Warren County Historical Society Presents …

The Digital Version * * * “REWIND”

June 1, 2013

 Buildings of Johnsburg

In preparation for Warren County’s bicentennial celebration in 2013, town historians, historical societies and others were asked to write short histories of their respective towns with a focus on people, buildings and events that were important over the past 200 years. A souvenir magazine was created with the material but, unfortunately, there wasn’t room for it all. The Warren County Historical Society has decided to print some of the information that was omitted from the magazine in this Rewind column. Thank you to all the people who contributed information and photographs.

Town of Johnsburg

The Town of Johnsburg is the largest town by area in Warren County. It was partitioned from the original Town of Thurman in April of 1805.

 

Important Buildings in the Town of Johnburg’s History

 

1. Built in 1840 in the Greek Revival style, the Dunn Mansion was a personal residence before it operated as a lodge, resort and motor inn.  On the South Johnsburg Road, the Dunn house sits vacant today.

1. Built in 1840 in the Greek Revival style, the Dunn Mansion was a personal residence before it operated as a lodge, resort and motor inn. On the South Johnsburg Road, the Dunn house sits vacant today.

DUNN MANSION

In 1840, John and Catherine (Roosevelt) Dunn erected a Greek Revival mansion on the South Johnsburg Road. Catherine Dunn’s grandmother was a sister to John Thurman, the founding father of the Town of Johnsburg. The Dunns had seven children, four of whom married into the Davison, Bowen, Armstrong and Smith families. The last Dunn to reside in the home was Margaret Ann, who died in 1893.

Arvin Hutchins is credited with adding the two-story side porches to the house around the turn of the 20th century. Although he never actually owned the property, he operated the place as Hutchins Lodge, being the first to use the home as a business investment. It is not known when this arrangement was terminated.

By 1916, George and Mae Smith (grandson of John and Catherine Dunn) had turned the home into a successful summer resort, known as Smith’s Adirondack Inn, which provided employment for area people.Vacationers for the tourist home were motored to Johnsburg from the Riverside Station during the 1920s and 1930s. During this time, several buildings were erected, such as a screened pavilion where parties and dances were held.

Another building, which remains standing today, is an eight-unit bedroom facility. Following the death of Mrs. Smith in 1938, George moved into the graphite house at the top of South Johnsburg Hill, where he died in 1948.

Prior to his death, George Smith had sold his property to Mr. and Mrs. Albert Garz of Brooklyn, N.Y. Renaming the resort Mt. Crane Lodge, Elfriede Garz operated the business until her death in 1953. Mr. Garz later made repairs to the interior of the house, but discontinued using it as a tourist establishment. Currently the Dunn house sits vacant, awaiting new owners to bring this house back to its former glory.

 

 

Circa 1800, Methodism came to Johnsburg through David Noble.  This church was finished in 1843 and is in use today.

Circa 1800, Methodism came to Johnsburg through David Noble. This church was finished in 1843 and is in use today.

JOHNSBURG METHODIST CHURCH

In 1798 John Thurman met David Noble, a convert to Methodism under the preaching of John Wesley in Ireland. Thurman persuaded him to visit his new colony in what is now called Johnsburg with the result that at about 1800 the David Noble moved his family from the city, erecting a log house in the new colony and began clearing off the forest.

For many years the primary Methodist preaching in Johnsburg took place at David Noble’s private dwelling, but as the size of the congregations increased, the meetings were held in the school houses of two adjoining neighborhoods. The Church was incorporated in 1838. A relative of John Thurman, Catherine Dunn, donated a lot for erecting a church; a contract was left to Summer Nelson to furnish materials and build the structure. When he failed to complete the job, John Dodgson took over the contract and finished the church in 1843.

In 1892 a bell tower was erected and a bell, dated 1892, was cast by the Meneeley Company of West Troy, New York.

In 1907 the Globe Furniture Company from the state of Michigan provided the alter chairs which are still in use today and in 1956 a small electric organ was purchased and in 1996 a computerized organ was obtained.

1. Dr. Thomas Durant promoter of the Union Pacific Railroad purchased the Coleman House and made extensive renovations.  Through several owners it eventually became 14 apartments.  “The Gables” eventually burned in March of 1959.

1. Dr. Thomas Durant promoter of the Union Pacific Railroad purchased the Coleman House and made extensive renovations. Through several owners it eventually became 14 apartments. “The Gables” eventually burned in March of 1959.

THE GABLES

In 1870, Dr. Thomas Durant, promoter of the Union Pacific Rail Line and the Adirondack Railway purchased a building known at the Coleman House located in the middle of town and adjacent to his rail line. He remodeled the house extensively. After Dr. Durant’s death, the property eventually was purchased by Dr. Lee Somerville. In addition to the beautiful house, the property had large stables, a greenhouse, a chicken house and several other out buildings. Down near the railroad tracks was a large vegetable garden, beside a walled spring that overflowed into a small trout pond. There was even a kennel for the dogs.

Around 1919, the property was being considered as a possible tuberculosis center however, a petition was presented to the Town Board protesting this use. Dr. Somerville continued to use the property until his death in 1934. According to the “North Creek News of June 18, 1947, Gabra Baroudi purchased the property of the late Dr. Somerville and remodeled the house into fourteen apartments. “Extensive repairs were done to the interior of the building which Mr. Baroudi has christened “The Gables.”

Another article that was written about the property noted that it was used in World War II by the War Production Administration as the headquarters for Mosher’s Trucking Co. in the hauling of titanium and magnetite from National Lead Mines at Tahawus to the loading plant next to the rail line at North Creek.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, March 22, 1959, that fire alarm sounded at 3:45 am. It was a cold winter and that night the temperature was near zero with gusts of winds from 20 to 30 miles per hour. The Fire destroyed “The Gables”, never to be rebuilt, and left six families and 22 people homeless. Johnsburg Central School was closed that day because the school buses could not get through the village and the whole community mourned the passing of a landmark in the community.

1. A.  Built in the early 20th century, the Odd Fellows Hall in Wevertown was moved in 1931 across the road to its present site.  The first floor hosts meetings, theater, and receptions while the floor is home to the Johnsburg Historical Society.

1. A. Built in the early 20th century, the Odd Fellows Hall in Wevertown was moved in 1931 across the road to its present site. The first floor hosts meetings, theater, and receptions while the floor is home to the Johnsburg Historical Society.

ODD FELLOWS HALL

The Johnsburg Lodge #541 Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Wevertown was instituted on April 12, 1886, with eight members. In the days before Social Security, they collected weekly dues which became an insurance pool for members and provided pensions for widows and children if the breadwinner of the family died or was disabled. Many Odd Fellows lodges went bankrupt during the Great Depression, but Johnsburg Lodge No. 541 Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Wevertown lasted until 1969 when it was disbanded and the building was sold to the Town of Johnsburg.

Main Street in Wevertown, the Odd Fellows Hall is seen in the back on the left.

Main Street in Wevertown, the Odd Fellows Hall is seen in the back on the left.

The Odd Fellows met at J.M. Waddell’s hotel for twenty-eight years, finally deciding to build their own meeting hall in May, 1913. The building was built next to the Eldridge store (currently Pearsall Realty) at the corner in Wevertown and was dedicated in July, 1914. It was moved to its present site in July 1931, making way for the highway from Wevertown to Wells. When the Odd Fellows disbanded, the building was purchased by the town and renamed the Wevertown Community Center. In 1983,the Center was dedicated to Ernest Noxon who had served as Town Clerk for 60 years beginning January 1, 1924.

Today the building is used by the community for meetings, theater productions, and wedding receptions. Presently, the second floor is home to the Johnsburg Historical Society.

Memorial Hall in North River was built by Frank Hooper in memory of his first wife, Lilla Sargent Hooper who died in 1900.  The hall was used for social events until it was turned into a private residence.  It remains the home of Milda Burns today.

Memorial Hall in North River was built by Frank Hooper in memory of his first wife, Lilla Sargent Hooper who died in 1900. The hall was used for social events until it was turned into a private residence. It remains the home of Milda Burns today.

MEMORIAL HALL

In 1902 Frank Hooper built a Memorial Hall in North River in Memory of his first wife, Lilla Sargent Hooper, who died 13 Aug 1900. The Blood Brothers from Ticonderoga did all the stone work , using a special design of beading on the stone. This Memorial Hall was used for social events of the community. In 1933 Frank Hooper and Fred Richards sold the hall to Charles and Estella Vanderburg. The Vanderburg’s made it in to a home and it burned in 1941. In 1944 it was rebuilt around the stone work. Eventually Estella Vanderburg sold the home to Harry Munger for a summer residence and in Dec 1949 Harry sold the house to Mr. and Mrs. James (Milda) Burns, who used it as their year-round residence. Milda is a well-known Town of Johnsburg historian who shares many tales of life growing up as a lumberman’s daughter, even hosting a showing of her home in the summer of 2005 with descendants of the Blood brothers attending to celebrate the work of their ancestors.

 

 

THE NORTH CREEK TANNERY

The exact date of the building of North Creek Tannery is unknown, but it is identified in the 1850 census. Originally know as Sawyer and Mead tannery, after its builders, it was 350 feet long and cost $25,000 to build. In 1850 it produced 24,000 sides of sole leather valued at $90,000 from $54,000 worth of hides. The process consumed 25,000 cords of bark which were purchased for $3.00 a cord. The tannery employed sixteen workers. Housing was often provided for the tannery workers and several of these houses still exist along NYS Route 28N, near the new Tannery Pond Community Center.

in addition to the tannery workers themselves, men were employed to go into the woods to cut hemlock and peel the bark. Teamsters were also employed to haul the bark to the tannery.

Tannin, used to cure the animal hides, can be extracted from the bark of certain trees – oak, chestnut, spruce, sumac and hemlock. The chief tannin-containing tree in the Adirondacks was hemlock, found in abundance In Warren County. By 1840 there were 20 tanneries in the Adirondacks and 1,414 in the New York State. By the 1870s, there were four in the Town of Johnsburg.

As early as 1832, there was a tannery on Mill Creek in the hamlet of Wevertown. That tannery building still exists, located across from T.C. Murphy Lumberyard on NYS Route 8. A few years later another tannery was built where Glen Creek empties into the Hudson. That tannery’s cut-stone foundation can still be seen.

The completion of the Adirondack Railroad to North Creek in 1871 helped the North Creek Tannery. In 1880 the North Creek Tannery produced $72,000 worth of tanned hide, many of which were presumably shipped out by rail.

The North Creek Tannery, with most of its operations in one building, burned in June of 1890. About this time there was also a general decline in tanning in the Adirondacks. Hemlock supplies were being depleted and new technologies and the use of chemicals were coming into use. Outside owners and financiers of the Adirondack tanneries were also affected by national business cycles.

An 1891 map shows no buildings on the North Creek Tannery site, although a 1908 map indicated a sawmill which had been erected there.

 

Alexander Garage, now the Tannery Pond Center.

Alexander Garage, now the Tannery Pond Center.

The Tannery Pond Community Center

Elise and Woody Widlund, local residents and strong supporters of the town of Johnsburg, saw the need for a meeting place/community center after North Creek’s Ski Bowl building burned. A building across from the Town of Johnburg’s town hall, near the site of the original tannery building on North Creek, the former Alexander’s (Bacon) garage became available in 1999 and the property was purchased by the Widlund’s as a location for the possible community center. A structural report by engineers gave the existing garage building a life of only 20 years – far short of the expected usefulness of a community center. Thus a new structure was decided on. Aided by an advisory committee of local residents and the Glens Falls architectural firm of Joy, McCoola and Zilch, the Widlunds had the garage torn down, the area beautifully landscaped and a building designed to fit the location using a “plan focused on flexible community meeting areas, a design in keeping with the town character, a low maintenance structure, and a high efficiency heating & cooling system.”

Tannery Pond Center at Former Alexander Garage site.

Tannery Pond Center at Former Alexander Garage site.

Tannery Pond Community Center now has 11,000 square feet of multipurpose meeting rooms, large and small spaces, allowing for gatherings, meetings, presentations, musicals, plays, trade shows, book sales; art displays, community education, community entertainment and community participation.

Tannery Pond Community Center was given to the Town of Johnsburg on June 30, 2002 by Elise and Woody. A Tannery Pond Community Center Association, a not-for-profit association, continues to assist in the management of the Tannery Pond Community Center.

© June 1, 2013; Warren County Historical Society.

Material for this article was prepared by Johnsburg Town Historian, Jo Ann Bateman Smith. Photos also are courtesy of Mrs. Smith.

 

 

 

 

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