Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Visitor's Guide to Historic Waterville

(Click image to enlarge.)

1. St. Bernard’s Catholic Church - This is the second church building on this site. The first, a frame structure, was dedicated in 1854. The first Mass celebrated in this building was on July 14, 1912. The stained glass windows, depicting scenes of Christ’s life, were imported from Italy.

2. Of Federal Georgian architecture, this brick home was built for Dr. W. P. Cleveland in 1829. Some of the windows still hold panes of Sangerfield glass and the hinges and door locks are handmade.

3. George Putnam’s “Castle” was built around 1880. Presumed to have been designed by Charles Babcock, the bricks for the building were said to have been imported from France; the house had all the most up-to-date conveniences, a dumb-waiter, imported woodwork, etched glass and a ballroom on the third floor as well as a cistern on the roof.

4. Grace Episcopal Church was constructed in 1854 when the congregation outgrew its first church building – now the White Street home of the Waterville Historical Society. This Gothic revival building has many beautiful stained glass windows two of which are by Tiffany. The Chapel was added in 1942.

5. The Waterville Baptist Church was raised on this site in 1801 – the first church in “the Huddle.” The present building was built in 1832 and is the oldest church building in Waterville.

6. The Woodman-Getman building was built in 1869 for the Waterville National Bank and the vault is still in the building. The Corinthian ornamentation is cast iron. From its establishment in 1838 until 1869, the bank was located at 126 E. Main.

7. Now SouthGate Ministries, this was the third structure that served the Presbyterian congregation. The first was opposite the park; the second was erected on the present site in 1843. In 1872, when that, too, proved too small, the present building was constructed. In March of 1917, lightning struck the taller spire.

8. The Buell Block was built in 1873 to house the warehouse, offices and showrooms of the Buell Shoe Manufactory. The New York State Hop Extract Works also had offices there and the third floor held the Masonic Hall. A microburst in 1997 damaged the roof to the extent that the Masonic Hall’s ceiling is no longer there, but all of the exterior wooden trim on the building is exactly as it was one hundred years ago.

9. According to earlier historians, The Waterville Hotel was built in the early 1800’s and is probably one of the oldest buildings on Main Street. It has always been a “tavern.” It is currently operated as an English “pub,” and is called “The Red Lion.”

10. According to a Tower descendant, the small brick “schoolhouse” may have been here even before Rueben Tower purchased the lot for his home, before 1829. It later served as the law office of Charlemagne Tower, Sr. It has recently been restored by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Harding who also own the Tower Homestead. The eastern, Federal period wing of the main house was built around 1800; the central, Greek Revival period section was added by Rueben Tower I in 1830, and the west wing added c. 1910 by Charlemagne Tower, II. The wallpaper that had been hung in the “library” when the house was built – colored scenes of Italian seaports - is now in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design in New York City.

11. The granite base of the Civil War Monument was erected in 1899 on a plot of land cleared, graded and given to the Soldiers & Sailors Monument Association by Charlemagne Tower, II, and at the behest – so the story goes – of several ladies in the community. The bronze statue was added in 1904. Two Columbiad cannon and eighty ten-inch cannonballs, acquired in 1926 for the Monument Park display, were given to the scrap metal drive of WWII.

12. The Masonic Temple was built in 1896 by Rueben Tower – younger brother of Charlemagne Tower, Sr. – as his residence and office. The 103’ tall tower holds a “chime” of nine bells, cast by the Meneeley Co. of Troy, which are still operating order and are played on Sundays and special occasions. (Rueben Tower was as unique as this building and stories about him are legend!)

13. Italianate “Villa” with “icicle” cornice built c. 1850 by Julius Candee.

14. The Opera House, constructed in 1880, is still – in a way – in existence in that the vast auditorium occupies the second floor of this building. Unused since the 1960’s the property is privately owned.

15. The United Methodist Church was built in 1860 and renovated in 1902 and again in the 1950’s and in use until the new church on Tower Street was built in 1967. Since then, this building has been an auction house as well as store and, now, a private residence.

16. The New Waterville Public Library. Although Waterville has had a collection of books called a “library” ever since 1847, it never had a real library building. This new structure – which opened in 2006 – replaces the Waterville Public Library which had been located in a former residence at 220 E. Main Street ever since 1908. Historians and genealogists will find a visit very rewarding!

17. The Waterville Historical Society building was built by the Protestant Episcopal Religious Society in 1842. In 1854, when the larger church building (Grace Episcopal Church) was built on E. Main Street, this became the Welsh Church and then, in the 1930’s, the Waterville Village Hall. The Historical Society has made many improvements to the building and maintains a large collection of original hop equipment in the barn behind the main structure.

18. New Municipal Hall, constructed in 2003, holds offices of the Mayor, Village Clerk/Treasurer, Judge, the Superintendent of Public Works and the Codes Enforcement Officer as well as the Edward S. Barton Community Hall and substations of the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Police.

Philippa S. Brown - revised February, 2009

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