Hi Everyone, today we will be looking at some amazing photos from our collections of our museum. This series of pictures is from the 19- teens through the 1930’s. We are so lucky to have these in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at an absolutely stunning umbrella. This piece likely dates to the early part of the 19th Century. It is made from multiple materials. The canopy is made of silk, the shaft is made of wood, the ribs are made of steel, the handle is made of brass and ivory. The ferrule, or the tip of the umbrella is also made of brass that has an engraved design on it. The handle has a name engraved in the ivory, Matthew Lane, who appears to hail from Troy, NY. We do not know who Matthew is, or why his umbrella ended up in our collections, but I’ll talk about that more in a bit. First let’s learn a bit more about umbrellas.
The English word “umbrella” comes from the Italian word “ombrella”, which traces its origins from the Latin word “umbella”, which is then derived from “umbra”. These Latin terms translate to shade or shadow. Like the word “parasol”, which is a combination of the French words “parare” and “sol” to mean “shield from the sun”, the umbrella was originally used to give oneself shade from the heat of the sun. Almost every ancient culture had umbrellas. Ancient Egyptians made umbrellas out of palm fronds, feathers, and stretched papyrus. In Mesopotamia, a similar picture is painted by artifacts from around the same period. Hindu culture assigns great importance to the umbrella with the chatra, a symbol in Hinduism closely connected to divinity and fortune. China made use of umbrellas and parasols as protection from both the sun and rain, but this practice was also con ned to the upper classes. Women in both Ancient Greece and Rome had parasols to protect them from the sun, but they were also a sought after fashion accessory. Records of umbrellas in Europe’s Middle Ages are extremely rare. Cloaks were the oft-cited instrument that medieval European people used to cover themselves when caught out in the rain. Umbrellas came back into fashion in Europe around the 16th Century. They were mostly used by women, until the mid to late 18th Century, when men started to adopt the practice of carrying one.
So, who is Matthew Lane, and why do we have his umbrella? Well, property records indicate that a Matthew Lane was selling, leasing, and buying a lot of property in Rensselaer County and Clinton County NY in the 1830’s. So, he seems to be a mover and shaker in the Albany area as well as up in our neck of woods in the 1830’s. If our research is correct, Matthew Lane’s father was a Revolutionary War veteran, and a very prominent businessman in Troy from the late 1700’s. So, Matthew and his family would have been well known in the area from the 1790’s through the 1860’s and 70’s. In 1832 our Frances Henrietta Delord was being courted and then married prominent businessman and Albany resident Henry Webb. Did they connect at a party perhaps, and he gifted them this umbrella on a rainy night? Did they somehow all meet in Plattsburgh at a social gathering? We simply have no records of it, so the umbrella’s history is still shrouded in mystery.
This umbrella is in good condition given it’s age and likely use. The silk has torn in some spots, most typically the wear spots on the piece, but the mechanical aspects still work. The handle, ribs and shaft are all in good condition. This is a truly stunning piece and we are so lucky to have it in collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Hi everyone, and welcome to a special Halloween edition of our series Artifact Corner. This week and next week we will be exploring a very special place in Plattsburgh that has a connection to our museum. We will be checking out Riverside cemetery, which is the final resting place of the founding member of our family’s museum, Henry Delord.
Riverside cemetery is the final resting place of many of Plattsburgh’s most prominent founding members, and soldiers involved in the Battle of Plattsburgh. Plattsburgh was founded in 1784 when Zephaniah Platt of Poughkeepsie, NY, and two of his brothers received a state grant for 33,000 acres of land along the Saranac River. The next year, Charles Platt and a group of settlers began construction of homes. Three years later, New York State created Clinton County. In 1815, Plattsburgh was officially made a village, but it wasn’t until 1902 that Plattsburgh became a city.
So, let’s take a closer look at cemeteries. Why do we bury people after they have passed? The practice of burying people dates back as far as the middle Paleolithic period. In the Stone Age, it was common practice to bury the dead and place a large stone over the grave to mark the spot. In the Middle Ages, in Europe, the marker on the burial site was entirely dependent on your wealth. The average person would have a wooden marker, with maybe a few words carved into it. If you were wealthy you would likely have a stone marker in a prominent spot. If you were very wealthy you would have a heavily decorated headstone, or possibly a likeness of yourself atop a stone tomb.
In the 18th and early 19th Centuries most people would have a stone burial marker with their name, birth date, and the date they passed. A wealthy citizen’s stone could also contain decorative carving and sometimes a quote or poem. When we look at Henry Delord’s headstone, you can see that the decoration and lettering has deteriorated over the last 200 years. The stone says “In Memory of Henry Delord, born at Nismes France, July 15th 1764, Died March 29th 1825, Age 61 years.” There is a further inscription at the bottom that has since been obscured by soil. There appears to be some decoration at the top of the stone, and there may have been more fine detailed work when the stone was first placed, that has since been worn away. It’s difficult to tell.
Early Colonial cemeteries grew up around settlement. Early headstones were typically smaller in size and made of softer, more easily harvested stones. Sandstone, slate, and eventually marble were very popular because they are easy to quarry, and to move to a location. This picture is of a stone in the Pine Grove Cemetery in Hampton, NH. This stone belongs to Susanna Smith, who died in 1680. You can see the stone, despite being 340 years old, is still quite legible. The stone is quite small, and lacking decoration. Large “flashy” headstones were not common. This is not to say that they did not have motifs on headstones. A common motif was a winged death head. This symbolized deaths grip on man, and its inevitability. During this time, gravestone carving was not a full time position, simply because there was not enough demand. Across America, most gravestones were carved by regular stone masons. In the 18th Century, headstones become more elaborated and decorative. The winged deaths head of the 1600’s is replaced by a bit friendlier motif of the winged angel. Views on death and the afterlife had softened, and the angel was representative of the eternal life that was awaiting the deceased. In the later 1700’s and early 1800’s we see beautiful willow trees, a symbol of sorrow for the departed, and intricate scroll work along the edges of the stones. The stones also get taller in the period. The shorter more demure stones of the 1600’s are replaced with stones that could be in excess of 5 feet tall. The 1800’s have multiple phases of headstone design. This Century was one of numerous major shifts in technology, attire, and even the design of headstones. In the early 1800’s the style was similar to the late 18th Century. We still see willow trees, we see urns, and scroll details. In all ages, there are some outliers. This is Col. Melancton Smith’s headstone, and he has a lot going on here. He was buried with Masonic rights, he also was buried with military honors by his regiment, and he decided to make sure everyone knew all of that by his headstone. As the century progressed, stone styles changed pretty often. The lettering became more uniform. In the middle to late 19th Century people began to adorn their graves with large statues, often of angels or mourners. These beautifully carved monuments adorn many cemeteries and are truly works of art. Frank and Fannie Hall (Fannie is the granddaughter of Henry Delord) were buried here at the beginning of the 20th Century. Their headstone reflects the style of the times. The lettering is raised, and there is a shield surrounding both of their names. It is a simple, yet very well carved stone. Stones continued to change and adapt to the styles of the day. We have so enjoyed this little peak into Riverside Cemetery, and hope you’ve enjoyed it as well. Have a safe and fun Halloween, and thanks so much for stopping by.
Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot, https://www.bensound.com
A Really Dark Alley by Loyalty Freak Music
Hi everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a lovely little piece of jewelry, a brooch. This brooch is unique because it contains the hair of two of our family members. Frances Henrietta Delord and her husband Henry Livingston Webb, who died twelve years apart. Their marriage was cut short by Frances Henrietta’s tragic death at the age of just twenty. Henry Webb survived her for more than a decade, but never remarried, and continued to morn the loss of his wife. Let’s learn a bit more about the love story of Frances and Henry.
In May of 1832, 18 year old Frances Henrietta was visiting friends and family in Albany. Her letters home to her mother repeatedly mention a Mr. Webb, saying, “Mr. Webb has been quite attentive and polite, and has been often to see me.” In another letter she states, “As Saturday evening got somewhat advanced, I was reading, very sleepy, my hair really looked frightful, when there was a ring at the door. Who should I behold but Mr. W. He brought me a work on Revivals.” The two were engaged by July, and Frances returned home to plan the wedding. The two wrote each other constantly with Henry calling Frances “my beloved French girl,” in his letters. By August of that year, the two were married in the Gold Parlor room of our home. They went of a glorious honeymoon in Europe, traveling home in the Fall of 1833. By this point it was clear that Frances was pregnant with their first child. Their daughter, who they also named Frances, was born on February 11th, 1834. Henry Webb writes in a letter as to his wife’s condition following the birth of their child, “I regret to state that Frances is not so well. For the last two days she has been very weak. We have been extremely anxious about her.” The doctor’s who attended her informed Henry that Frances was suffering from child bed fever, an infection brought on due to unsanitary birthing conditions. Frances Henrietta suffered for three weeks before dying at the age of just 20 years old. Henry writes “I take my pen with a heavy heart. My wife is no more.” Frances Henrietta was buried in Albany, and Henry dealt with the grief as best he could.
Henry remained in Albany until 1844 when his health began to decline. He decided to move back to the family farm in Wethers eld CT where his sisters had been raising his daughter Fannie. He sold his store in Albany, and settled down in CT. His health fluctuated in the next two years, but in October of 1846, his condition took a drastic turn, as explained in a letter his daughter wrote to her grandmother, Betsy. “Oh, my dear grandmother, what an awful scene was before us. The Dr. bled him very freely & for a few moments we had some hope of his life. But in about an hour & a half from the time he was first attacked he breathed his last at 1 o’clock. Every thing was done that could be imagined, warm water and drafts to his feet, mustard on his chest etc. but all in vain. His appointed hour had come & we humbly hope this blessed spirit is united to my sainted mother & they are happy with their God.” Henry died on October 12th, 1846 at the age of 51. He was buried in the family plot, next to his beloved wife Frances Henrietta.
Hair jewelry was a very common adornment for the grieving Victorians. The life expectancy during this period was between 33 to 40 years of age for the average person. People in the early to mid 1800’s were far more familiar with people passing away young than we are today. One way to keep a person close to you, was to have some memento that you could possess or even wear. Hair brooches were so common in this period because you could wear a treasured piece of a loved one pinned close to your heart. You can see on the back of the brooch the engraving states Frances and Henry’s names and the dates of their deaths. We don’t know exactly who this brooch belonged to but it was obviously a family member. Frances and Henry’s hair is forever entwined, which is fitting given that they had so little time together. This brooch is in beautiful condition, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!
Hi everyone and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at an unassuming piece that hangs in our kitchen, right next to our stove, a scale. This is a Frary’s Improved Circular Spring Balance Scale, and it was used to weigh anything up to 30lbs, and was accurate to the ounce. When making large quantities of food, sometime recipes called for pounds of ingredients, and therefore, you need a scale. So this would have been a very useful item to have in the kitchen. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of scales.
The oldest scales archaeologists have found come from the Indus River Valley, near present day Pakistan, and date to around 2,000 BCE. These scale were different from our spring based scale, this was a balance scale. The original form of a balance scale consisted of a beam with a fulcrum at its center. To determine the mass of the object, a combination of reference masses was hung on one end of the beam while the object of unknown mass was hung on the other end. The primary materials that were used as the weights were stone and metal. Carved stones bearing marks denoting mass and the Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol for gold have been discovered from around 1,878 BCE, which suggests that Egyptian merchants had been using an established system of mass measurement to catalog gold shipments or gold mine yields. In China, the earliest weighing balance excavated was from a tomb dating back to the 3rd to 4th century BC in Changsha, Hunan. The balance was made of wood and used bronze masses.
Balance scales continued to be the predominant way to measure weight until 1770. British balance maker Richard Salter invented the spring scale, which meant weighing balance no longer relied on counter weights. The spring scale used the effects of gravity to calculate weight, as defined in Hooke’s Law which determines the displacement of force on the spring. Spring scales came into wide usage in the United Kingdom after 1840 when R. W. Winfield developed the candlestick scale for weighing letters and packages, required after the introduction of the Uniform Penny Post. The scientific plausibility of spring scales led to them becoming the most commonly used form of commercial and domestic scale and they are still commonplace today due to their low cost.
Having a scale in the kitchen for food preparation was so vital, and no Victorian kitchen would be complete without it. Our scale is in good condition, and still works very well to this day! This is a beautiful piece and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!
Hi everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at this portrait of Betsey Delord. This portrait has long been a bit of a conundrum. This portrait of Betsey was painted by Abraham Tuthill in 1818. Henry Delord had portraits painted of himself, his wife Betsey and his daughter Frances Henrietta. Henry’s portrait and Frances Henrietta’s portraits look very accurate for the time period of 1818, but Betsey’s does not. So, what happened to Betsey’s painting?
In 1818 women’s fashion was still very much in the Regency period. Empire waists, high busts, and owing fabrics. Women’s dress shapes are starting to bell slightly, as opposed to being a very straight silhouette in the earlier Regency period. Necklines in this period were commonly square or maybe a slight v neck. Now, looking at Betsey’s portrait, you can see that she has a more natural waist line, her garment is not an empire waist. The neckline on her dress is also what we would call a sweetheart neckline, not the square neckline of the Regency. So, what the heck is going on with this portrait? The museum raised the funds, and had Henry and Betsey’s portraits conserved in ?2013?. During the conservation process, the organization performing the work used radiography to better understand the portrait of Betsey. Radiography is basically an X-ray of the portrait. It can allow the conservators to see the different layers of paint, and sometime reveal a wholly different image than what we see on the surface. When they did the radiography, this is what they saw!
This is the original portrait of Betsey. Here you can clearly see the empire waisted gown with cap sleeves and long gloves completely indicative of the Regency period. The hidden portrait is pretty incredible. But, it begs the question, why was this painted over? Why cover up this beautiful portrait? In the 1830’s Betsey, along with many others in the United States were undergoing a religious revival. In the 1830s and 1840s, the Second Great Awakening swept across the United States, leading to a growing desire for social reforms like the abolition of alcohol and slavery. Betsey’s religious convictions became stronger as she got older. Also, fashions had changed dramatically. The Romantic era saw natural waist lines, a sweetheart neckline, very similar to Betsey’s, long sleeves, and bell shaped skirts. So, we believe, Betsey had the portrait altered to suit the new fashions of the time, and to give her a bit more modesty. Photography was still in its infancy, and having a portrait painted was very expensive, but having an existing portrait modified, would be a far more cost effective way of updating your likeness.
The mystery of this portrait is finally revealed, and gives us a unique glimpse into Betsey. This is a beautiful portrait, that is made all the more special by it’s hidden past, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Hi everyone, and welcome back to another slightly different artifact corner. This item is not something in our collections, it is a newspaper article. The Delord’s and the Hall’s were very avid newspaper readers, and always wanted to stay up to date with the news of our region, but also the nation and the world. With all of the rain we have been having this summer, and the flooding that has been happening around our region, we thought it might be interesting to take a look back and see if our predecessors had any major flooding. So, today we will be looking at a newspaper article from the Plattsburgh Republican dated October 4th, 1856. This article talks about a torrential rain fall that ultimately lead to some major flooding in Clinton County. The article reads as follows:
“The destructive equinoctial storm of rain which commenced about 8 o’clock on the evening of the 30th September, will long be remembered by the inhabitants of this part of the State. In this village and about us, on the Saranac, the rain fell in a continued sheet for about three hours—from 9 in the evening until 12. And although, the water rose very rapidly, and removed the drift-wood and old logs from the locations occupied in the Saranac River for the past twenty years, drifting them into booms prepared for their reception, yet but little damage was done on the stream, either to dams, mills or bridges, so far as we can learn. On the Ausable, the destruction of property was great. At Keeseville, the upper dam gave way at 7 o’clock in the morning, sweeping into ruins the saw-mills on each side of the river. All the gearing wheels and machinery in the lower part of Tabor & Co.’s grist-mill has been destroyed. Scribner & Co. have also been seriously injured in the damage to the stave factory. The new stone nail factory of the Messers. Kingslands is nearly destroyed. A number of the nail machines were saved by removal early in the morning; but at about 7am, the flood still rising, the end of the factory next to the river gave way, dashing into ruins one half the building, gearing and machinery. Next on the list for destruction was the machine shop of Messrs, Green & Conro. This whole establishment was nearly new, and built of stone in the most substantial manner. Soon after the fall of the nail factory, the machine shop gave way, and, with all its valuable lathes, tools and machinery, was a mass of floating ruins, A black- smith shop, with all its fixtures, owned by the same company, was next dashed to destruction. Coming down the river after the destruction of the swing-bridge, the forge and rolling-mill of the Messrs. Kingslands are seriously damaged. The bulk-bead having given way, the flood poured into the upper end of the rolling-mill and forge, doing immense injury—undermining and throwing down the furnaces, carrying out a part of the wall next the river, washing out the foundation, displacing and injuring the machinery, &c. The lower nail factory escaped uninjured. On the opposite side of the river, the flumes of N. Kingsland, and 0. Keese & Son are gone! The damage to N. Kingsland’s axle-tree establishment must be several hundred dollars. The new slaughter-house, barns and sheds, recently erected by Richard Hoag, have every vestige been destroyed and swept off. Mr. Hoag barely succeeded in saving several valuable horses, carriages, and several head of cattle, a few moments before the sheds and barns were floating to destruction, No lives were lost in, this immediate vicinity. The next serious damage is on the dam at Kingsland’s new rolling-mill, near the lower falls. Here, the bulk-head, end part of the dam, have been carried off. The forge is entirely demolish- ed, and also the bellows-house and blacksmith shop. The machinery in the rolling-mill is not injured, bat the furnaces and stacks are nearly de- stroyed, and about one-third of the building from the foundation to the roof has been carried off— The old saw-mill at Birmingham is gone. The bridge has been swept over the falls, and the property on the cast side of the river more or less damaged. A letter from Ausable Forks states that the damage to Messers. Rogers’ works was not so great as at first reported, though quite severe. Their rolling-mill dam On the east branch was swept a- way, with one Over-shot wheel, rolling-mill bridge, water conductor from west branch, with bulk- heads to same,—stone boarding-house, and four smaller dwelling-houses -on the flats below—Mr. Whitley’s office, an engine house and fire-engine, and a large quantity of foundry patterns. Nine persons are supposed to be drowned. There were several persons in the stone boarding-house, (a two; and a half story building,) when, in the midnight darkness, it was suddenly surrounded by the violent flood, undermined, and tumbled to pieces. The woman who kept the house, her two children, two servant girls, and a man of the name of Louis Dclerye, twelve years in the employ of Messrs, Rogers, were drowned. The family of Mr. D. were absent at the time. Two men had a most miraculous escape. They had climbed to the roof of the house, which floated down the river, and as it neared the bridge at New Sweden, both sprang for their lives, and reached the bridge in safety, and escaped to the shore. In a moment more the roof and bridge were dashed to pieces by the fury of the flood, and swept down the rapids. At New Sweden, the saw-mill and old forge on the south side of the river, were swept away, and the saw-mill, etc. on the north side, damaged. At Jay lower village, (6 miles above the Forks,) the damage is great Messrs. Purmorts lost their stock store, all their goods, forge, wheel-wright shop, carding and Cloth-dressing works, blacksmith shop, two coal-houses, coal, Bridge and dam carried away. At Clintonville, the works of the Peru Iron Company have been severely injured, the bridge is gone, the bank separating the canal to the forge from the river, is nearly washed away, the saw-mill is gone—also a portion of the nail factory. On the Salmon River, in this county, from Peaseleeville to its month, (a distance of 15 miles,) but one bridge stands, the Schuyler Falls bridge.”
We have seen some incredible images of the flooding from the Adirondacks and Vermont this summer. The extreme rainfall, in such short periods of time, have caused incredible damage in our region. This article from October of 1856 sounds eerily similar. The images used in this video are from more recent flooding in our area, as there are little to no images of the flooding in 1856. This article reminds us that we have had some seriously bad weather in our area for centuries, but the constant deluge this year has been particularly harsh. Fingers crossed for drier weather ahead, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by.
Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a letter that Henry Delord wrote to his sister on the 24th of October, 1820. The letter as you can see is written in French. Henry was born and raised in France, and he was writing the letter to his sister who was still living in Nimes. Today we will be reading excerpts of this letter, to understand Henry Delord and learn a bit more about his concerns and his dreams for his future, more than 200 years later.
My dear sister,
I received your letter dated 20th of July the day before yesterday in the morning, and I have to answer it right away. I just can’t help it. Since I can not tell you yet when I will be able to embrace you. The pleasure and consolation to write to you give me joy and fill me with gladness. The Happiness to see my native land and to be able to hold you in my arms would be for me beyond expression. I could visit the grave of my parents and of my dear brothers and sisters and shed tears of tenderness and of satisfaction. Nature and gratefulness prompt one and order me to accomplish these duties. The idea to cross the ocean with my family present some difficulties, also the necessity to realize what is left of my assets. I watch and keep an eye constantly for a favorable occasion to sell my properties – in this country, as in yours, real estate has little value. Cash is scarce now. Real estate and landlord properties in France particularly in Nimes, nevertheless are more sound values than they are here.
The troubles which infected Europe have been of great importance in the United States. The restrictions imposed by Europe on the ships of this country are so high that the Americans have to abandon trading – which brings a general stagnation in the businesses. They had neglected agriculture – now they push it with force and energy which greatly lower the price of different crops – but cash is scarce – Moreover you should not worry about my security – this country is perfectly peaceful. As to a new war with the English it does not look like it.
My wife is quite touched by your kind words and my little Francoise is already quite proud to have an aunt who loves her so much though she does not know her. My portrait and those of my family are already in boxes and ready to ship; I will send them to a friend in New York at the first opportunity to have them shipped. These portraits have been painted two years ago – people say they are not flattering but quite natural. The likeness of mine is said to be as perfect as possible – the ones of my wife and of Francoise, which I can vouch, are of exact likeness and strikingly natural. My wife since that time gained weight – she is a very beautiful and elegant woman, well bred and educated and I may say quite truthfully and without flattery that her virtues even surpass her beauty.
The details you ask me to give you concerning our way of life would take reams of paper, so different they are from which you see at home. Here the persons who have only an average fortune have more luxury in their homes than our richest persons of independent means – rich rugs cover their floors everywhere. You can see silverware -tea and coffee pots, urns, candle holders, also pieces of furniture made of rare and costly woods like mahogany and macemillier, the first one a reddish which once carved and polished give hues which compare to the most beautiful marbles of Italy, the second of a spotted yellowish hue of great beauty. Also mirrors of large sizes and the richest paintings from the best artists – also other costly pieces of furniture – silver or silver plate andirons, candleholders, chandeliers, lamps, curtains and gilted cornices and bedstead which cost from 10 to 20 louis. This country produces an excellent sugar and plentifully from a tree – these trees which are quite common here are very big and reach 60 to 80 feet in height. The English call them maple, which I believe”erable” in French. There are many lumber yards and shops making oak furnitures etc. From Plattsburgh to New York the distance is 110 leagues – the means of transportation is a steamboat which is safe and fast – the boat is set in motion by the use of air coming from water heated in a boiler on board the boat, and going through pipes set in motion a big wheel on each side of the ship, which turning in the water at great speed gives a big thrust to the boat. These wheels are larger than the ones that are used in the gardens for the wells. So that everyday you can go from here to New York almost without stress or fatigue – the same from New York to Plattsburgh. These ships can accommodate 3 to 400 passengers with spacious lodgings for the ladies as well as the gentlemen – every lady has a cabin to lay down in, so have the gentlemen – husbands, brothers or any other person can visit the ladies during the day or the evening, but they have to retire in their cabin at night and be separated from their wife.
The winters here are very cold, we often have snow in this month (October) that stays on the ground until April. Often the snow is 5 feet deep. In the winter people ride toboggans and sleds drawn by horses like a carriage. They travel on lakes and rivers on the ice 6 feet deep. It is surprising to see the clothing and fur blankets necessary to travel that way and the amount of wood consumed annually in these houses heated generally by stoves.
So long, my dear friend, I just want you to be sure of my deep affection and wish you a good and happy year enjoying a perfect health.
Your Brother and friend, Henry Delord
Henry was writing to his beloved sister to inform her of him sending portraits of him and his family. He was also letting her know of his plans to sell all of his property and belongings, and move him and his family back to France. This was not to be. Henry never did make it back to his family home in Nimes. His health deteriorated, and he passed away in 1825 at the age of 61, and is buried here in Plattsburgh in Riverside Cemetery. If he had sold this home and all of their possessions, it is safe to say that we would not be a museum. While we are sorry Henry never made it back to France, we are glad that the family remained here, and saved so much of their incredible history. Thanks so much for stopping by!
Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a very different kind of artifact in our collections, our barn. Our carriage barn has been a part of the property for over 200 years. It served every generation of the Delord family, and continues to be used as a gathering space for us even today. Let’s learn a bit more about our carriage barn, and the history of barns.
The word barn comes from the Old English bere, spelled b-e-r-e, for barley (or grain in general), and aern, spelled a-e-r-n, for a storage place—thus, a storehouse for barley. The modern barn largely developed from the three aisled medieval barn, commonly known as tithe barn or monastic barn. This, in turn, originated in a 12th-century building tradition, also applied in halls and ecclesiastical buildings. In the 15th century several thousands of these huge barns were to be found in Western Europe. In the course of time, its construction method was adopted by normal farms and it gradually spread to simpler buildings and other rural areas. As a rule, the aisled barn had large entrance doors and a passage corridor for loaded wagons. The medieval style barn followed settlers to North America. English-style barns were built from the 1600s through the 1800s, and had a large, open central floor for wheat threshing. On either side of the floor were small stabling areas for the family horse and hay storage. As grain production was the principle focus of the first American farmers, the English barn was designed with the largest area of space dedicated to threshing with few or no windows, and only a single door on the long side of the barn. In fact, it was not until the 1800s that the connection between plentiful light and healthy farm animals was made and windows became more common. Most farmers were not then, and are not today, professional carpenters. Building a barn could take years, with frames being laid out by one generation, while the next put the final hinges on the doors.
Our barn was constructed between 1811 to 1812. Henry Delord had hired a carpenter and his crew to make the additions to the existing home, starting in 1810. The carpenter, named David Hawkins, was tasked with also constructing a barn behind the main house. David was paid $600, plus some cattle, and a good deal of rum. The barn itself was constructed of red pine. Red pine is heavier, denser & stronger than white pine, but it can still be prone to rotting. Which is what happened to our carriage barn. When the home was turned into a museum in the 1930’s the carriage barn was in desperate need of repairs. The William Miner Foundation set to work repairing our carriage barn in 1939. They actually brought red cedar, a much more rot resistant wood in from California to do the repairs. The carriage barn yet again needed major work in 1990. Pat Tallon was the carpenter who took on the very large project of repairing the barn.
Our carriage barn is in good condition, thanks to the hard work of many talented carpenters over the years. It retains the shape that Henry Delord envisioned, and is a beautiful reminder of the early years of Plattsburgh’s history. We are so grateful that our carriage barn is a part of our grounds and collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!