Lewis County boasts a number of fine old houses dating from the early 1800s. Most are in private hands today or serve as area museums.
Constable Hall is one of Northern New York's most beautiful landmarks. Built of native limestone, as are many of the old houses in Lewis County, this Georgian mansion was completed in 1819 and furnished with elegance and luxury by its builder, William Constable, Jr. Many of the original furnishings are in the house today. It was at Constable hall in 1822 that Clement Clark Moore, a first cousin of William Constable, Jr.'s widow, wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas," which is popularly known today as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." It remained in the hands of the Constable family until 1947 when the late Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lewis and Mrs. H.D. Cornwall, all of Beaver Falls, bought the estate and restored the house and the lovely formal garden. They then presented the property to the Constable Hall Association, which today administers the property. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and appears in many guidebooks, including American Heritage Historic Houses in America.
Visitors to Lewis County driving through Talcottville cannot fail to notice the handsome stone house near the beautiful Sugar River Waterfalls, built by the original settlers, the Talcott family. This house was once the residence of the late Edmund Wilson, nationally known author and critic. The house which served as the background of Wilson's book, Upstate, is privately owned.
Greystone Manor is a magnificent 19th century stone house. It was originally the home of General Walter Martin, after whom the township of Martinsburg is named. For many years this house, which was modeled after Sir William Johnson's house in the Mohawk Valley, was known as the General Martin Tavern. It is located in Martinsburg just south of Lowville on Route 26.
Other examples of early American craftsmanship can be seen in Lowville with the Italianatevilla design Hough House, a National Historic Landmark built in 1860 on Collins Street, and the Freedom Wright Inn on Route 26 in Denmark.
Old farm houses, many of great charm, can be seen about the countryside. Some are still working farms, while others have been restored as country homes for residents. One such farm, the Mennonite Heritage Farm, has been developed into a museum preserving the lives of early Amish-Mennonite settlers. Located just outside Croghan, the farm contains numerous exhibits and farm buildings and hosts the annual Zwanzigstein Fest, a day-long celebration featuring traditional Mennonite foods, crafts, and activities.
Another reminder of the past, visible from some of the roads, are the locks of the old Black River Canal. The Black River is no longer a working canal, but a few of the old locks have been preserved on Route 12 near Port Leyden with their handsome stonework offering a pleasant and interesting spot to stop for a picnic.
Though Lewis County's rail system has also fallen into disuse, efforts have been made to preserve its memory as well. The Railway Historical Society of Northern New York has turned the old train depot in Croghan into a museum teeming with artifacts of life in the old days.
The Gould Mansion in Lyons Falls is a Richardsonian Romanesque complex built in 1902 by G.H.P. Gould, paper mill entrepreneur. The mansion is privately owned and is listed in the National and State Register of Historic Places.
The American Maple Museum in Croghan is housed in the former Father Leo Memorial Catholic School. The school was built in 1916 with funds left for its construction by Theodore B. Basselin, a local enterprising businessman. The museum features three floors of exhibits depicting the history of maple syrup and sugar making techniques ranging from those used by the Native Americans to plastic tubing and stainless steel evaporators in use today. The museum sponsors a maple festival the first Saturday in May and also hosts pancake breakfasts several times a year. There is also a gift shop where you can purchase pure maple syrup and other maple items.
Croghan Island Mill - 9897 S Bridge St, Croghan NY
Moser Farm - 8778 Erie Canal Rd, Kirschnerville NY
Historical Societies and Museums
Adirondack Mennonite Heritage Association Croghan, NY (website) | (315) 376-2792
American Maple Museum Croghan, NY (website) | email | (315) 346-1107
Constable Hall Association Inc. Constableville, NY (website) | (315) 397-2323
Lewis County Historical Society & Museum Lowville, NY (website) | email | (315) 376-8957
Lyons Falls History Association Lyons Falls, NY (website)
Railway Historical Society Croghan, NY (website) | email | (315) 346-6848
Town of Diana Historical Museum Harrisville, NY | (315) 543-1010