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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

A Grave Site Located in the Woods

We’re going to be looking at War of 1812 graves located basically in the middle of nowhere in the woods. It also happens to be the 204th  anniversary of Elijah Sacket’s death and his companion’s death.

RoadSide_Marker

This marker is for two soldiers who perished on a march from Plattsburgh to Sackets Harbor in the spring of 1813. The location of the graves and marker are on County Route 24, which is also known as the “St. Lawrence Turnpike” or the “Russell Turnpike.” The road ran all the way from Malone through to Carthage via Russell and was very important during the War of 1812 because it allowed Sackets Harbor to be connected to Plattsburgh via Malone. This allowed transportation of troops and supplies during the war. The actual information on both the roadside marker and grave marker are lacking any real substantial information, so I decided to do some research.

HINT, HINT- If you see something interesting and historic, but lacking information, research it! And, share your findings because someone, somewhere is probably also interested.

Researching Elijah Sacket was not easy. There’s still some unanswered questions. Records are not the clearest and some have been lost to time. So from what I could find, this is the story of Elijah Sacket, a militiaman during the War of 1812.

First off, there are two Elijah Sacket(t)s! Both lived during the same time and were involved in their local militias.

Just for your records, the first Elijah Sackett (two “T”s) was born in 1751 and lived in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. He was involved in the American Revolution; eventually he moved to Ohio and died at the old age of 86 in 1837. He’s not our guy but at least he seems to have lived an interesting life!

Back to our Elijah Sacket (only one “T”).

Elijah was born in 1768 in Sheffield, Massachusetts. He moved with his parents (Benjamin and Dorothy) and siblings to New York State shortly before the American Revolution began. In 1789, he married Dorothy Hitchcock. Eventually with his wife he moved to Hartford, NY located in Washington County. Elijah and Dorothy had five children: Elisabeth, Erminia, Electa, Ebenezer, and Erwin.

Elijah had been part of the militia in Washington County from 1800 to 1807 in Colonel Solomon Baker’s Regiment of the Brigade of the Militia of said county. During that time, Elijah was promoted from private to lieutenant.

Sometime between 1807 and 1809, Elijah decided to move his family to Northern New York. They settled in Gouverneur, where Elijah worked as a miller. He must have decided to join the local militia, the 123rd Regiment, which was also known as Benedict’s Regiment (Thomas Benedict) located in St. Lawrence County.

Elijah’s movements during the War of 1812 are unclear thanks to the lack of both surviving and digitized documents. His name does not show up on any digital records of muster rolls for the regiments of St. Lawrence County. Solely based on his grave site in Pierrepont, NY, we know that Elijah was en-route to Plattsburgh from Sackets Harbor. He died from some kind of sickness, which was very common in the military camps during the War. Oddly enough, Elijah has a second gravestone in Gouverneur, where his wife and some of his children are buried.

The unknown soldier is still a mystery. I haven’t been able to find any real information from the muster rolls for St. Lawrence County. As I already mentioned, Elijah is not listed on any lists I was able to find online and there was nothing related to the death dates of April 7th and 13th.

Researching Elijah Sacket was difficult. Many of the online resources I found had a lot of conflicting information or just general lack of information, which made things confusing.

For example on Ancestry.com I found a record that listed Elijah Sacket as “Benedict’s Regiment, NY Militia, Private” and another listed him as “Elijah Sacket (1768-1813) lieutenant, Washington County Regiment, NY.” This is the same Elijah, just the information is not a lot to go on and are about two different times during Elijah’s life. Finding other sources online helped piece together what little is known.

I also think it’s interesting to look at the maintenance of a very small grave site, along with the remembrance of soldiers who died during the War of 1812. A lot of books and articles on the War of 1812 call it the “forgotten war.” Have we forgotten the War of 1812? I’m not sure. Being a historian who’s interested in local and early American history, I know it happened and I’ve done some research on it (as in this blog post). I also know that Northern New York played a very important role being the Northern frontier to Canada (British Territory) during the War.

The town of Pierrepont is in charge of the maintenance of the property. As you can see in the images, it’s not a very noticeable place and parking isn’t easy. Today when I was at the site taking pictures, it was obviously I had been the only visitor so far. So what happens when a place isn’t easily accessible. Do we forget about it? Should the effort be put in to preserve it and remember it? How do we make it so that people notice this marker more?

Maybe by spreading the word that it exists. I’m not sure if there are “right” answers to these questions. But on that note, this is the final resting place of two soldiers who fought to protect early America and they died 203 years ago to the day. Let’s spread the word that they lived.

GraveMarker

If anyone has thoughts or ideas on how to find more information on Elijah’s movements during the War or how to figure out the identity of the unknown soldier, leave a comment or send me a message.

The following is a list of resources I found online that were helpful in figuring out the story of Elijah Sacket. They also might be helpful if you have your own personal genealogical research you’re working on.

Elijah Sacket Family Tree Information:

Thurmon King’s New Sackett Family Tree, http://sackett-tree.org/getperson.php?personID=I1439&tree=1, accessed 04/09/2016.

The Sackett Family Association: Sacketts in the Military, http://sackettfamily.info/militarysacketts.htm, accessed 04/08/2016.

Information on the Grave Site:

Soldier’s Graves, War of 1812, Town of Pierrepont, http://stlawrencecountycemeteries.org/Pierrepont/soldiers.htm, accessed 04/11/2016.

Images of the Grave Site:

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=28033906, accessed 04/09/2016.

http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=77837, accessed 04/10/2016

Elijah Sacket and St. Lawrence County:

What was going on in St. Lawrence County 200 years ago? Here’s a town-by-town look, from Canton to Waddington,” July 3, 2012. http://northcountrynow.com/news/what-was-going-st-lawrence-county-200-years-ago-heres-town-town-look-canton-waddington-061006, accessed 04/08/2016.

St. Lawrence County Quarterly, Volume 3, 2011. The entire journal is about the War of 1812 in St. Lawrence County. There’s a lot of cool information and a little information on Elijah Sacket. I found a copy at the Potsdam Public Library.

De Kalb’s Own General: Thomas Benedict,” Bryan Thompson, De Kalb’s historian. http://www.dekalbnyhistorian.org/LocalHistoryArticles/DeKalbGeneral/DeKalbGeneral.html, accessed 04/10/2016.

Documents of the Senate of New York, Vol.9   https://books.google.com/books?id=LKIlAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA498&dq=elijah+sacket&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiglsLvzofMAhULWxQKHc0IB304ChDoAQgbMAA#v=onepage&q=elijah%20sacket&f=false, accessed 04/09/2016.

Information on the War of 1812:

War of 1812 Bicentennial, http://slcha.org/warof1812/bicentennial.php, accessed 04/07/2016.

St. Lawrence County War fo 1812 History Trail, http://slcha.org/warof1812/sites.php, accessed 04/07/2016.

A note on Ancestry.com: I do not have a subscription to Ancestry.com, the Potsdam Public Library does. If you’re in the Library using their WiFi, you can get access to Ancestry.com through their website. It’s really cool that the Library has access to Ancestry.com and it helped when I was researching!