House of History
Connecting Plattsburgh to its Past
A stroll along Plattsburgh’s lower Saranac leads to a historic home: The Kent-Delord House Museum. This was the home of three generations of Delords who brought a sense of pride and community to the small City of Plattsburgh.
Built in 1797, this 200-year-old house, sometimes called the Delord Mansion, is reputedly the longest-standing structure in the City of Plattsburgh. In fact, this house was without heating, plumbing or electricity until it was made into a museum in the 20th century. The museum features nine rooms furnished from the 19th century that showcase the lives of the Kent, Delord, Webb and Hall families of Plattsburgh. These community leaders were involved in the Battle of Plattsburgh during the War of 1812, the American Civil War and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union movement. The Delords were active in combat and financially and medically supported military leaders.
“There aren’t many homes from this foundational period of Plattsburgh still standing, so for young people growing up to actually see the changes in architecture, design and the way that we look at living 200 years ago versus how we consider living today, I think is really important,” said Samantha Williams, director of the Kent Delord House Museum.
Today, the Plattsburgh community continues to preserve and uphold its history through re-enactments, parades and tours. The museum offers specialized walk-throughs of the Victorian gardens, house tours and exhibits on the premises. The annual commemoration event of the Battle of Plattsburgh is a free community gathering that brings awareness to the military efforts made by soldiers within our own community and is hosted by 1814 Commemoration Inc. The Battle of Plattsburgh, fought at Cumberland Bay on Lake Champlain, ended the final British invasion of the northern states. This commemoration event is an in-person salute to the battle; the reenactors of the 1814 Commemoration camp on the museum grounds for the entirety of the event and allow community members to walk through. There is live music, 19th century kid games, parades and fireworks. The museum contributes to the Battle of Plattsburgh and offers other events in hopes of upholding the values, generosity and welcoming atmosphere that the Delords established.
The Miner Museum, a Colonial Revival museum that opened in 1924, was created by Alice Miner; It features her collection of books and archives. Miner and her husband, William, also established the Kent-Delord House as a museum.
“Sometimes things feel so far away but having a sense of your community’s local history can bring people together,”said Ellen Adams, director of the Alice T. Miner Museum.
Plattsburgh’s proximity to the Saranac River and Lake Champlain has always been a major strength. The house was often referred to as a strategic military hub and social center; Henry Delord and his wife, Betsey, entertained and financially supported many American soldiers at the mansion. Henry even agreed to let the soldiers borrow on credit, which ultimately led to his bankruptcy. Today, the Kent-Delord museum’s open door policy emulates the inviting, unifying sense that the family established.
“The Delords made everyone feel as though they were a valuable, contributing member to the community, and it is our hope that we do the same,” Williams said.
The museum offers an educational experience and showcases authentic pieces of history such as Fannie Delord Webb’s apothecary room. Fannie, as a woman, was not permitted to attend medical school and was a self-taught doctor and pharmacist. She cared for hundreds of Plattsburgh residents and refused any compensation. Her treatment room showcases the drugs that patients were prescribed. Mercury, cocaine and opioids were common pharmaceuticals in the 1800s.
“If there was no cure for certain illnesses, they would do everything they could to relieve them of their symptoms,” Williams said.
Fannie was among the last generation of Delords to live in the house, along with her husband, Francis (Frank) Bloodgood Hall. Frank was a chaplain and a non-combative war hero. He refused any payment for his service to his country and received a Medal of Honor for rescuing wounded soldiers at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Frank died at the Kent-Delord House in 1903.
The house remained within the Delord family for three generations. After Fannie’s death in 1913, Catherine Dowling served as caretaker of the house for 10 years, until the house was purchased by William T. Miner in 1924 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
“The museum’s name is a bit of a misnomer,” Williams said. “The Kent family never lived here, but James Kent was one of the first State Supreme Court Justices so the name was so familiar to everybody.”
Even without the well-known Kent association, the long standing home of the Delords is now a valued connection to the past. The museum contains an impressive collection of 18th and 19th century artifacts, portraiture and authentic letters. The Kent-Delord House Museum is a rich historical experience that helps visitors understand the lives of the residents.