Ogdensburg Library and the Spirit of Liberty Statue

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.

Such History. Much Wow.

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 Frederick Remington Museum
George Hall’s residence happened to be the former residence of Frederick Remington. The home is literally across the street from the library and today houses the Frederick Remington Museum. The museum does have a permanent exhibit on Sally James Farnham, more about her below.

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.

The Ogdensburg Public Library
It is a Pokemon Gym for all those planning on Pokemon Going your way across Northern New York.
Front Facade
Front facade of the Ogdensburg Public Library

 

The Back of the Library
A view of the backside of the library while standing in Library Park.

Library Park:

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.

Google Aerial LibraryPark
An aerial view of Library Park via Google Maps. It gives a good overview of the layout of the Park.

The other pathway through Library Park

Pathway through Library Park
The photographs above show what the walkways look like at the Park as well as the Spirit of Library at the Park.

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.

A Historic Postcard Showing the Spirit of Liberty

The backside of the postcard
Based on the postmark date of 1909, this shows a pretty accurate view of the Spirit of Liberty after its installation. You’ll notice the statue of the solider at the base. It is no longer a park of the monument due to vandalism and is currently in storage from what I heard.

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.

Spirit of Liberty from BacksideSpirit of Liberty

Close Up of the Statue
The above views are what the Spirit of Liberty currently looks like at Library Park.

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

Online Resources:

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.

Thayer Tolles and Thomas B. Smith, The American West in Bronze, 1850-1925, (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Distributed by Yale University Press, New Haven, and London, 2013) 154: Sally James Farnham, https://books.google.com/books?id=gRMQAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA154&lpg=PA154&dq=soldiers+monument+ogdensburg,+ny&source=bl&ots=kAr3bPeUkR&sig=aAMifeK_SdEMyHhoWne8Ndo4VG0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjQm9S6povdAhXiz1QKHSbFDZM4FBDoATAGegQIBBAB#v=onepage&q=soldiers%20monument%20ogdensburg%2C%20ny&f=false

Michael P. Reed, “The Intrepid Mrs. Sally James Farnham, An American Sculptor Rediscovered,” Aristos, November 2007. https://www.aristos.org/aris-07/farnham.htm

Lawrence P. Gooley, “The Career of Ogdensburg Sculptor Sally James Farnham,” Adirondack Almanack, April 4, 2016. https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2016/04/career-ogdensburg-sculptor-sally-james-farnham.html

“Monumental Notes,” The Monumental News, Vol. 16. No. 9, September 1904, https://books.google.com/books?id=RMU7AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA550&dq=sally+james+farnham+spirit+of+liberty&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj2q-TKnvDeAhVFjlQKHUZeALkQ6AEINjAC#v=onepage&q=sally%20james%20farnham%20spirit%20of%20liberty&f=false

Picture of Sally with the Solider Sculpture: http://ww.sallyjamesfarnham.org/sallywsoldier.html

The website: http://www.sallyjamesfarnham.org/ is dedicated to all things related to Sally. Check it out!

Historic Newspapers via NYSHistoricNewspapers.org

“Laying Out New Park: Library Grounds to the Greatly Beautified by the Changes.” The Daily Journal, Ogdensburg, NY, June 10, 1904.

“The Design Accepted for the Union Soldiers and Sailors Monument: ‘The Spirit of Liberty.’” The Daily Journal, Ogdensburg, NY, July 13, 1904.

“Soldier’s Monument,” The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat

“Ogdensburg Library,” Northern Tribune, Gouverneur, NY, March 6, 1895.

“Taxpayers to Vote on the Propositions,” The Ogdensburg Republican Journal, January 22, 1921.

“Public Library Damaged by Fire,” The Ogdensburg Republican Journal, November 25, 1921.

“Fire Did $15,000 Damaged to New Public Library,” The Ogdensburg Advance and St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, December 1, 1921.

“Library and Monument,” Commercial Advertiser, July 5, 1904.

“A Public Library,” The Daily Journal, May 13, 1893.

“Library Park,” The Ogdensburg Advance and the St. Lawrence Weekly Democrat, October 3, 1903.

Portrait of a Building: The Wellesley Hotel

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.

Dog-Nephews
Taking the dog-nephews outside when it was still “warm.”

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.

The Wellesley Hotel

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.

South and East Elevations
The Wellesley Hotel has changed very little since it was first constructed in 1903. Throughout the years, there have been some changes but most recently the Thousand Island Park Corporation has been working ot properly restore the hotel.
North and West Elevations
This is the back side of the Hotel. The smaller, one story section is a later addition for the modern kitchen.
A Phone Booth
I’m not sure if that payphone actually works or not…

Why #ThisPlaceMatters

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

Lobby
When you walk through the screen doors of the east facade of the Hotel, you enter into the lobby area. The stairs that are visible are the main staircase that leads to the upper floors.
Key Rack
This key rack is located in the lobby of the Hotel and while all the keys may not be original the rack and numbering is.

Lobby and Dining Room

Dining Room
The Hotel as you can guess does not have a lot of interior lighting options. The Hotel can be seem very dark given that it’s sunny outside.
Dining Room and Built in Cabinetry
A view of the other side of the dining hall where there is built in cabinetry. Other awesome details include the original lights and the tin-pressed ceiling.

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.

North-South Hallway
This is the north-south wing of the 2nd floor of the Hotel. The rooms on this wing are used for a number of small, locally owned shops.
East-West Hallway
This is the east-west hallway of the 2nd floor of the Hotel. The guest rooms are located in this wing.
Restored Guest Room
The Wellesley Hotel currently has five suites/rooms available for guests to stay in. While visiting in August I stayed in The Narrows suite, which has two bedrooms and a bathroom. It was the only one available at the time.
Connector Door
The rooms of The Narrows suite are connected via the bathroom. All of the former guest rooms of the Wellesley Hotel are connected like this.
Third Floor Room
The third floor of the Wellesley Hotel still needs to be renovated like the lower floors have been. The Thousand Island Park Corporation is in the process of making the restoration work a reality.
Attic Wall
The attic of the Hotel would have been used probably for housing employees during the summer months. Some of the wooden beams have “graffiti.”
Attic Wall
Another bit of “graffiti” in the attic. The last time I was in the attic of the Hotel was in 2013, while I was an intern for the Thousand Island Park Landmark Society.

Conclusion

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.

References 

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.

3Stephen J. Hornsby, “The Gilded Age and the Making of Bar Harbor,” Geographical Review 83 no. 4 (1993): 455, http://www.jstor.org/stable/215826 (accessed April 9, 2016).

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.

5Jacox and Kleinhans, Thousand Island Park, 27.

6Ibid

7Jacox and Kleinhans, Thousand Island Park, 29.

8Jacox and Kleinhans, Thousand Island Park, 78.

9Jacox and Kleinhans, Thousand Island Park, 223.

10“Another Summer Hotel to be Built at 1000 Island Park,” Watertown Reunion, July 26, 1902.

11Jacox and Kleinhans, Thousand Island Park, 223.

12“Improvements at Thousand Island Park,” Watertown Reunion, June 10, 1903.

13“A Successful Reunion Veteran’s of 14th Heavy Artillery at TI Park,” Watertown Reunion, July 16, 1904.

14“Terrible Holocaust,” Watertown Re-Union, July 13, 1912.

15“$500,000 Fire Sweeps Thousand Island Park,” The Summary, July 13, 1912.

16“Better Protection: Fire Marshall Issues Sweeping Mandate,” Cape Vincent Eagle, June 19, 1913.

17Susan W. Smith, A History of Recreation in the 1000 Islands, (St. Lawrence Islands Nation Park: Parks Canada, 1976), http://www.oliverkilian.com/ecology/thousand-islands/island-insights/recreation/recreation.html#Hotels and Resorts (accessed August 8, 2016).

18The Hotel News,” The Hotel World: The Hotel and Travelers Journal 95 (1922), https://books.google.com/books?num=13&id=aNVLAQAAMAAJ&q=thousand+island+park#v=snippet&q=thousand%20island%20park&f=false (accessed August 9, 2017), 25.

19Roswell P. Trickey, “Hotel, Closed 30 Years, Opens,” Watertown Daily Times, August 25, 1984.

Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, New York

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.

Rules and Regulations

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.

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:

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:

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.

Mount_Hope_Cemetery1Mount_Hope_Cemetery2Mount_Hope_Cemetery3

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:

https://adventurewithcourtney.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/bayside-cemetery-photographs-and-thoughts/

If you have any comments or questions, let me know in the comment!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Bibliography and Further Information:

Wikipedia’s page about Rural Cemeteries:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rural_cemetery

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:

https://urresearch.rochester.edu/viewInstitutionalCollection.action;jsessionid=73CC95E513A69C5C448CE3F7B4B1B0C7?collectionId=143

The following link is to a publication about the geologic history of the land that makes up Mount Hope Cemetery:

http://www.lib.rochester.edu/IN/RBSCP/Epitaph/ATTACHMENTS/24_1.pdf

This link doesn’t have a lot of information about the cemetery but it does have some cool scans of what looks like old postcards of Mount Hope:

http://www.rochesterhistoryalive.com/scenery.htm

Stedman, Elizabeth Clementine. “Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester.” The Knickerbocker 16 (1840): 219. https://books.google.com/books?id=Os5ZAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA219&dq=mount+hope+cemetery+rochester&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEyciY_s_TAhVF7IMKHQcnBUk4ChDoAQg1MAM#v=onepage&q&f=false

Reisem, Richard O. Mount Hope, Rochester, NY: America’s First Municipal Victorian Cemetery. Rochester, New York: The Landmark Society of Western New York, 1999. https://books.google.com/books?id=kxMLN0Z2PTsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=mount+hope+cemetery+rochester&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiqkv7k5NPTAhUIRSYKHRmxAssQ6AEIIzAA#v=onepage&q=mount%20hope%20cemetery%20rochester&f=false

The quote from William Wilson came from this book, page 8.

Other information about rural cemeteries came from my personal notes from graduate school.

Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

http://northstargallery.com/pages/perehist.htm

https://frenchmoments.eu/pere-lachaise-cemetery/

Mount Auburn Cemetery

http://mountauburn.org/

The Old Military Turnpike

The Military Turnpike is one of the main roads to and from Plattsburgh, New York when traveling east- west across Northern New York. The road is long, winding, and dangerous. There have been numerous accidents on the road throughout its history. At the same time though, the road has a couple of interesting and historical road side attractions that can easily be missed.

The last time I was traveling along the route, I stopped and checked out the historical sites on the Military Turnpike. Prior to the trip, it seemed like a good idea to check out the sites. That was until I actually pulled over. There’s not a lot of shoulder on the road to pull over onto and cars were zooming along on the road at full speed (a legal speed I hope). But some days I like to live dangerously, so I got out of my car to check out an old cemetery and a historical marker located on the Turnpike.

But before I delve into the historical marker and the cemetery. Let’s look at the Military Turnpike, which has its own interesting story and has repeatedly been considered the most historic roadway in Northern New York. Using my favorite, trusty, historic resource- New York Historical Newspapers-I discovered a lot of information on the Turnpike and how the historical sites on the road intertwine with the Military Turnpike’s history.

View of the Military Turnpike and Cemetery
This is a view of both the Old Military Turnpike and the cemetery on that road. You can see that the shoulders on the highway are not that big.

The road, in some capacity, was in use prior to 1811. It probably wasn’t a road in the sense of what you’re use to driving on. Think more of a path traveled by farmers, their livestock, by foot, and by wagons. That path also would not have been level. It probably would have been overgrown with vegetation at certain times of the year. While at other times it would have been mud. Or impassable because of snow. This was not a road but more of a trail cutting through Northern New York.

In 1811, a law was passed to have the locals actually improve the Old Military Turnpike located between Plattsburgh and Chateaugay. The money to fund this improvement early improvement program was to come from a “lottery” for the purchase of a botanical garden….i

This would be a good time for an interjection.

This is some interesting stuff right here. I have NO IDEA what in blazes, this “lottery” or “botanical gardens” was. It is not clear. The source doesn’t even explain where the “botanical gardens” were located or even who was in charge of the “lottery”. Were people bidding to win a garden? I have no idea. I assume somewhere in Plattsburgh. I hope it was nice.

Now back to the history.

Unsurprisingly, nothing was done to the road to improve the path. Maybe no one actually put money into the lottery because they too were confused about what was going on…So, as you’ll soon see, a common theme in the history of the Old Military Turnpike, is the fact that good maintenance and much needed improvements were few and far between throughout the years.

Nothing was done on the road until after the War of 1812. In 1817, President Monroe, ordered that a good road be completed from Plattsburgh to Chateaugay. It’s possible that during the War, it was discovered how crappy the major “road” from Lake Champlain to the American forts along the St. Lawrence River, actually was. Thinking that a future war with England’s territories to the North (Canada) might be possible again, having a good road to get military supplies from Plattsburgh to the other side of Northern New York would have made logical sense. There might have been another reason too, which I’ll talk about later. Troops that were stationed in Plattsburgh from the 6th Regiment worked on the road every year from 1817 until roughly 1826 (some sources said work ended earlier in 1822/23). Whatever the actual date is the troops were able to clear roughly 24 miles of the road. The road at this time was the main route from Plattsburgh to Hopkinton via Ellenburg, Chateaugay, and Malone.ii

It seems that not much was done to maintain the road for the next 100 years. In 1926, the Plattsburgh Sentinel featured a large article entitled, “All Endorse Improved Old Military Turnpike.” The paper advocated for improving the road that, “…passes through a prosperous farming and dairy country.”iii This article marks the beginning of the paper’s and the resident’s attempts at petitioning to the local government for money to improve the Old Military Road, which was also called the Monroe Highway by some.

It would take about 10 years before any money would be available to do the much needed improvements to the route. It’s mind boggling, reading the news articles from the Plattsburgh Sentinel, which went through some name changes during that time; to “Daily Times” and then the “Daily Press.” The frustration of the paper is apparent in almost every article they wrote about this touchy subject.

1931-

It seems like delving into the dim recesses of the Stone Age since this paper began a campaign for the improvement of the “Old Military Turnpike” which would open up such a splendid area to convenient means of getting to and from the market, for shortening the route between this city and Ellenburgh, Chateaugay, Malone, and other points to the North.”iv

1935-

It seems strange that this, one of our oldest highways, should be allowed to become entirely neglected. It must be all of eight or nine years ago that we began an agitation for the improvement of this highway in keeping with what was being done for other highways. The best we could get was that the road would be placed “on the maps.” This is all very well, but people cannot travel on maps.”v

The sass from this newspaper is amazing.

One can only imagine the frustration of the road’s inhabitants during this time as- stories ran highlighting different proposed public work projects related to the roads in New York, yet it seemed like no one cared about this very important highway.

Examples include an article from 1932 where it was reported that there was an estimated $35,000,000 to be put aside for road improvements across the state. Three years later, in 1935, the state saw another estimated proposal for $200,000,000 to be put aside for road improvements.vi Each time a new amount was named for road improvements, the Plattsburgh Daily Press would write extensively about the Old Military Turnpike, the importance of the route, and how they hoped local officials would use State money to improve the road. It seemed that each time a new amount would be available for road improvements that the Monroe Highway would miss out on the opportunity for improvements.

That is until January 2, 1936!

The road was finally listed on the County Road Program. Improvement work was planned for 1936 and even 1937, if not possibly beyond that. The Plattsburgh Daily Press had a long article announcing the planned improvements, writing:

Improvement of this historic road has long been advocated by the Plattsburgh Press and the residents residing along its route from the Sunrise hotel corner to Ellenburg Corners, a distance of approximately 22 miles. Not only because of its historic value has construction of this road been advocated but because of its need to a large number of farmers and residents along its route who find it almost impassable during the spring freshets and after heavy rain storms.”vii

It was also during the 1930’s that the Military Turnpike, or the Monroe Highway, was given a new name- New York State Route 190, as part of the renumbering of the state highways.viii

My research into the history of the road ended around the late 1930’s but today on the road, you can see what those improvements in the 1930’s created for today’s route that is the Military Turnpike. The road itself isn’t the only historic feature between Plattsburgh and Ellenburgh, as I’ve already mentioned the road has at least one historic marker and an old cemetery both of which I checked out on my last drive on the road.

The historic marker is for a decaying house along the Monroe Highway, if you blink at just the right moment, you will miss the house. It’s also easy to miss the stone ruins because of the jungle of vines that have crept up the walls, helping the ruins blend in with the field the house stands in. The blue “Historic New York” marker by the side of the road indicates the property’s importance to the road’s history.

Robinson's Tavern

The stone ruins at one time was a very popular tavern used by travelers of the turnpike. The home was built in 1823 by Lewis Sage Robinson. His father, Daniel, had built a log tavern located just south of where the stone ruins stand today. Either way, the site’s claim to historic fame is that in 1817, President Monroe had travel plans to tour the Northern States. One of the his first stops was in Plattsburgh, New York. From there he traveled west to get to Sackets Harbor. President Monroe and his party traveled on the Turnpike and stopped on Daniel Robinson’s property, close to the structure that stands today, to enjoy a picnic catered by the townsfolk.

This is also why the Old Military Turnpike was also called the Monroe Highway in the 1930’s, to pay homage to the President who traveled through the area. If you remember from earlier I mentioned that in 1817, Monroe ordered that the road be improved by the troops at Plattsburgh. So while President Monroe may have ordered the road to be improved because of its possible military importance in moving supplies across the northern most territory of the country. He may have also ordered the improvements because of the hospitality he received from the local people on his trip, as a way to thank those living along the Old Military Turnpike.ix

The tavern ruins are connected to another historic site on the state highway. Down the road from the ruins is a small cemetery seen on the left when traveling eats to Plattsburgh. The cemetery is maintained well enough, yet the stones have obviously been affected by the elements of time- engravings are not easy to read and there are stones that have fallen down.

Military Turnpike Cemetery

Luckily the cemetery was inscribed in the 1930’s by Hugh McLellan, his son Charles, and daughter-in-law, Hulda.x It appears the 1930’s was a very busy time on the turnpike! Anyways, from looking at the online records from the inscription project, and I was able to make some connections to the Robinson family.

So here’s some quick genealogy of the Robinson family. Daniel Robinson, the man who built the log tavern, was an American Revolutionary War veteran when he moved from Middletown, Connecticut to Plattsburgh. In 1783, the year he moved, he married Thankful Sage, also of Middletown. They had 12 children, one of which was Lewis, who built the stone tavern! Records about Lewis list him as “Lewis Sage” or “Lewis Samuel,” I’m not sure which was his actual middle name. Anyways, Lewis married Hannah Eldred and they had 7 children. The tavern was passed down to their youngest daughter, Samantha and her family; they lived at the homestead and cared for the aging Lewis and Hannah.

Another one of their children, Rosetta, married Hiram Walker; Rosetta and Hiram had eight children. Hiram’s parents were Jeremiah (Jerry) and Harriet; they happen to be buried at the small cemetery. Their daughter, Hiram’s sister, Fidelia (or spelled as “Phidella”) is also buried at the cemetery near Jeremiah and Harriet. There is another Walker, and actually a Robinson family member, buried at the cemetery. The other relevant gravestone is for Samantha, who was the daughter of Hiram and Rosetta, which makes Samantha the great-granddaughter of Daniel Robinson and granddaughter to Lewis Robinson, Rosetta’s father. Neither Rosetta or Hiram are buried at the cemetery and there are no other connections I could make to the Robinson family.xi

The connections between the Military Turnpike, the Robinson Tavern, and the cemetery are pretty neat, in my opinion. Research took awhile on this project but I’m happy with the results. I’m sure there is a lot more that could be researched on the Military Turnpike in regards to it’s maintenance.

The tavern seems to have still been in “good shape” in the 1970’s; news articles indicated that the owners might have been in the process of remodeling the home. I could find nothing after 1975 about the house through the Historic New York Newspapers search engine to figure out why the remodeling ended. Obviously, the ruins are beyond repair unless someone is willing to put a fortune into rebuilding the home and recycling the stone that is currently there in the rebuilding.

As I have written before in previous posts, there is a lot of forgotten history in Northern New York. There is also a long history where maintaining and even restoring historic sites seems to not be a local concern. The history of the Military Turnpike supports that. It is historic and significant to the area, yet the local residents, and even the Plattsburgh Daily Press, had a hell of a time convincing politicians of the importance AND NEED to improve the road. Looking at the tavern too, though President Monroe did not see the stone tavern in 1817 because it had yet to be built, the location of the site is related to this historic tour of the Northern States by a President Monroe and yet, the tavern is just a decaying ruin today.

It’s frustrating that this history is largely forgotten. At the same time though, it inspires me to continue research and share what I discover about history here in Northern New York and other places I visit.

I hope you enjoyed learning about the Old Military Turnpike.

If you have any thoughts or comments, let me know below in the comment section!

Thanks for reading!

End Notes:

iHistory of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York, (Philadephia: J. W. Lewis & Co., 1880), 51. I found this book via Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=rk4MAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA50&dq=history+military+turnpike+plattsburgh+ny&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJj4HtoMLSAhUD4YMKHX8dADwQ6AEIGjAA#v=onepage&q=history%20military%20turnpike%20plattsburgh%20ny&f=false, accessed last on March 6, 2017.

ii“The History of Clinton County Compiled From Data Gathered in 1880,” Plattsburgh Daily Press [Plattsburgh, NY], February 13, 1934, Pg. 8.

iii“All Endorse Improved Old Military Turnpike,” Plattsburgh Sentinel [Plattsburgh, NY], November 30, 1926, Pg. 5.

iv“The Monroe Highway,”Plattsburgh Daily Press [Plattsburgh, NY], March 6, 1931, Pg. 4.

v“Public Works and the Turnpike,” Plattsburgh Daily Press [Plattsburgh, NY], February 18, 1935, Pg. 4.

vi“The Monroe Highway Again,” Plattsburgh Daily Press [Plattsburgh, NY], July 27, 1932, Pg. 4 AND “Public Works and the Turnpike,” Plattsburgh Daily Press [Plattsburgh, NY], February18, 1935, Pg. 4.

vii“Military Turnpike Placed on 1936 County Road Program,” Plattsburgh Daily Press [Plattsburgh, NY], January 2, 1936, Pg. 3.

viiiWikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_State_Route_190, last acsessed on March 6, 2017.

ixAndrew S. Broadwell, “Tavern Served Travelers When Turnpike was New,”Press Republican [Plattsburgh, NY], September 22, 1975, Pg. 5.

xThe website with the cemetery inscriptions that I used came from this website: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~frgen/clinton/altona/Military_Turnpike.htm, accessed March 6, 2017.

xiWilliam Richard Cutter, A. M., Genealogical and Family History of Northern New York, Vol. 1 (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1910), 93-94. I found this book through “Google Books” https://books.google.com/books?id=-O0pAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA93&dq=lewis+s+robinson+altona+ny&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwig-LrgtKbRAhWD7yYKHZHvDXAQ6AEILjAE#v=snippet&q=lewis%20robinson&f=false, last accessed on March 6, 2017.

Bayside Cemetery: Photographs and Thoughts

For most of the month of October, I was on vacation with my boyfriend in Austria. Before I start sharing all the highlights of that trip, I wanted to focus on one of the local cemeteries before the month is over. The cemetery that I frequent is Bayside Cemetery, which is located slightly outside of Potsdam on the Back Hannawa Road. A majority of the cemetery overlooks the Raquette River.

Cemeteries are interesting places to investigate and photograph. For me, cemeteries seem timeless: life is moving outside the cemetery gates but within, it just seems kind of at a standstill. The stones represent not just people but specific moments in time: birth, death, and maybe an achievement. It’s probably my own morbid curiosity but I wonder what my headstone will say someday, and if a curious passerby will take photos of it and wonder who I was.

When I walk through the tree lined lanes and past the moss covered headstones of Bayside, lots of feelings run through my mind.

Silence.

Beauty.

Remembrance.

Loneliness.

Peace.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I don’t want to delve a lot into the history of Bayside because I really want the focus of this post to be the above photos and the importance of cemeteries to our local history. The shortened version of Bayside’s history is that it was established in 1865. It is considered a “rural cemetery” because of its landscaped, park-like layout designed by Boston architect and surveyor, Luther Briggs. When it was finally finished, about 720 graves were moved from earlier cemeteries that had once been within the village of Potsdam on Willow Street and Pierrepont Avenue.

For more information on Bayside Cemetery, visit their website. They have a lot of great information on the history of the cemetery and the work that the Bayside Cemetery Association is doing to maintain the property: http://www.baysidepotsdam.org/.

If you have any thoughts or want to share your thoughts about your own local cemetery, just leave a comment below! Thanks for reading.

The Great New York State Fair

When it comes to fairs, I happen to be biased, like extremely biased, and I only consider there to be one fair that’s worth visiting and that’s the Great New York State Fair. Now you might be thinking to yourself, “The fair ended weeks ago, why is she writing about it just now!?!?!” Well, there is reason behind my late post, it’s because the first New York State Fair was held in 1841 on September 29 and 30, which means for those of you quick at math, the Great New York State Fair is celebrating it’s 175th birthday yesterday and today!

On the other hand, there’s probably a group of you reading this thinking your own state or county fair is waaaaaayyyyy better than the Great New York State Fair, maybe it is… though probably not. Anyways, here’s a photo of me at the State Fair in the first year of my life, I’ve basically been to the fair every year of my life, which is probably why I’m all about the Great New York State Fair.

001
This photo is from August 1990….I was like about 8 months old. This is reason why I consider the Great New York State Fair, the only fair to visit. Blame my parents.

So now for some historical information! The New York State Fair website has a really great time line of the what went down at the Fair every year and it’s development since 1841.All of the history that proceeds, comes from that website http://nysfair.ny.gov/.

The cool thing about the Great New York State Fair is that its the oldest fair in the country. The New York State Agricultural Society held the first Fair in Syracuse in 1841 and the fair consisted of speeches, animal exhibits, a very popular plow contest, and even samples of manufactured foods for the home and farm. The attendance numbers were estimated to be somewhere between 10,000-15,000 people.

The other exciting thing about the early years of the State Fair is that it traveled around New York for example 1842 saw the Fair in Albany. Between 1842 and 1889 other cities the Fair visited included: Auburn, Buffalo, New York City, Poughkeepsie, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Utica, and even Watertown! The Fair stopped traveling around the State in 1889 because at that time the Syracuse Land Co. donated a 100 acre tract of land for the Society to use permanently for the Fair in Geddes, NY.

Between 1889 and the late 1890’s the Agricultural Society worked on constructing permanent buildings on the land because of the costs the Society soon was in debt. When this happened, the State purchased the ground in 1899 and began to manage the Fair and the State made a long-term building plan, the first building being constructed in 1908 (today’s Center of Progress Building). During the following two decades other permanent buildings and attractions were completed such as the Coliseum in 1923, the Iroquois Village in 1928, and the Arts and Home Center in 1932.

sept_9_1915_syracuse_union
Image from the Syracuse Union for the State Fair, September 9, 1915
image_horse_racing
This is another image from the Syracuse Union, which was actually a German newspaper. This image comes from August 5, 1915.
map_1918
A map from June 1918 that was printed in the Syracuse Union.

The Fair has went through a number of changes throughout it’s history especially in regards to it’s name and how long the Fair lasts during the summer. Up until 1938, the Fair had been referred to as the New York State Fair, then the name was changed to the New York State Agricultural and Industrial Exposition and it lasted for 14 days! From 1942 until 1947, there was no State Fair; the grounds were used as a military base during World War 2. The Fair made a return for 6 days in 1948. In the 1960’s the name of the Fair changed from the New York State Exposition to the New York State Fair. The Fair increased to 10 days in 1978 and then finally in 1990 was increased to the 12 days in length, which is how long it currently lasts.

Most recently, the New York State Fair has been going through a $50 million redevelopment that includes new utilities, the removal of the Grand Stand, more RV parking, a new main entrance, and a larger midway. For more information of the Great New York State Fair check out their website: http://nysfair.ny.gov/. All of the historical information about the fair came from this website and there is a lot more information on the redevelopment of the Fair.

The following are images from my visit this year to the Fair.

 

If you have any comments or questions about the Great New York State Fair, leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading! More blog posts to come soon!

 

 

 

 

Shingle Style: What is This Jargon!?!

I’m currently working on a National Register nomination for a privately owned home in the Thousand Islands on Bluff Island. Bluff Island is located in the township of Clayton, New York. The property is a shingle-style summer cottage that was constructed in 1901 for a family from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The family, the Robinson family, lived on the island every summer until 1948 when, Anne Holdship Robinson, the last owner of the home passed away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is a side view of the summer cottage located on Bluff Island. The home overlooks the St. Lawrence River and faces south towards mainland New York. The current owners are currently restoring the home, which includes replacing some of the shingles that are beyond repair.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is a close-up of the shingles seen under the covered porch area. The porch wraps around the first floor of the home. Shingles in the porch area are being saved because they are in such wonderful condition and show minimum weathering.

This seemed like a great opportunity to show off some wonderful images of shingle-style homes I’ve seen throughout my adventures. Looking through my photo collections, I realized almost all of my images of shingle style properties are located in the Thousand Islands, which is unsurprising because the style is commonly found in seaside summer resort areas such as Newport, Long Island, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Thousand Islands.

The shingle-style, which is sometimes considered the “seaside style,” evolved and borrowed elements from other 19th century architectural styles such as Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and even Richardsonian Romanesque.i

These shingle-style homes were typically built as summer cottages for America’s elite who had the means to build homes that would only be lived in a few months of the year. Architects who received commissions to design these homes included McKim, Mead, and White, H. H. Richardson, and William Ralph Emerson.ii

These architects designed homes that varied greatly because of the influence of elements from Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles: porches, asymmetrical massing, gambrel roofs, columns, Romanesque arches, irregular shapes, and towers could all be seen on Shingle style homes.iii The key element that hold all of these architectural parts together, are the extensive use of wooden shingles for exterior cladding. The use of the wooden shingles created a sense of a smooth, uninterrupted surface of these massive, irregular homes without getting caught up on the details.iv

The following images highlight a number of shingle-style buildings I have seen in the Thousand Islands and there is one home located in Potsdam, NY that does incorporate shingles.

If you have any awesome shingle-style homes in your neighbor share them in the comments below!

Footnotes:

i. Mark Gelerneter, A History of American Architecture: Buildings in Their Cultural and Technological Context (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2001), 181.

ii. Ibid.

iii. Virginia and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses (New York: Alfred A. Knopp, Inc., 1991), 290.

iv. Gelerneter, 181.

“Movies Under the Stars”

Advertisement1
The Massena Observer, Thursday May 7, 1959, pg. 3.

 

Drive-in movie theaters are a staple during the summer yet there’s not a lot left in the country. Let’s look at the comparison numbers, in 2015, NATO (the National Association of Theater Owners) there are 595 drive-in movie theaters in the country, compared to 40,164 indoor movie theaters.i That’s a huge difference!

Luckily enough, there’s a drive-in really close to Potsdam, located on Route 56 headed towards Massena, New York, that’s still operational and opened seasonally.

What’s it’s name you ask?

Obviously, it’s called Route 56 Drive-In Auto Theater.

The concept of the outdoor movie theater goes all the way back tot he 1933, when the first auto theater was opened by Richard Hollingshead in Camden, N.J. A few other drive-ins opened up throughout the rest of the country in the 1930’s but it really didn’t catch on until the invention of the car radio, which occurred in the early 1940’s. The number of drive-in theaters in the country peaked in 1958, when the total number hit 4,063.

Since 1958, the numbers of drive-ins have declined across the country for mainly two reasons: many were “Mom and Pop” type businesses that few people who inherited them, actually continued to run and combine that with the rising prices of land that could be used for development in growing towns or cities, both equal a lot of drive-ins being closed and the land sold off.ii

The Route 56 Drive-in has managed to stay open since it first opened in the summer of 1955, which means (some quick math), Route 56 Drive-In is 61 years old! YAY!

The original owner of the drive-in was Peter Papyanakas of Potsdam; Papyanakas also operated the Rialto theater located in Potsdam. Supposedly, land fill that was used during the construction had been dug up during the St. Lawrence Seaway Project.iii

On a side note. I’ve only been able to find one source suggesting this so far and if it’s true, it connects the drive-in theater with the over arching theme of the St. Lawrence Seaway Project, which I’ll be exploring in the next few posts!

So Route-56 Drive-In wasn’t the only drive-in theater in Northern New York. Others existed in Canton, Potsdam, Ogdensburg, Gouverneaur, and Alexandria Bay. The following website: http://www.newyorkdriveins.com/, does a really great job documenting all of the outdoor theaters that at one time existed in New York state. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you can search by region and even by which theaters are still open. According to the website, there are still 27 drive-in theaters in the state that are operational!

So back to my local drive-in! In the 1980’s the current owner, Jeffrey Szot, purchased the drive-in. During its 61 years of operation, the theater has had some renovations and changes to ensure it still is in line with current technology. In the 1990’s, the old fashioned speakers that attached to car windows stopped being used and sounds from the films began to be broadcast through the car’s radio. The old school speakers are still located in the field and are a good indicator of where to actually park your car. Then in 2014, a $100,000 upgrade helped switch the theater from reel-to-reel film to digital, which makes the picture brighter and the sounds clearer. While this summer, new bathroom facilities were built.iv

The Route 56 Drive-In is open weekly from May to September, seven days a week. Their website, http://www.jscinemas.com/56auto.html, is updated frequently to let you know which films will be showing that week. They do a great job showing the big summer block busters.

20160724_231003
These were the films showing the weekend I went to drive-in with my brother and his girlfriend. Both movies were good I thought.

While, their concession is open throughout the night having typical movie theater foods: popcorn, slushies, poutine, fried dough (IT WAS AMAZING), etc. The concession stand gives off a 1950’s vibe. During the intermission a cartoon (1950-60’s style) is playing the entire time on the screen. The cartoon is about the concession stand and gives a count down to the next film. It’s pretty fun to watch.

So if you want to see two films for the price of one, under the stars, I highly suggest going to the Route 56 Drive-In or your local drive-in theater. If there’s an outdoor theater near you, comment below. Thanks for reading!

i “Number of U.S. Movie Screens,” http://www.natoonline.org/data/us-movie-screens/, (accessed 08/07/2016).

ii Robin T. Reid, “The History of the Drive-In Movie Theater,” Smithsonian, May 2008, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-history-of-the-drive-in-movie-theater-51331221/?no-ist, (accessed 08/07/2016).

iii Bob Beckstead, “Massena’s 56 Auto Drive-In Opens for 60th Year of Movies Under the Stars,” Watertown Daily Times, May 3, 1015, http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/adv/massenas-56-auto-drive-in-opens-for-60th-year-of-movies-under-the-stars-20150503, (accessed 08/07/2016).

ivAndy Garnder, “Massena’s Route 56 Auto Drive-In Going Digital This Summer; $100,000 Upgrade Planned,” North Country Now, May 26, 2014,http://northcountrynow.com/news/massenas-route-56-auto-drive-going-digital-summer-100000-upgrade-planned-0116094, (accessed 08/07/2016).

What is this jargon!?! Lancet Window Edition

Last post I mentioned the lancet windows located on the Potsdam Civic Center Complex and my jargon senses were tingling.

So you’re probably asking yourself now: “Why are we learning about lancet windows?” and “Why exactly, should I care?” and  “WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN???”

So before that jargon crisis begins, let’s dive into the history of lancet windows and look at some really awesome buildings that display this type of window. I also know your friends are probably interested and excited to learn what a “lancet window” is, so you should probably share this enlightening information with them too.

These windows are pretty easy architectural feature to identify. They basically are tall, slender windows that have a pointed arch, which is also called, wait for it…. a lancet window.

Lancet windows became a thing during the French Gothic Period of 1140-1200 and then was seen across the channel in England during their Gothic Period from 1200-1275.

So the window got its name from the fact that it looks like a lance, which is a kind of spear used by mounted cavalry. Think of a jousting tournament. Do you see the resemblance in your mind? Can you see it?

These types of windows are seen here in Gothic Revival architecture and normally on churches. Lancet windows can be single, paired, or have an odd number of windows with the tallest window being in the middle.i

The following are buildings that I’ve seen in both Northern New York and Canada that have lancet windows.

Civic_Center
The Potsdam Civic Center, where the lancet windows are more visible. This section of the Civic Center was originally a Universalist church built in the 1870’s and then renovated into a library in the 1930’s. It’s now the Potsdam Public Museum. This side of the building would have been the original entrance of the building when it was a church.
Baptist_Church
This is the First Baptist Church located in Ottawa, Ontario. It’s located at the corner of Elgin Street and Laurier Avenue. It was constructed in 1877 and the cornerstone was laid by the Prime Minister during that time, Alexander Mackenzie! That’s a good example of a both a pair and a trio of lancet windows.
Wellseley_Island
This adorable church is located on Wellesley Island. It’s a shingle style take on Gothic Revival. It’s so cute! Again, here we have another example of a trio of lancet windows with the tallest being in the center. This church was constructed in 1902.
East_Block
This is the one photo of a building with lancet windows that is not a church! This is the East Block of Canada’s Parliament Hill. It’s one of the original parts of Parliament Hill that has not changed since it’s completion. The building was completed in 1866 and is considered a “High Victorian Gothic” style building. It’s built of Nepean Sandstone. Side note, elsewhere on Parliament Hill, Potsdam Sandstone was used as decorative features on windows, I think specifically on the Parliament Library building.
Trinity_2
So we’ve looked at a bunch of exterior shots of lancet windows. This example and the next are views of what a lancet window look like from inside a building. These beautiful stained glass windows are located in the Trinity Episcopal Church in Potsdam, NY. The building was first constructed in 1835 and then went through a huge renovation in the 1880’s, which resulted in the church going from a simple Federal style church with some Gothic Revival elements into a full blown High Victorian Gothic Church.
Trinity_Church
This window is also in the Trinity Church. It’s a Tiffany window by the way and it’s called, “The Angel of Resurrection.” The stained glass windows in the previous image are also Tiffany windows installed during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Those windows are named, “The Good Shepherd” and “Christ the Light of the World.” Most of the Tiffany windows were donated by the Clarkson family, the same family that Clarkson University was named after.

If you have any examples of lancet windows on a building that is not a church building, share it in the comments below. I’d love to see more examples of Gothic Revival homes with lancet windows!

For more information on the buildings presented, check out the following links:

Canada’s Parliament Hill:

http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/Visitors/index-e.html

http://www.revparl.ca/english/issue.asp?param=100&art=442

Wellesley Island Densmore Methodist Church:

http://www.wellesleyisland.net/Densmorechurch1.htm

The following is a great article, not just about the Densmore Church but about many of the churches found in the Thousand Islands:

http://www.thousandislandslife.com/BackIssues/Archive/tabid/393/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/1450/Grindstone-Grenell-and-Wellesleys-Historic-Churches.aspx

Trinity Episcopal Church, Potsdam, NY:

Their website has a great section on all of the stained glass windows within their church. In May I gave a tour of Potsdam Sandstone structures located in the Village of Potsdam. The Church allowed us to bring the tours inside to see the interior, which was really great and people enjoyed being able to see the interior of the church and the stained glass windows up close!

http://trinitypotsdam.org/page/trinitys_tiffany_windows

End Note:

i  I already knew how to explain what a lancet window was but if you’re interested in an actual definition check out the online Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/technology/lancet-window, accessed 07/01/2016. I also looked at Wikipedia’s page too because it has some nice examples of lancet windows seen in England and Italy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancet_window, accessed 07/03/2016.

The Potsdam Civic Center Complex

This week we’re going to check out the Potsdam Civic Center Complex, which was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Title
This is the Potsdam Civic Center Complex. This is one of the photos I submitted for the National Register of Historic Places Nomination.

 

On any given week, I can be found at the Potsdam Civic Center because it contains a few of my favorite things: the Potsdam Public Museum, the Planning Department, and the Potsdam Public Library. I was lucky enough to be involved in the research and documentation to get the property listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

When I moved back to the area in December 2015, I was asked to begin the process of placing the Civic Center listed in the National Register. The idea had come from the Village of Potsdam’s Comprehensive Plan, which had outlined getting the property of the Register. People who are involved in Potsdam’s local government thought it would be good to have someone who had education about the National Register to write the nomination. That’s how I got hired for the consultant project.

While getting this post together, I double checked the New York State’s historic preservation website. They have this online tool called CRIS, which stands for Cultural Resource Information System. The Civic Center Complex is now officially in the system and the super exciting part is that my name is listed as one of the contact people! Last post I mentioned how I work at Lowe’s and I do preservation projects on the side. This morning when I was looking at CRIS, it was nice to see the work that I’ve done actually be there in written record.

CRIS_1
I might not be the “primary” contact but I’m still one of the contacts listed and that’s cool!

 

It was nominated under two criteria of significance, which strengthened its potential to be listed in the National Register. The Complex is significant in regards to broad patterns of history. In this case the Civic Center is important to local history in relation to local government, community planning and development, and social history. The property was also deemed significant because of its architectural style and development.

Historical Significance:

A major source that I used for researching the Civic Center New York State Historic Newspapers. The construction process for the Civic Center was reported on extensively. It was a big deal!

 

The Civic Center was constructed during the Great Depression between 1934-35 to fulfill two needs of the local community: a community center that could offer space for both the Village and Town of Potsdam governments, local organizations, and the Library; and offer relief efforts for the unemployed in the area. The building project was funded through a variety of resources included bonds and Great Depression relief programs such as the Civic Works Administration (CWA) and the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA).

One of my favorite quotes I found while researching the Civic Center was from Mayor Kendall, the person who pushed for the Civic Center. He felt strongly about the project and its overall benefits to the community by stating, “We shall construct this community center with three major objects in view: maximum Potsdam labor, lowest possible cost and the production of a community center in which citizens will take great pride.”i

The Civic Center was officially dedicated on May 23rd, 1935; the event was attended by Mayor Kendall, William E. Flanders, who was a village trustee member, Julius Frank of the TERA office in Ogdensburg, Dixon Ryan Fox, Union College President, and various local officials and community members.ii

20160512_121429
This is the cornerstone for both the Civic Center and the Town Hall that had been located in the same spot. The Town Hall was demolished because it was beyond repair.

 

Once the Potsdam Civic Center was opened, space was reserved in the basement for various organizations including the American Legion, the Boy Scouts, and the Girl Scouts. The auditorium had a 1,000 person capacity and was used for theater and concerts.iii In 1940, the Potsdam Public Museum was formed and took up residence in one of the stack rooms of the Library in the basement of the Civic Center.iv

The use of the Potsdam Civic Center continued up until February 1942, when The Raquette and the Courier and Freeman both reported that the Civic Center had been taken over by the Army and closed indefinitely to social functions and lectures.v Right before the takeover in February, the Civic Center had been the Red Cross Headquarters where local citizens could donate their time to sewing and knitting, along with other wartime relief efforts.vi By November of 1942, the Army had left the Civic Center, allowing social functions to resume just as they had before.

26
This plaque is located on the wall in the Village Municipal Offices. 

 

The Civic Center continued to be used for a variety of events including dances, theater, concerts, science fairs, public meetings, Village and Town Offices, cooking demonstration, and even used for graduation commencement for both Clarkson University and the Potsdam Normal School.vii

In 1945, Clarkson University celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The event occurred on October 8, 1945 and had many notable guests including former President Herbert Hoover, Fleet Admiral Ernest King, and Joseph E. Davis. King was the second most senior officer of the US. Navy during World War II, while Davis was a former US. Ambassador to Russia. The three men were all given honorary degrees from Clarkson. The ceremony was broad-casted over a nationwide 90-station hook-up through the National Broadcasting Company. There was a parade through the Village of Potsdam, where the guests of honor all watched the parade from the steps of the Civic Center.viii

Another interesting use of the Civic Center was in 1965, when students from the local colleges and the newly formed Potsdam Human Rights Committee used space in the Civic Center to hold a “Selma Sympathy Rally” in March of 1965. The Rally included a fundraiser for the Civil Rights Movement, a “hootenanny,” and a showing of a documentary film on the Movement. Along with these events the Rally also included a talk by the Reverend John H. Teeter, an Episcopal priest, who was active in the Civil Rights Movement and had participated in the demonstrations in Selma.ix

Architectural Significance:

The Potsdam Civic Center is a two-story, three-unit, “L” plan building with the front facade facing east towards Park Street. The front facade has three main entrances, from left to right, they are: the Potsdam Public Library, the Village of Potsdam Municipal Offices, and the Potsdam Public Museum. The roof line for these three units is asymmetrical. The left unit has a hipped roof, while the center and right units are both side-gabled low pitched roofs. The walls of the right and center units are constructed with a stone veneer: Potsdam Sandstone with brick backing; while the walls of the left unit are built of rough ashlar Potsdam Sandstone.

The Potsdam Civic Center was designed by the architectural firm Lansing, Greene, and Bisnett, based out of Watertown, NY. The building is unique to the area given the fact that the Center was constructed using recycled sandstone from the prior town hall that had stood on the same location. The town hall had been condemned prior to the 1930’s. During the Civic Center project, it was initially assumed that the town hall could be repaired and connected to the church. Then it was discovered that the town hall was a hopeless case and had to be torn down. Luckily, the sandstone was used in the new project and it helped to save money. The building also incorporated the Universalist Church, which had been donated to the project for the specific use as a Library.

For this reason the Complex combines two different architectural styles. The portion of the property that was once a church was built in 1876 and has Gothic features: pointed windows (called lancet windows), decorative cornice, roof pitch, and you can still tell where the steeple once was located. The rest of the property follows a Neoclassical design with the central entryways with Tuscan order columns (Tuscan is the style of columns seen on each portico). These similar entryways help to unite all three sections of the complex together.

 

The interior of the Potsdam Public Museum has remained mostly intact. The biggest difference is the Potsdam Public Library moved locations within the complex. It started out being in the portion that had once been the Universalist Church. In the 1970’s, the auditorium that had been located in the left block of the complex was remodeled into the library. The Potsdam Public Museum, which had been located in the basement of the Library since the 1940’s, was moved upstairs into the now vacant space.

 

Amazingly enough the Potsdam Civic Center Complex still looks like it did when it was completed in 1935. Today it still houses the Library, the municipal offices for the Village, is used as a meeting place for various community groups, and since 1940, has housed the Potsdam Public Museum. It’s amazing the a building that is 81 years old still is being used for the same purposes it was intended for without much change!

The Civic Center Complex is the tenth nomination for the Village of Potsdam; it was recommended for listing in the State Register in March 2016. It was officially nominated to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places May 2016. In total St. Lawrence County has 77 nominations on the register.

For more information about the National Register of Historic Places see my previous post:

If you have any questions just leave a comment in the section below! Thanks for reading!

Footnotes:

i “Prepositions are Carried,” Potsdam Herald-Recorder, March 23, 1934.

ii “The Old and New in the Civic Center,” Courier and Freeman, May 29, 1935.

iii Archives Potsdam Public Museum, Civic Center II A. Box 1.

iv Marguerite Chapman, “Every Community Needs and Wants a Museum…Here’s How Potsdam Got Hers,” The Quarterly 6 no. 2 (1961): 5.

v “Civic Center Closes Doors to Social Life,” The Raquette, February 20, 1942. “Potsdam Civic Center Taken Over By Army,” Courier and Freeman, February 11, 1942.

vi“Big Response to Red Cross Plea,” Potsdam Herald- Recorder, January 23, 1942.

viiArchives Potsdam Public Museum, Civic Center II A. Box 1.

viii“College Aiding as Clarkson Plans 50th Anniversary,” The Raquette, October 5, 1945.

ix“Students Co-ordinate Efforts with Community in Civil Rights,” The Raquette, March 19, 1965. “Selma Eye-Witness to Address Rally Sunday; Village Drive Set,” Courier and Freeman, March 18, 1965.