A Blast From the Past: The Alice T. Miner Museum

Go back in time and explore the nicknacks of presidents and other important figures of the past.

Photo by Briana Taft

Walking into the 19th century stone building is like traveling back in time. From floor to ceiling, spread throughout the museum is over 3,000 items of memorabilia from the Colonial Revival Movement − china, furniture and early military pieces adorn the 19th-century old architecture.

In 1924, Alice T. Miner, wife of railcar entrepreneur William H. Miner, opened her Colonial Collection to the public. The 17-room museum houses a three-story collection of American decorative arts, an echo of her personal taste and the Colonial Revival Era.

“The first things she [Alice T. Miner] collected were the ceramics and glass,” said Ellen Adams, assistant director of the Alice T. Miner museum.

During the late 18th century and early 19th century, collecting was a pastime for middle to upper-class women. They would go around the country asking for old China from farming families. Miner began collecting items in 1911, 13 years before the opening of her museum. Despite the family-oriented décor, “they never used anything here,” said Adams. Alice just so happened to highlight the family dishware in her museum.

The museum is home to both ancient and presidential relics. “She called it the Colonial Home Collection, but there are items from all over the world,” said Adams. The museum owns a 15th century illuminated manuscript from a French bishop, acquired by church minister and friend, Frank Gunsaulus. The oldest item in the museum is a 2300 B.C. Babylonian clay tablet.

A porcelain footbath, embellished with purple and gilded edges and a United States coat of arms, is part of the Alice T. Miner Museum’s three-story collection in Chazy, New York. It’s not any ordinary footbath, the imperial piece of porcelain was part of the Lincoln White House as one item in a set of Mary Lincoln’s twelve bedroom pieces.

The Miners philanthropic responsibilities arose following the loss of their only son shortly after birth; they then focused their attention on the Chazy community, improving its economy, education and culture. “They were very philanthropic, and the museum was definitely a part of that,” said Adams.

In addition to the museum, the Miners built Chazy Central Rural School, Heart’s Delight Farm, CVPH (Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital) and the Kent-Delord House in Plattsburgh and several powerhouses and dams throughout Chazy.

 Today, the Alice T. Miner museum continues to educate its visitors on the rich history of Clinton County. Adams shared, “I think the museum still holds significance today, people are sort of proud of it.”

Issue 6 : Winter/Spring 2016

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