1890 House Museum

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Docents should know their place…

A former owner and a female spirit keep an eye on the living.

A former spectral resident wants to be consulted about repairs and changes.

Joint is still jumping in the third floor recreation room!

Two spirits are drawn here due to an incident; one is hardworking, the other is a degenerate who hasn’t left his destructive mindset.

DESCRIPTION

The 1890 House Museum Facebook page exclaims; “This grand limestone mansion, was built by successful industrialist Chester F. Wickwire, to be a symbol of the grandeur of the Victorian and Gilded ages.”

WOW! What a beautiful forever home, built in the Stick/Eastlake Italianate architectural style, it sure does showcase the original family’s wealth! Tom and I took the house tour of this stunning thirty room, castle-like limestone structure, during the summer of 2021. It was designed with a beauty inside to knock the visitor’s socks off.

It is huge, with a lot of space for living. The first floor was the place for visitors, meetings and family time together in the dining room, breakfast room, library, the parlor and the living room. The second floor held the family bedrooms, the third floor was the sleeping quarters for servants off a hallway, that led to a large recreation/party room in the front part of the third floor that faced the street in front.

On the left side of this room was a large billiard table, while the other side was for dancing and socializing. There is a small playroom for children off the right side of the recreation/party room.

The cupola sat at the very top, with a staircase from the third floor hallway that Chester and Frederic would take for a view of their factory.

Every room on the first floor has spectacular artisanship on display, from the mosaic jewel-like stained-glass window designs in half circle shapes that are found above every window in the house, to the exquisite oak and cherry woodwork, handsome parlay floors, and intricate stenciling, all of which provided great artistic support for all the beautiful art work and furniture owned by the family.

It was indeed lavish, with something to look at and admire in every room. Tom and I were most impressed, and enjoyed our tour immensely. One of my favorite spots was the breakfast room that Frederic designed off the main dining room. It was a great example of 20s style Art Deco with a lot of class and has a peacefulness about it; a great place to start the day!

 

HISTORY

The reader may wonder, How did two farm boys become the wealthiest folks in town?

Chester and brother Theodore were born on a farm and learned first-hand from an early age what hard work accomplished. At the age of 19, Chester moved to Cortland, New York, followed soon by Theodore.

On October 2nd, 1866, Chester married his forever sweetheart, Ardell Rouse. They had a lifetime together, through joys and sorrows. Among their joys were the births of their three sons: Raymond, Charles and Frederic. A big sorrow for them in 1878 was the death of their eldest child, six year old Raymond, who died from Scarlet Fever, the leading cause of death of children in the late 19th/early 20th century, as there were no antibiotics to stop it.

After saving their money, brothers Chester and Theodore Wickwire started their business life by opening up a hardware store. In 1873, Chester got the brilliant idea of converting a carpet loom into a loom that could weave wire into everyday household and outside work items, such as strainers, baskets, screens to keep out the bugs and elements, horse and dog muzzles, seed spreaders, agricultural equipment and other everyday items that made life easier.

After wisely getting patents for his inventions, Chester and Theodore marketed these wire wonders, starting in their own hardware store, which broke sales records, bringing in a boatload of profits. When Chester came up with a cheaper way to weave these wire products, he and his brother opened up their factory, the Wickwire Brothers Company, in Cortland, their hometown. Charles and Frederic as grown men eventually joined their father and uncle in running this profitable company.

They needed workers for their assembly lines, so they hired folks in need of a job; immigrants from Germany, Italy, Russia, and Ireland. By 1883, just ten years later, their products were extremely popular, making them the second largest producer of wired items in America.

There was no OSHA to inspect the safety levels of the assembly line work at this time, and workers were hurt between 1887 and 1897. Improvements to the assembly line must have been made after 1897, for it became safer to work here. The Wickwires must of put their minds together to improve working conditions. More patents were registered for newer safety additions that came out of their create minds.

In 1890, Chester and Ardell had the funds in their savings to build their dream, forever home, that was to be both stunning and practical, showcasing the success of the Wickwire Brothers Company. Chester hired architect Samuel Reed to build their Chateauesque masterpiece mansion. The Wickwire family: Chester, Ardell, eleven year old Charles and young Frederic, moved into their new home in 1890. Raymond was there in spirit.

Chester also generously invested back into his community, supporting his own workers, community charity work and projects for the public good, grateful for the opportunities he had to start his business in the first place. His sons also gave generously to community projects and for the good of the less fortunate.

In 1904, Margaret Stack, a twenty year old Irish immigrant moved in to be the cook and manage the household. Her days were long and busy, but she enjoyed living and working there for seven years. During this time, she managed to meet and marry the love of her life, another Irish immigrant, but they didn’t live together during the week. She saw him on her day off.

Something disastrous happened to Margaret here, probably in May of 1910. She was given the summer of 1910 off with pay, and she went back to Ireland in the fall of 1910 with her husband, far away from the Wickwires. While the crime that happened here was kept a secret and never told, secrets have the habit of eventually becoming public knowledge. Leave to paranormal investigators to discover the truth.

Chester and Ardele enjoyed their life here together in their forever home until Chester passed away in 1910. Ardele continued to stay here until she died in 1915. Their forever home was moth-balled for eight years, until son Frederic and his beloved wife Marion, decided to move into the now frumpy residence and put their own creative mark on the house.

For instance, Frederick remodeled a new breakfast room, 1920s style, as well as other improvements to bring the home into the 1920s’. He didn’t get to live here very long because he died in 1929. Marion later found love again, and married local judge C. Leonard O’Connor. Marion and Leonard lived here together for many years. After Leonard died, Marion continued to live in the family forever home until 1973, when she died, leaving no direct heirs, as she had no children.

The secondary heirs decided to cash out and divide the money, as living in this gorgeous but expensive property was out of the question. They loved this property, and came up with a plan to save it. This beautiful home was auctioned off to the highest bidder and whatever everyday items (not the treasures) that members of the extended family didn’t want, were cataloged and sold at auction as well.

Probably, a family member or a Cortland County leader won the house auction with the understanding that they would be reimbursed. Family members as well as Cortland County leaders immediately rallied community support in a strong campaign to save the property permanently by making it a museum, and getting it registered on The National Register of Historic Places. They applied for and received a not-for-profit status. The website for experiencecortland.com states; “In 1984, the 1890 House Museum received its official NYS Charter to operate as a 501c3 historic house museum.”

Enthusiastic family members donated Wickwire family artifacts, furniture and artwork to fill the house with authentic personal belongings of Chester, Ardell, Frederic and Marion. Other period furniture and items that they would have had in their house were brought in, making the interior look like the family had just gone out for a walk together.

The 1890 House Museum is in the capable hands of the 189O House Board, which has the job of maintaining the property, scheduling community activities and events, hiring people to give the tours, scheduling ghost hunts, and fundraising as well for the benefit of this 1890 House Museum, a beloved community treasure.

 

HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS

Structures built to be forever homes for families, couples or single people, sometimes become forever afterlife homes as well. Spectral residents or visitors can watch the activities of the living and their helpers, as well as the tourists on the home tour.

Hartford Twain House, CT (After their forever home was restored, the whole family moved back inside).

Joslyn Castle, NE (The spirits of the Joslyn family have moved back into their favorite place, and enjoy watching the living take care of their property and offer such fine events for the public, as well as private events).

Bowman House, VT (The Bowman family is together again in their dream house).

1890 House, NY (Members of the Wickwire family are still enjoying their home).

 

A structure that was the place of memorable family/couple activities, or group parties often draws back spirits who participated.

Goodman-LeGrand House and Museum, TX (The cordial spirits here are still throwing large social affairs, complete with talking, waltz music and dancing).

Chauteau at Coindre Hall, RI (The spirits of George McKesson Brown and his wife, Pearl, love to attend and watch the happy catered events held here. Spirits of their own former guests also like to watch and remember their good times).

Beauregard Keys House, LA (Spirits relive their good times in the ballroom, complete with their own music).

1890 House, NY (Spirits of the family and their spectral guests still have fun in the third floor recreation/ball room).

 

It is hard for spirits to let the living be in charge of upkeep, renovation and restoration projects, especially if it was the spirits’ favorite thing to do while alive, and they don’t trust the living to do a good job.

Lemp Mansion, MO (When the house was undergoing restoration, workmen felt spirits overlooking their every move to the point that some quit).

Monmouth Plantation, MS (General John Quitman returned with force during restoration, not trusting the living. When he saw that they knew what they were doing, he eventually got on the same page).

Velasco Pueblo, AZ (The spirit of the original owner had decor suggestions for the living restoring his old adobe).

1890 House, New York (A Wickwire son, Frederick, who owned this house was in charge of renovating parts of it. He wasn’t too happy when the living began to restore and renovate his house, without consulting him first).

 

Victims of abuse, assault or even murder sometimes as spirits reside where the damaging/deadly incident happened for a variety of reasons. Sometimes their attacker is there with them, stuck in the place where they did their evil deed. Sometimes this incident forever changed the victim’s plans, taking away what they loved to do in life.

Bobby Mackey’s Music World, KY (Two male students who cut off the head of a pregnant girlfriend haunt this building, along with their female victim who is looking for her head).

Lizzie Borden House, MA (Spirits of the Borden family and their servant cannot rest. It is thought that Lizzy killed her abusive father and her stepmother in a rage but she was found not guilty. The police botched the investigation. The maid knew who did the murders but was given money not to tell).

The Myrtles Plantation, LA (The children and their mother who died from eating a poisoned cake, haunt this place along with Chloe, the servant who made the cake).

1890 House, NY (Margaret, their loyal servant of seven years, was accosted and probably raped or nearly raped while cleaning up after a party on the third floor. Her attacker also hangs around this house. Because of the attack, Margaret was given the summer off with pay and money to return to Ireland in the Fall with her husband if she didn’t tell who did it. She had to leave a job she loved and never saw justice. Some of the living suspect perhaps a member of the family or more probably one of their friends of being her attacker, someone who attended the party. The perp of this crime was never brought to justice. The whole terrible thing was swept under the rug to be forgotten for awhile).

 

MANIFESTATIONS

Spirit of Margaret Stack

She still walks around, doing her normal chores, fulfilling the job she loved for the Wickwire family members who now stay with her.

Her voice has been recorded on EVPs.

She moves things around her room.

Residual energy from her assault has been experienced and recorded.

A female apparition has been seen going about her business at hand.

Spirit of Chester

He happily putters around the house, doing what he enjoys doing, and remembering all of his fond memories.

He has no worries in his afterlife.

He likes to sit in his place at the dining table, and pushes his chair away when finished. His chair is found, pushed away from the table by the docent who comes in the morning to open up the museum.

He likes to play billiards on the third floor.

His shadow has been seen traveling from room to room.

Spirit of Frederic

While alive, Frederic was upfront with his thoughts and not afraid to express them. Apparently, as a spirit he hasn’t changed a bit.

His feathers got ruffled when workmen hired by the 1890 House board came in and started improving and restoring things.

He let them know of his displeasure, making an exciting work environment to say the least.

Some proof was shown to the living to make it crystal clear who was upset.

No details have been given, but he probably made items fall, made loud foot steps, and moved items around just for starters.

Frederic may have even let the living hear his voice, feel his unseen presence and actually see him clearly watching with a stern look on his face.

 

Frederic the Supervisor

As he was a mover and shaker in life, he finds it hard to relax and enjoy his afterlife like his father, and needs to find a way to work.

He has had to settle for just supervising the living, which include docents, workers, board members, and anyone else who enters his home.

When our tour docent participated in a paranormal investigation on the third floor recreation/ballroom, he told me that he felt a strong presence glaring at him and felt a cold hand on the back of his neck, to show the spirit’s displeasure at an employee’s behavior; participating in an activity which slightly uncovered the family secret.

Frederic too travels around the house, going about his business, making sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to do.

Spirit of a child

Some think it is young Raymond, who must have followed his family to the new house in 1890.

Likes to play in the third floor play area. He may run around the house when the museum is closed.

In this play area, our docent felt a small hand touch him.

He probably stays on the third floor, playing.

The Spirit of Margaret’s Attacker

His crude comments about Margaret were recorded in the third floor billiards section by investigators.

His dark energy is felt in the cupola.

The energy is thick in the cupola and it is hard to stay in there for sensitives.

PARANORMAL FINDINGS

Docents and 1890 House board members as well as some visitors have had personal experiences here, as the spirits have no fear of the living. They gladly share their home with visitors who come to admire this one-of-a-kind structure.

Paranormal investigators never leave an investigation being disappointed. Ghost Hunters filmed an episode here and the joint was jumping.

In the third floor recreation room and party space, paranormal investigators recorded residual sounds of Margaret’s attack. Margaret was saying, “STOP IT, GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!” And then screams were heard on tape that would make your skin crawl. Her attacker’s sounds of excitement were probably giving the hint as to what was happening. Hopefully, someone came to her rescue before she was violated, but her attacker may have been in the middle of it when he was caught.

Margaret must have been shaken to the core. Because of who her attacker was, the family kept it a secret to prevent a scandal of what had happened in their house. Margaret was given the summer off with full pay. In September, Chester was dying. She came back to say good bye to him, before she left America with her husband to travel back to Ireland, far from the position she loved with the Wickwire family.

 

STILL HAUNTED?

A Big Yes Indeed!

Spirits are attached here for a variety of reasons, a family’s togetherness, a deep love of this forever home, a fulfilling position that had to be given up because of circumstances out of her control, and a spirit who is grounded here because of a violent deed done.

Other family spirits may visit, such as Ardele, Charles Chester, Wickwire family grandchildren, etc. Other servants may visit, along with Margaret’s family who may stay with her.

 

LOCATION

37 Tompkins St
Cortland, NY 13045

SOURCES INCLUDE

  • 1890 House Museum tour
  • https://the1890house.org
  • https://npgallery.nps.gov/AssetDetail/NRIS/75001179
  • https://hauntedhistorytrail.com/explore/the-1890-house-museum
  • https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1axfhh Ghost Hunter’s TV Episode
  • https://www.facebook.com/1890housemuseum/
  • https://www.experiencecortland.com/destination/the-1890-house-museum
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