for example during the 1920’s and 1930’s, the mashrabiya lattice work was inspired by the Art Noveau and Art Deco styles.
Here in the United States, oriel windows can be found on a variety of buildings with different architectural styles, such as: Tudor Revival, Gothic Revival, and Queen Anne.
In another exciting book found on Google Books, here’s instructions on how you would have constructed an oriel window in the 1840’s as detailed by Alfred Bartholomew in Specifications for Practical Architecture, Preceded by an Essay on the Decline of Excellence in the Structure and in the Science of Modern English Buildings; With the Proposal of Remedies for those Defects:
*I am not making up these titles of these books that I found on Google Books*
(Let’s talk about Google Books. They’re amazing. You can read previews of many newer books but can also find the full text for many older books and periodicals, which can be fantastic when researching quirky architectural history topics.)
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.
This was an unexpected blog post but a few days ago was the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. The Transcontinental Railroad was officially completed at Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869 and it connected the county by rail.
A number of years ago, when I was still working part-time at the Potsdam Public Museum, I created a very simple mini-exhibit on the Transcontinental Railroad. The exhibit showed via railroad maps how, with the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, it was possible to get from Potsdam, NY to the West. The mini-exhibit was super mini and I don’t think that many people got to see but hey, this is a different platform and I’m sure someone will be interested in cross-country travel in 1869.
Along those lines, last weekend, I attended a cool tour at the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento, which gave a walking tour related to the Transcontinental Railroad. While few of the key players are actually buried in Sacramento there are a lot of connections to the city.
During the tour, I learned about some of the well-known names involved in the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad. For example, Theodore Judah, who was the brains and architect of the TC railroad; the idea was to get a railroad through and over the Sierra Nevada. He was originally born in Connecticut but lived in Troy, NY with his family for a number of years. On May 10, 1847 he married Anne Pierce. Sadly, though he died before construction began though but not before giving his wife enough information to make sure financing was secured for the railroad. Two of the volunteers with the cemetery acted the parts of Theodore and Anne. They did a pretty good job and the most interesting parts were about Anna to be honest. She apparently did a number of sketches while traveling to California. In additional the other interesting tidbit about them was that the completion of the railroad occurred on what would have been their 22nd wedding anniversary if Theodore hadn’t passed away. Neither are buried in Sacramento but instead in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Another group of people connected to the railroad, were the Big Four. They were all business, philanthropists, and railroad tycoons who pooled their resources to create the Central Pacific Railroad, which would be the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad. In addition they became even more wealthy from their involvement in the railroad and there was a lot of shady business that happened. The Big Four were:
Leland Stanford, born in Watervliet (now Colonie), NY. He was originally a lawyer but moved into business before moving to California.
Collins Potter Huntington, originally from Connecticut but settled first in Oneonta, NY where he established a successful business before moving to Sacramento, CA
Mark Hopkins, originally from Henderson, NY (located in Jefferson County). He is buried in the Sacramento Historic Cemetery.
Charles Crocker, he was originally from Troy, NY. He’s part of the same Crocker Family that established the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento.
As you can see, there’s also a lot of connections to New York, which is super interesting! I have also realized, while on the cemetery tour I didn’t take any photos of any of the stopping points on the tour except from the Crocker Family Plot. Charles Crocker isn’t buried here but his brother, Edwin, is buried here. Edwin was also involved in the Central Pacific Railroad and served as the businesses’ legal council.
The following images are all from maps that are available online and there is bibliographic information for each as well as the website to view the map in whole; all links are still active. The maps show the journey westward leaving from Potsdam, NY and arriving in California via multiple railroad lines across the United States. The portions of the following maps come from larger maps created around 1869, when the transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869. Sadly, when I moved to Sacramento, CA from Brasher Falls, NY I did not travel by train. I took a plane from Massena, NY to Boston, MA, where I switched airlines and then flew non-stop to Sacramento, CA.
It’s been a while since we’ve talked about some architectural jargon, so that’s what we’re doing this morning!
So, balusters…. balustrades…. you’ve seen them, you’ve heard of them but really, what are they? Could you actually define them? Everything you’re about to read, will be on the test later. So pay attention!
A balustrade as defined by my handy-dandy “Guide to Vermont Architecture” says this:
“A row of vertical balusters or other elements topped by a handrail and used to edge stairways, porches, balconies, and roof lines.”[i]
It just so happens that a “baluster,” is one of number of terms that can be used to name a turned or rectangular upright support seen in the balustrade. Other names you may see include: “banister,” “column,’ “spindle,” or even “stair stick.”[iii] Personally, “stair stick” is my new favorite and will be the technical term I use going forth in any official building description I write ever again. That’s a joke, I’m like 90% sure no State Historic Preservation Office would be pleases to see balusters called “stair sticks.” The term, “baluster,” can also be used to described a type of metal candle stick, an upright furniture support, or event the stem of a brass chandelier.[iv]
Balusters and balustrades can be seen in a number of different forms and materials including wood, stone, metal, and plastic. In the history of baluster development, cast-stone balusters were first developed in Great Britain during the 18th century. While cast iron ones didn’t make an appearance until the 1840’s.[v]
The term, “baluster,” didn’t really come into use until the 17th century and originates from the Italian word, balaustro or balaustra, which in turn comes from the Latin word, balaustium. All of these words by the way means, “flower of the wild pomegranate.”[vi] We’ll come back to that interesting word in a moment.
Even though the word “baluster” and “balustrade” wasn’t in use until the 1600’s, the architectural element makes its first appearance in ancient Assyrian sculptural murals, also called “bas-reliefs,” which date all back to the 13th-7th century BC. In the murals, balusters and balustrades can be seen in palaces lining windows. This helps hone in on the function of a balustrade other than potentially being a decorative architectural feature, it helps reduce the possibility of a person falling. While balustrades make an appearance in ancient Assyrian art, we’re not sure exactly if there was a specific word used for the building element. Another interesting thing is that balusters and balustrades do not appear in ancient Greek or Roman ruins or art. The Romans did use a type of lattice structure though, crisscrossed panels called, transennae or clathii that could be constructed of wood, bronze, or even marble.[vii]
Balusters and balustrades as we know them did not reappear in the “modern” era until the Renaissance in Italy- not surprising because of the Italian origin of the word. The first known or maybe surviving first use of the balustrade in architecture is on the Pitti Palace in Florence constructed c. 1448. Another important, early example of the balustrade can be seen on the Drum of the Tempietti, which was designed by Donato Bramanti c. 1502. The Drum is at the Monastery of San Pietro in Montorio, which brings us back to the Italian and Latin root of “baluster.” Both origin words of “baluster” means the “blossoming flower of the pomegranate.” Most likely when you think of a single baluster, you think of a vase shaped mini column, which is actually what the blossoming pomegranate flower looks like! Some more trivia about balusters to impress your friends with include that the narrow section of the vase shape is known as the “sleeve,” while the wide section is called the “belly.” The balusters at the Drum of the Tempietti consist of two vase shapes connected at the “belly” end, which kind of looks like a candlestick and was probably inspired by Roman candlesticks. This type of baluster design is sometimes called the “double” baluster.[viii]
Last little tidbit on balusters and balustrades is that they can be found on staircases or porches, as well as along roof tops or roof lines, in a variety of different architectural styles including: Neoclassical, Colonial Revival, Federal, Georgian Revival, Beaux Arts, and Italian Renaissance Revival.
See below for a bunch of examples of balusters and balustrades I’ve photographed throughout the years!
Add a comment if you have any questions or thoughts about balusters and balustrades!
Thanks for reading!
[i] Curtis B. Johnson, editor and Elsa Gilbertson, Principal Author, The Historical Architecture of Vermont: Guide to Vermont Architecture (The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1996) 24.
This post took me a little longer than expected to finish up because I have a ton of photographs for Fort Ross. I hope you enjoy them all!
The main route from Point Reyes to Fort Ross is Route 1, which winds dangerously along the coast. Some “shoulders” of the roadway are literally the coastline with the Pacific Ocean with its waves crashing below the cliffs. There are many spots and turn-offs along the road to stop and take photographs, as you can imagine.
Google Maps oddly enough, directed me off of Route 1 and into the mountains and cow pastures along the coast. Eventually, I found myself on a single dirt lane road in the middle of the woods in my Kia Soul rental. I assumed immediately that Google Maps was off its rocker and had gotten me lost, which wouldn’t have been the first time. As I was driving along the dirt road, I figured it had to be an old logging road in the woods and since there were no easy ways to turn around, I decided to keep going because there had to be an end to the road. My favorite part of the dirt road detour was when Google Maps announced that I had arrived at my destination. I had in fact, not arrived at my preferred destination of Fort Ross but was still in the woods.
It would seem that Google Maps had chosen a path less traveled by for me to adventure down. The single lane dirt road ends right across the street from the main entrance of Fort Ross; the dirt road is actually a path that goes by the old Russian orchards that are also part of the Fort. On that note, for those also adventuring along Route 1 to Fort Ross….trust me, just stay on Route 1, you’re drive right by Fort Ross. You won’t miss it.
Fort Ross is for the most part a reconstruction that has been beautifully done and is as historically accurate as possible. Even though it is greatly reconstructed, the Fort has a very interesting history and if I was to do a full run through of the land and it’s history, this was would become a book. So instead I’m going to focus on four different aspects of Fort Ross’ history: the Kashaya Tribe, the Russians, the Call Family, and the preservation efforts of the Fort.
Before the Russians began to settle the area that would eventually became Fort Ross, the first people known to live there were the Kashaya- they still live in the region today. The Tribe consider their name to be “People From the Top of the Land,” while the name “Kashaya,” meaning “expert gamblers” was given to them by a neighboring Pomo group. Originally, the Kashaya made the lands surrounding today’s Fort Ross, their home; roughly a range of 30 miles inland from the coast and 30 miles North-South from Gualala River to Duncan’s Point (South of the Russian River). An important village site of Mitini, which was near Fort Ross was important to the Kashaya territory, since it was the site of an assembly house where people would gather for ceremonial and social events.
In comparison to the other California Indians, the Kashaya experiences less acculturation and fewer forced removals to missions and reservations but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. When the Kashaya first encountered the Russians in 1812, the two groups came to an agreement over the use of a parcel of land, which was to become Fort Ross. The agreement was in accordance to a Russian policy that had been created to seek cooperation with local inhabitants that had previously been established in Siberia and Alaska. Fort Ross in a short time became a “tri-cultural community” of Russians, the Kashaya, and Aleut hunters where elements of culture and languages came together. Based on historic Fort records it also seems that the Coast Miwok Indians from Bodega Bay had a presence at the Fort as well.
After the Russians left, obvious changes occurred to the Kashaya’s way of life. Access to their traditional resources areas became more difficult because much of the land had become private property. Luckily, relationships with the Kashaya and new settlers near Fort Ross were better than in other parts of California and the country. By the 1870’s, the Kashaya were living in two villages located on property owned by Charles Haupt, a rancher who had married a Kashaya woman. The property was about 5 miles inland from Stewart’s Point, while a third, smaller village had been established near Stewart’s Point. In 1914, the federal government at the behest of Charles Haupt Jr. started the process to purchase a 40 mile acre tract of land four miles inland from Stewart’s Point, as a permanent location for the Kashaya; the location was not the best given that it is on an exposed ridge with poor soils and little water.
The reservation still exists today but the story doesn’t stop there, in 2015 after five years of fundraising through a group effort including the Kashia Pomo (another spelling of Kashaya), The Trust for Public Lands, Sonoma County, as well as other private foundations and groups were able purchase nearly 700 acres of ancestral lands of the Kashaya along Stewart’s Point. In exchange for the land, the Kashia agreed to build a public bluff-top trail along the coastline. The purchase enlarged their small reservation but about 18 times the size it originally was from the 1914 land purchase by Charles Haupt Jr.
Throughout the 1600’s the Russians had begun to move east across Siberia and the Pacific Ocean into Alaska. They set up posts in the Alaskan frontier and began working with Native Alaskan tribes to hunt for furs. From there, the Russians moved south, eventually pushing into California at the beginning of the 1800’s. In 1812, a team of 25 Russians and 80 Native Alaskans arrived in California with a number of goals, which included: establishing both a fort and a colony to grow crops (like wheat) that could be shipped back to Russian settlements in Alaska; hunt marine animals such as otter because the need was great for furs; and to trade with Spain. Spain’s colonies were located across Southern California and would have been a great opportunity for Russia to expand their holdings through trade. Another way to think about all of that, is that this is 1812, and Russia is entering the colony game really late in comparison to Spain, England, France, and now the newly established United States of America. In comparison the French, English, and Spanish already had established colonies as early as 15th century when Columbus, sailing for Spain, first landed in what is known today as South America. Along those lines throughout the 17th and into the 18th centuries France had a steady claim on the fur trade in North America along the St. Lawrence River.
The Fort the Russians established was named, “Ross” as a play on words and their mother county, since imperial Russia was known as “Rossia.” Their plans of having a successful establishment never fully came to realization- the climate along the coast was not suited for growing the needed crops; from over hunting, the population of otters drastically declined; and the anticipated trading with Spain never occurred. By 1841, the Russian-American Company was looking to sell their holdings and get the hell out of America, which leads us to the Call Family.
Fort Ross, as I’ve mentioned consists of many replica buildings save for a couple of buildings. With that said, the buildings are authentic to Russian construction methods and exhibits within the buildings give an idea of what life would have been like during its Russian era.
Buildings at Fort Ross:
The Rotchev House
The Kuskov House
The Official’s Quarters
The Call Family:
After the Russians sold their Fort and associated land, the property changed hands a number of times and was used primarily for ranches. The family was care about this post, is the Call family who owned a portion of the original property including the Fort. In 1873, George W. Call purchased 2,500 acres and the Fort property with all of its buildings, eventuality he would go on to acquire a total of 7,000 acres and create a business enterprise with components in agriculture, livestock, and shipping. Under his ownership the property became a community center and a shipping port, which included a post office, store, saloon, hotel, wharf, warehouse, and even a school house.
Prior to purchasing the land, George W. Call had made a fortune in Chile and when he moved to the Fort Ross property he brought his wife, Mercedes Leiva, who is consistently called a beautiful Chilean woman and their four young children. When they Calls moved to their new property, they first lived at the Rotchev House. By 1878, there were a total of 8 Call children (five girls and three boys), which made George build a new house.
The Call Family House is still a part of the Fort Ross State Park site and the building is open for docent led tours the first weekend of each month. That was the main reason for when I visited the Fort when I went. The docent led tour was very informative about the Call Family. The coolest thing about the house is that it was is still very much the homestead of the Call Family; the last Call children passed away in 1976 but descendants of George and Mercedes’ children still live in the area. One of the family’s direct descendants was actually at the house the day I went and he was answering questions for visitors. The family still occasionally has reunions at the home from what my docent said. Another fun tidbit that my docent shared was that the Call family were, “pack rats,” meaning they kept everything and for that reason everything on display in the home was originally was owned by the Calls, which makes for a very real interpretation of the family’s home and the family’s life at Fort Ross. The other cool thing about the home is that parts of the Call House were originally parts of the Fort.
Time Line for Preservation Efforts of Fort Ross:
Fort Ross has a long history of historic preservation started in a way by George W. Call himself. During his family’s ownership of the property, the Rotchev House was maintained, first as the home of the Calls and then as the Fort Ross Hotel. At the same time, the Russian Official’s Quarters were renovated to be a saloon. The family also preserved the Chapel and used it for a number of things including a horse barn and for the occasional wedding.
1891- Interest in Fort Ross for its cultural and historical important as a sacred place for Russians, resulted in many pilgrimages to the site. One such pilgrim was Bishop Vladimir, who made a proposal to George Call to buy the Chapel and cemetery to save them from further deterioration. The purchase never happened, but Call did start putting a thought into preserving the site.
1897– Another Bishop from Russia pilgrimaged to the site- Bishop Nikolai who also attempted to obtain the Chapel and cemetery from Call. Again, nothing came from the talks but in September of that year, Call donated lumber to restore the Chapel for the use as a Sunday school.
1902– The California Historical Landmarks League is incorporated.
1903– William Randolph Hearst sponsors a Citizen’s Campaign to raise money to save several historic landmarks, including Fort Ross. The stockage portion of Call’s property is purchased with funds raised.
1906– Fort Ross becomes an official historic site; less than a month later, the San Francisco Earthquake damaged a number of the historic buildings at Fort Ross.
1916- Funding is made available to begin repairing the damaged buildings at Fort Ross. The organization, Native Sons and Native Daughters of the Golden West take special interest in the Chapel and use the area as a place to celebrate the July 4th for a number of years.
1925- The Russian Orthodox Congregation of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco are invited to a July 4th celebration by the Native Sons and Daughters; the Congregation still continues an annual July 4th pilgrimage to this day.
1928- Fort Ross becomes one of five historical monuments in the new California state parks system.
1936- A group from the San Francisco Russian community begin the initiative group for the memorialization of Fort Ross and begin publishing articles in Russian newspapers about the property’s history. The new year, the group creates the Russian Historical Society in America.
1945- The Society locates the lost bell of Fort Ross- it was at the Petaluma Adobe. The Society, along with the Native Sons and Daughters bring the bell back to the chapel in a special Labor Day celebration.
1961- Fort Ross is designated a National Historic Landmark.
1962- Fort Ross becomes a State Historic Park after the State purchases 353 acres from the Call Family.
1966- Fort Ross is nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
1970- The Rotchev House is nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. That same year, fire destroys the Chapel and the historic bell, less than a year later an arsonist sets fire to the Rotchev House, which luckily only burned the roof and attic.
1972- A new water supply system is built and plans are carried out to reroute Highway 1 (it had originally divided the stockage of the Fort). Federal money is available to restore the sites in the state. Various organizations come together to get funding for the “Restore Fort Ross Fund.” Key groups include the local Sea Ranch residents and several Russian-American groups. That same year, state parks director, William Penn Mott Jr. develops the first Citizens Advisory Committee for Fort Ross, which includes local residents, Russian Americans, and the Kashaya Pomo.
1976- The last of George and Mercedes Call’s children pass away.
1985- Ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Fort Ross Visitors Center
1990- The Citizens Advisory Committee is dissolved. The Fort Ross Interpretive Association continues the work the Committee had started.
2010- Fort Ross almost closes because of the state budget crises. Viktor Vekselberg, president of the Russian business group, Renova Group, meets with then Governor Arnold Schwarzengger to discuss plans to keep the Fort open, and creates the Renova Fort Ross Foundation to help with funding.
2012- Fort Ross celebrates its bicentennial!
This is all a very small snippet of the history of Fort Ross. There’s a lot more I could have went into detail on such as the Native Alaskans who came here with the Russians of the other ranchers who owned the Fort Ross property after the Russians sold the land. Visiting Fort Ross was super exciting and there wasn’t a lot of people there when I visited, so it was nice to be in the building by myself for the most part.
There’s a lot more to learn about, so please check out some of the resources listed below for more information on this really amazing place.
As always thank you for reading!
Further Information and Resources:
Most of my information on Fort Ross comes from the following book I purchased during my visit:
Kalani, Lyn, Lynn Rudy, and John Sperry, ed. Fort Ross. Fort Ross Interpretive Association, 1998.
Sections that were relevant to my post include:
Parrish, Otis, “The First People,”pgs. 6-7.
Watrous, Stephen, “Fort Ross: The Russian Colony in California,” pg. 11.
“The Ranchers,” pgs.24-25
Sakovich, Maria, “Partners in Preservation,” pgs. 27-28.
“The Fort: Structural History and Reconstruction,” pgs. 29-38.
Since I’ve been in Sacramento, finding time to write blog posts has been difficult, the same goes for meeting new people other than those I work with. So a way I’m kind of working on both small issues, is by joining a Meet Up group that aimed at writing! There’s a lot of Meet Ups in Sacramento for so many different interests- in comparison there are no Meet Up groups in Northern New York and I’d never actually hear of Meet Up until being in California. So for the twoish months I’ve been going to a Sunday meet up for, “Shut Up and Write! Sacramento,” where I’ve been writing and pulling a bunch of posts together. It just then takes me a while to type everything up and edit my photographs before actually posting on my blog.
It’s been nice meeting new people who are passionate about writing and it’s nice to see them weekly and see how their progress on their own projects is coming along. The Meet Up I go to is at Shine, a really cute coffee shop at the corner of E and 14th Street. I usually get the Namaste Latte (a matcha latte with vanilla and honey), it’s super good!.
So this week’s post comes to you via my hour of writing at “Shut Up and Write!” It’s been a while since I’ve done a “What is this Jargon” post and today’s topic is……..Rose Windows.
It’s not really jargon sounding, is it? You probably had your hopes up that it was going to be something crazy like oriel….maybe next time it’ll be something outrageous. Any who. Rose Windows are exciting and they’re pretty and they kind of link back to by previous post about Grace Cathedral, which has two rose windows!
So “Rose Window” is a generic architectural term- see told you! Not jargon! A rose window is a term that can be used to refer to any circular window but typically is thought of as a window found in churches constructed in the Gothic architectural style- much like Grace Cathedral, which is a French Gothic style cathedral in San Francisco. The windows are often stained glass and are usually divided into segments by mullions and tracery.
There we go, some real jargon for ya! It’s like historic preservation inception, jargon within jargon…
Let’s get back on topic. So, where were we. Rose windows can also be referred to as a “wheel window” or even a “Catherine window,” a direct nod to St. Catherine of Alexandria, who was sentenced to be executed via a spiked wheel…fun side note, St. Catherine is a martyr who was most likely made up and possibly was based on death of the Greek female philosopher, Hypatia. Look it up, really interesting stuffs. While rose windows made a splash on the architectural scene by the middle of the 12th century in France, it’s reasonable to assume that the idea of this style of window came from the Roman oculus- a large circular windows-like opening that would allow light and air into a structure. Roman oculus can typically be found on the west facade of a Roman structure. From the Roman oculus, some examples of rose windows can be found in buildings that date to the Romanesque period (10th century).
By the Gothic period in France, rose windows can be found left and right in churches and cathedrals- typically at the west end of the nave (that’s the big central aisle) and at the ends of transepts (wings on the sides of the nave). A common scene depicted in rose windows includes the “Last Judgment,” especially in the west end, while the transepts would often depict “Mary.” Bar tracery in rose windows was officially introduced int the 13th century; that’s the stonework that supports the stained glass.
So obviously, I’ve got some awesome photographs to share of stained glass windows:
Memorial Hall, Harvard University:
These photographs are of Memorial Hall on Harvard University’s campus in Boston. It’s a High Victorian Gothic building (Neo-Gothic is another term) that was designed by William Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt. The Memorial Hall was constructed to honor Harvard men that had fought for the Union during the Civil War. The stained glass window measures 708 square feet and is called McDonald’s Virtues Window. Further information on Memorial Hall:
This little church is located in Paul Smiths, NY in the Adirondacks. The Episcopal Church was constructed in 1930 and designed by William G. Distin. You can only see a small portion of the rose window in the photographs but if you follow the link you can see interior images of the church: http://townofbrighton.net/sjinthew.htm
Trinity Church in Potsdam, NY is constructed of fantastic Red Potsdam Sandstone. The church was originally constructed in 1835 as a Federal style building with Gothic elements. In 1886, it was enlarged and renovated into the High Victorian Gothic style church it is today; designs were by James P. Johnson. The stained glass window was a gift of Thomas S. Clarkson and was installed in 1886; the window has many Christian symbols with a dove in the center. The church, as is many of the Potsdam Sandstone buildings in St. Lawrence County, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Further information: https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/trinitywindows/trinitywindows.php
Zion Episcopal Church:
This rose window can be seen in the Zion Episcopal Church in Colton, NY. It’s also constructed of Potsdam Sandstone and it’s construction was financed by the Clarkson family in 1883. James P. Johnston also designed this church and it was inspired by the Trinity Church in Potsdam. The rose window is located in the south facade and is 10 feet in diameter. The sections of the window represent the 12 apostles surrounding a dove. The Zion Episcopal Church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Further information: https://coltonepiscopal.wordpress.com/history-of-zion/
This is the former 2nd German Baptist Church in Rochester, NY; the church was constructed in 1890. Today the building is no longer a church but the home of Swill Burger. While one of the rose windows is gone, the other one still exists and helps point to the former history of the building. More information can be found about Swill Burger and the church in a previous post:
Herring-Cole Hall is located on campus of St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. The current building was constructed in two different installments both of which are of Potsdam Sandstone. The Herring Library was constructed between 1869-1871 and was designed by the firm, Huberty & Hudson. The Cole Reading Room was added between 1901-1902 and was designed by Joseph Smith. The rose window located at the east of the hall was made by the New York firm, J. & R. Lamb and the window is of the college’s seal. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic places. Further information: http://hcap.artstor.org/cgi-bin/library?a=d&d=p1644
Resources and Further Information on Rose Windows:
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.
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!
Recently, I traveled to Rochester, New York for my annual adventure to see my b.f.f., Amanda. While I was there, I had the opportunity to visit Mount Hope Cemetery, a rural cemetery located in Rochester. I have a fascination with cemeteries, so being able to visit Mount Hope was great. Rural cemeteries are quiet and peaceful, and I enjoy that greatly while photographing tombstones and paying my respects to those who have passed away.
Mount Hope was a wonderful place to visit. We visited the cemetery in the late afternoon and were there for a couple of hours; the weather was great! There are about 14 miles of winding roads and paths to walk along and there are many beautiful monuments and tombstones dedicated to the deceased. Amanda and I didn’t walk all throughout the cemetery but we did see a lot. To add to reasons to visit Mount Hope, the cemetery has a number of burials of historically significant people such as Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass.
Douglass was born a slave in Maryland and escaped in 1838 through Delaware and Philadelphia to New York City. Throughout his life he worked for the equality of all peoples as a social reformer, abolitionist , orator, writer, suffragist, and statesman. He also was friends with Susan B. Anthony, who is also buried at Mount Hope.
Prior to Mount Hope there had been a number of small burial grounds throughout Rochester including grounds at King’s Landing, the intersection of today’s East Ave. and Gibbs Street, Charlotte, and the intersection of Monroe Ave. and Alexander Street.
In the 1830’s, there was a growing need in Rochester for more burial space. The city had been steadily increasing in population making Rochester one of the first boom towns in the country. Apparently, Rochester had a lot of firsts for the young United States of America. The growth of population and a lack of good sanitary practices within the city caused outbreaks of cholera and typhus in Rochester during this time resulting in a number of deaths. This was just one of the many reasons the city of Rochester was looking for a larger burial ground. Other reasons included the fear of possible water contamination from the overcrowded cemeteries, plus those older sites were in prime locations for industrial and commercial development.
Rochester wasn’t the only place having these of concerns with burial grounds; Europe was having them too. As early as 1711, Sir Christopher Wren of England, was advocating for burial grounds on the outskirts of town. The first landscaped cemetery was completed in 1084 in Paris and is the Père Lachaise Cemetery. The first garden or rural cemetery in the United States was Mount Auburn in Massachusetts, which was finished in 1831. Mount Auburn inspired other cemeteries across America including Mount Hope in Rochester. These types of cemeteries are typically right outside of town and are landscaped. During the 19th century garden cemeteries were built not only for burials but also for public use, kind of like a park. They have winding paths, avenues lined with tress, garden plots, framed vistas, and monuments/funerary architecture. The concepts behind these new cemeteries were that nature could help overcome the reality and grief of a loved one’s death. There was also a push during this time to be outdoors and to take in the pastoral beauty of nature. The picturesque and romanticism of nature was seen not only in landscaped cemeteries but also in art during the early 19th century.
Click through the following photos for a general idea of the landscape of Mount Hope:
This is the gatehouse at the North Gate entrance of Mount Hope. It was built in 1874.
Another hill in the cemetery.
This cobble stone road is near the North Gate Entrance of the cemetery.
The building in the photo is the 1862 chapel and original crematory. The fountain was installed in 1875 and is called the “Florentine Fountain.” Both of these can be seen upon entering the cemetery via the North Gate Entrance (there is a parking lot here.)
Sylvan Waters is a geologic formation formed by glaciers and is called a “kettle.” The kettle is a natural source of water for the wildlife that call Mount Hope Cemetery home. The 196 acres that make up Mount Hope Cemetery have been declared a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.
This view can be seen on Grove Avenue where there are many mausoleums erected.
This view of the cemetery can be seen from Patriot Hill. I believe I’m looking over at the land in between Glen Avenue and West Avenue.
This section of the cemetery is located near the single graves and graves that had been moved from previous burial grounds. This is either looking down Pine Avenue or Buell Avenue in the cemetery.
Mount Hope was dedicated by the city of Rochester in 1838 making it one of the first municipal cemeteries in the county! The cemetery needed little landscaping because the site was already fantastically formed into the hilly, winding landscape it is because of glaciers during the last ice age. For example, Central Park in New York City is not a natural landscape- that’s all created into a park- the only natural thing about the Park is the rocky outcrops. Mount Hope did employ Silas Cornell, a landscape architect, to help layout the roads and features of the cemetery. The name for the cemetery can be attributed to William Wilson, a laborer who worked on the layout of the cemetery. In his bills that he submitted to the city for his services, William kept referring to the work as “for labor at Mount Hope.” The name was informally accepted and people just kept calling the cemetery, Mount Hope.
Most of the earlier burial grounds in Rochester were moved in 1872 to Mount Hope. There are a few of the old burials still in Rochester though, they include the sites at King’s Landing, Charlotte, and Rapids.
The following are images of monuments and tombstones that I personally thought were interesting:
The monument on the left is for Michael Filon and his wife, Sarah Van Ness Filon. Michael was a previous mayor of Rochester. The monument on the right is for Azarial Boody and his wife Ambia Corson Boody. Azariah was born in Quebec, Canada and happened to be a congressman in the United States during his life.
This gravestone for an army nurse was another stone that caught my eye, mainly because it was for an army nurse. I haven’t seen many of those.
This monument is a memorial to all the children who died in the care of the orphanage. The Rochester Orphan Asylum opened in 1837 and took in eight children who had lost their parents to the cholera epidemic ( a reason the Mount Hope Cemetery was created). The memorial especially is for the 31 people (28 children and 3 adults) who lost their lives in a 1901 fire at the orphanage.
I did not find a lot about the family buried here but their monument is very unique!
My friend Amanda pointed out these gravestones to me. It was unique that the stones had a plant connecting them.
This monument caught my eye as Amanda and I drove by it to find a parking lot in the cemetery. The quote is from Revelations 14:13 and reads: “Yea Saith, The Spirit That They May Rest From Their Labours and Their Works Do Follow Them.”
This is a monument to the Wilbur Barry Coon and his family. Coon was a shoe manufacturer during his life. This monument was commissioned from Tiffany Studios of NYC. The monument is sculpted from a slab of white granite from Bethel, Vermont because of its size, it needed a special train car to transport it from the city to Rochester.
This is the reverse side of the Coon Family Monument. The quote along the bottom reads: “The shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit shall return unto the God who gave it.”
While researching Mount Hope, I came across a poem about the cemetery written shortly after it was established that was published in 1840 in the Knickerbocker.
The poet was Elizabeth Clementine Stedman (1810-1889). She was a contributor to both the Knickerbocker and the Blackwood’s. During the 19th century she had three books published: Felicita, A Metrical Romance (1855), Poems (1867), and Bianco Capello, A Tragedy (1873). The last book was written during her time abroad; while traveling Europe she befriended Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Elizabeth’s eldest son, Edmund Clarence Stedman, followed in her footsteps and also was a writer and a poet.
If you’re interested in seeing another example of a rural cemetery, check out my previous post about the Bayside Cemetery in Potsdam, New York:
The University of Rochester has a course where students do research on monuments and tombstones in the Mount Hope. This is a link to their website where you can search to find possible research papers on the cemetery: