Amsterdam's many mansions
By: Bob Cudmore
Amsterdam’s many mansions
By Bob Cudmore, Focus on History for 01-21-17
Amsterdam still has a good number of elaborate homes built for industrialists, merchants and professionals during the city’s industrial heyday in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Some of these buildings have been torn down or abandoned but others continue to be used as single residences, multi-family dwellings or offices.
Guy Park Avenue in the West End, sometimes called “The Boulevard,” is the best street to drive on to view these houses. Before you go, you might want to buy Historic Amsterdam League’s Amsterdam Icons calendar for 2017 which has photos or postcard views of many historic homes.
The calendar was put together by Jerry Snyder, one of the League’s founders. Information on purchasing a calendar is at http://www.historicamsterdam.org/
The calendar cover depicts a house built for knitting mill owner Theodore J. Yund on Guy Park Avenue, which was called Spring Street in the early twentieth century. The building’s front porch columns were added in 1909. Today the structure is used for professional offices.
The imposing house of David W. Chalmers, one of the founders of the former Chalmers Knitting Mill, is still a private home. The Guy Park Avenue mansion was built in 1914 and featured a third floor ballroom, illuminated by electric lights. Chalmers was a friend of inventor Thomas Edison.
Construction of Francis Morris’s Dutch Colonial style house on Guy Park Avenue began two months after the knit goods manufacturer died in 1915. His will stipulated that the structure be built so his widow would have a “suitable home in which to reside.” Constructed by John J. Turner & Sons, Amsterdam’s most prominent contractor of the day, the building became the Boice Funeral Home from 1932 through the 1980s and today is a private residence.
Now an apartment building, the Guy Park Avenue house of James R. Blood, which boasts an elaborate porch, was constructed in the late 1890s. Blood was president of the Blood Knitting Company and served on the boards of a bank and a railroad.
Hardware merchant Frank S. Dean originally lived on a street named for his family in the city’s East End. When he built a more opulent residence on Guy Park Avenue at Caroline Street, Snyder said that local newspaper coverage was “curiously hostile,” one account calling the structure “the most pretentious house erected in Amsterdam in several years.”
Herbert L. Shuttleworth, president of the carpet company that became Mohawk Carpets, bought a Guy Park Avenue mansion in 1904. Snyder wrote, “Still a private residence, it remained occupied by Shuttleworth family descendants until the late 1970s.”
An imposing residence with front porch columns on Northampton Road is visible from Guy Park Avenue. The estate, including a carriage house, was purchased by textile mill owner Lewis Harrower in 1894. The Harrowers lived there over fifty years. The structures then became a women’s convalescent home called The Lamp until 1970. The principal use of the property since then has been for office space.
A residence on Florida Avenue on the city’s South Side, the Gray-Jewett Mansion, is listed on the state and national registers of historic places. Still a private home, the mansion was designed and built by contractor Henry Grieme, according to Snyder, for “families whose fortunes arose from the sale of land made valuable by the Erie Canal’s opening.”
John J, Barnes lived in an upper Market Street house designed by D.D. Cassidy and built by Turner Construction in 1913. Barnes had operated the Barnes Hotel in Amsterdam and had other business pursuits. The Gazette called the residence “one of the most palatial mansions in this part of the state.”