(DoNorth/Kayla Breen) How Alice and William Miner preserved history one house at a time Alice and William Miner are well-known names in Plattsburgh and Chazy. This influential couple of the early 20th century dedicated their time to humanitarian purposes, creating a series of public institutions that has enriched and educated the Clinton County community. The Alice T. Miner Museum and the Kent-Delord House Museum are just two remnants of a past that reflects the relentless work and impressive legacy Alice and William Miner left. Alice T. Miner Museum Alice herself established the Alice T. Miner Museum in…
- Northern Archives
- April 19, 2017
- by Safire Rodriguez Sostre
How Alice and William Miner preserved history one house at a time
Alice and William Miner are well-known names in Plattsburgh and Chazy. This influential couple of the early 20th century dedicated their time to humanitarian purposes, creating a series of public institutions that has enriched and educated the Clinton County community. The Alice T. Miner Museum and the Kent-Delord House Museum are just two remnants of a past that reflects the relentless work and impressive legacy Alice and William Miner left.
Alice T. Miner Museum
Alice herself established the Alice T. Miner Museum in 1924. The building that houses the museum was first built in 1814; the second and third floors were added 10 years later to accommodate Alice’s growing cluster of antique collectibles that would become the heart of her museum collection in 1911. William and Alice Miner acquired the property in 1916 to protect the view of the Chazy Central Rural School.
Children from the school often used the museum as a learning tool about the town’s history. “They chose to open a museum to help educate local children about life in the 18th century,” Ricky Laurin, a community representative, writes in his Alice and William Miner activity book. As a result, Alice displayed her expansive collection of historical items within her new museum.
“The museum was created to look like a home,” Ellen Adams, director of the Alice T. Miner Museum, says. The museum’s setup gives the impression of a used, family-style home, but Alice and William never used any of the items that are there.
“About 30 percent of the items in the museum today are pieces that Alice Miner acquired for her collection,” Adams says. “The arrangement of the rooms is very similar to the way she originally planned them.”
One of the most cherished items in the museum is “Mr. Moulthrop’s Marvelous Movable Chair,” designed by Samuel Moulthrop in 1905. This educator and principal wanted to transform school seating and the way students learn. The small, dark-colored chair has a slanted desk attached to the front and a drawer underneath, which allowed students to enjoy a more comfortable classroom experience. William Miner used Moulthrop’s chair for the Chazy Central Rural School that he opened in 1916.
The Alice T. Miner Museum reflects the colonial revival movement and the essence of Alice as a philanthropist, patriot and lover of history. The same year the Alice T. Miner Museum opened, William H. Miner purchased the soon-to-be Kent-Delord House Museum.
Kent-Delord House Museum
The Kent-Delord House was originally owned by James and Elizabeth Kent, who soon after sold the small cottage to Henry Delord, a prominent businessman and judge, in 1810. Delord gradually turned the small cottage into the full-size house it is today, with two parlors, a bedroom, several sitting rooms, a dining room and a garden in the back.
Delord married Betsey Ketchum, who was 20 years younger than he, and they had a daughter named Frances Henrietta Delord. Unfortunately, Frances and Henry both died before Betsey, who remarried to William Swetland, a prominent attorney in Plattsburgh and a friend to the Delord family. Before her death, Frances had married Henry Webb and gave birth to their daughter, Frances (Fanny) Delord Webb. Fanny was the last family member to live in the Kent-Delord House.
Three generations of the Delord family lived in that house. The portraits spread throughout the house are the icons of the museum, immortalizing all the family members and their individual stories.
The “House of Hospitality” opened its doors to many historical figures. American army officers, including Commodore Macdonough, often stayed in the Winter Parlor during the War of 1812. British officers occupied the house in 1814 during the Battle of Plattsburgh, leaving behind an oak chest filled with silver tableware, one of the many relics now in the house’s front hall. In 1817, President James Monroe also dined in the family’s home.
According to Lin La Mountain, the docent of the Kent-Delord House Museum, three little girls worked in the house and helped preserve the artifacts after the family tree ended in 1913. Visitors can “see all the artifacts from the same family” and learn about “the story of three amazing women who were ahead of their time in business and travel,” La Mountain says.
The entire collection of artifacts was owned by all three women of the family. William H. Miner was asked to create a museum using all of the relics that are currently on display. Miner bought and remodeled the house, one of the oldest in the region, in 1924. He established a Board of Trustees for the museum; Alice T. Miner was elected as its first president.
Today, the Alice T. Miner Museum and the Kent-Delord House Museum continue to showcase historical artifacts and educate visitors on the rich history of Clinton County. Alice and William Miner hoped to glorify and preserve the values and cultural traditions of the past. With these museums, their legacy was not left in vain.
Issue 8: Winter/Spring 2017
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