Aug 8, 2016

Visiting Constable Hall in Lewis County

Summer is the time for road trips. On a recent road trip John and I visited Constable Hall in Constable Hall.  Constable Hall is one of the most historic places in Lewis County.  The Federal-style limestone house was built in the early 1800s.  Five generations of the
Constable family lived in the
house from 1819 to 1947.  The house was built at the behest of William Constable, Jr. but he never lived in the elegant 14-room manor home that was patterned after the Constable estate in Ireland.  During construction he was seriously injured when the 10-ton capstone for the front portico slipped. He died in 1821 but his wife, Mary, lived there until her death in 1887. A member of the Constable family resided in the home until 1947 when it was purchased by a local family who restored the house and were responsible for it becoming a museum which opened in 1949. 

Constable purchased 3.8 million acres (ten-percent of the state) in Northern New York for a mere eight cents an acre. He was one of many land speculators at the time. Lewis, Jefferson, St. Lawrence, and Franklin counties were formed from this massive tract of land plus parts of Herkimer and Oswego Counties. 

The house with 18-inch thick walls is approached from the rear which has two long attractive porches.  From the front there is an expansive view of the rolling countryside.  We saw many interesting features during our tour. (Pictures of the interior are not allowed.)  On top of the stairway’s newel post was a round decorative ceramic button.  Legend has it that these buttons were proof that the mortgage was paid off and the house had no liens on
it.  Another part of the legends says that the mortgage papers were put inside the newel.  This legend is viewed with skepticism by many.   Legend or fact, many older homes sport this unique item. Besides the mortgage button I loved the dumb waiter.  Usually they are in a closet but this one is in the floor of the kitchen.  It was easier for the Constables to bring things up from the cellar than it is for me today. Every house should have a dumb waiter. Near the kitchen is a small little chapel.  As is true to all historic house museums, there are many interesting and unique features including elegant period dresses in one of the bedrooms and a diorama of the estate as it was originally planned.  

The garden is lovely and enclosed by the original buckthorn hedge imported from Ireland.  The hedge protected the flowers from damage by animals. The garden is divided into four quadrants forming a St. Andrew’s cross pattern. Constable Hall is open several days a week for tours from May to October.  A great place for a day trip.  

We had packed a lunch so after finishing the tour we drove a short distance to Whetstone Gulf for a picnic by Whetstone Creek. The park is built around a three-mile gorge on the edge of the Tug Hill Plateau and has camping, swimming, and hiking trails. 

Heading home we drove by the Maple Ridge Wind Farm on Tug
Hill.  Impressive.  There was some controversy dealing with the constructions of 195 wind turbines but they help the environment and local economy. Land owners with turbines on their land receive a yearly stipend. There is talk of adding more wind turbines.