The property at 42 Albany
Street, is one that is steeped in not only local history, but also local
prehistory. The area to the south of Cazenovia's Public Square (aka
"Cannon Park") to the bank of the old mill pond/swamp is loaded with history
and each parcel has its own story to tell, but each also helps to define
Cazenovia's history as a part of the whole. Because of the long and
active history of these properties their stories are important and complex.
Again, as you might gather from what I present below, there is more to the history of a property than just the buildings thereon. As an historian I am concerned with the history of the property and not just the building, and as an archaeologist I am concerned with the information that is buried underground - prehistoric as much as historic. Just about everything that has happened on that property has left some sort of evidence in the ground, be it Indian camps, a blacksmith shop, a silversmith's shop, a tavern, Masonic Lodge, a livery stable, or a residence (hopefully not much indicating a funeral home!). We have to be concerned about all of the information that a property holds and not just that there is an old building upon it. Without the other stuff that old house is nothing more than another old building.
The property on which the
former Smith's Funeral Home (42 Albany Street) now stands is located on
the broad high ground along upon which John Lincklaen chose to center his
village in 1793. This ground not only provided a high and dry location
suitable for planting a small community, it was also near the juncture
of the outlet of Cazenovia Lake and Chittenango Creek.
Long before John Lincklaen ever stepped foot on this spot the area had been the domain of the Native Americans. We're not sure if it was the Oneidas, who had their homes to the east, or the Onondagas who had their homes to the west, but there is evidence that this area has been continuously used for thousands of years. Most of the evidence is found in the last century when Cazenovia was busy building itself and there are a few scant references to the findings. No controlled archaeological examination has been made of the area but it is certain that evidence of occupation (pit features, soil stains indicating structures, and other signs) as well as burials are to be found in the immediate vicinity of the property.
In the 1880s and 1890s, when the village's water and sewer systems were being constructed, workmen found several prehistoric burials along South Street adjacent to the property. Several other burials were reported to have been found in the 1930s and 1940s when other work was being done along the same street. No artifacts were reported from the graves and it appears that they were pre-Iroquoian in age (Iroquoian burials after c. AD 1500 tend to have artifacts). Burials have also been reported from the south side of the creek, some of which did contain Iroquois artifacts.
Since this property lies very near the bank of the mill pond which would have been the perfect spot to hunt and fish it is no wonder that the Native Americans chose this spot to set up camps or perhaps a small semi-permanent village. Evidence of possible occupation was noted when the first settlers came to the area. Samuel Forman, John Lincklaen's storekeeper, wrote in an 1837 reminiscence that "on the bank of the out-let of the Lake, where the Hay scales now stand (south of the Public Square on the bank of the old mill pond), there was an old fort which from the regularity of its appearance and other circumstances must have been the work of a civilized people. The embankment, the holes where the pickets were put into the ground and two circular holes, supposed to have been wells, were easily perceptible; and frequently pieces of earthen ware, were found at this spot." Forman continued that he had "always regretted that we had not curiosity enough to have these supposed wells opened and examined."
Besides the evidence of this "fort" which indicates a settled village at this location, there is likely to be thousands of years worth of smaller temporary camps which were used on a seasonal basis by the Native Americans while hunting, fishing, and collecting local foods that grew in natural abundance in the area. Such sites might now be evidenced by small clusters fractured rocks that were used in cooking, large patches of blackened soil with fractured rocks where fish were roasted, storage pits, small soil stains indicating where wooden house stakes were driven into the ground, and the ubiquitous broken pottery, stone tools, and flakes of chert.
The history of the property is as early as any in the village and the building
that stands upon it is one of our earliest and has an interesting and varied
history. The pattern of village streets as we know it today, with
the Public Square at the center, was apparently laid out in that first
summer of settlement in 1793. Benjamin Weston started the survey
but other more pressing matters called him away and it was completed by
The original Great Lots of this property are Lots 47 and 64 of the Village Plot (marked E.C. Litchfield and E. Litchfield on the 1852 Hart Map of Cazenovia). Lot 47 faced the Public Square and Lot 64 lay to the back of this along the bank of the old Mill Pond (now a willow swamp). In 1799 these combined lots were divided down the middle to form the properties upon which now stand the houses at #36 and 42 Albany Street (Century House and the former Smith Funeral Home) and extend from the Public Square to the bank of the old Mill Pond. The first know occupant of this property was Elnathan Andrews who came to Cazenovia with John Lincklaen in 1793 as the Holland Land Company blacksmith. Andrews' first shop was probably located near the initial camps near where the Cazenovia Club is today, but it seems that he moved to the south side of the Public Square as early as 1795. In the next few years he was joined by Hiram Roberts who eventually acquired an interest in the property and shop. In 1795, the "Cazenovia Establishment," as the local branch of the Holland Land Company was known, paid out $690.00 to Elnathan Andrews for expenses incurred in building his house and improving the company-owned lot. An August 1, 1797 account of the Company's holdings indicates that there was a frame house with a blacksmiths shop, valued together at $600.00, on lots 47 & 64. The following year the same frame dwelling and blacksmith shop were valued at $510.40, and in 1799 they were not listed as company property.
Until 1799 the property had been owned by the Holland Land Company and used by Elnathan Andrews and Hiram Roberts who had their residence and blacksmith shop there. The nature of their partnership, if they had one, is not clear for they are never mentioned together, but they are both mentioned throughout the period as being the occupants and or owners of the lot and it gets somewhat confusing. Where upon the 3 acres or so of this property the house and shop were located is not known, but they most certainly faced the public square. In August of 1799 the eastern part of the property, now 42 Albany Street, was noted as being occupied by Hiram Roberts. At that time John Lincklaen sold the western part of the lots, now 36 Albany Street, to Eliakim Roberts for $400.00 which indicates that there was a substantial improvement upon it, probably the Company house built for Andrews. (Since the Company already had a tavern nearby [the Johnson House] the house on this property would not have been a tavern at this time). Later that year, in December of 1799 John Lincklaen made a gift of the eastern part of the lot, now #42 Albany Street, to Elnathan Andrews (without mention of Hiram Roberts) and it is probable that this is where his blacksmith shop was located.
Lincklaen made such gifts of land to friends and others who had showed their value to the growing community and a blacksmith was definitely a valuable asset to a small frontier community with big plans. The lots on the Public Square were particularly valuable as these were intended to be the commercial center of the community with taverns, stores, and other shops around its perimeter. It wasn't until just before 1840 that residences began to replace some of the stores and taverns - more on that later.
I found no documents that would indicate that Andrews or Hiram Roberts sold the land and it may be that Andrews left Cazenovia some time after the turn of the new century (1800) and the property reverted to Hiram Roberts' possession. I have not found any record of Hiram Roberts ownership other than as an occupant, so it may be that the property reverted to John Lincklaen who had made the original gift to Andrews in 1799. Hiram Roberts died before 1814 and the property had long since passed into the hands of others. In 1805 it was sold by Lincklaen to Horace Paddock, but before we get into that avenue of history, we need to turn around a bit and look at the neighboring property where things were happening.
A number of other facilities
were found in the immediate vicinity of the Madison County Hotel.
Because of its excellent location on the southeast side of the Public Square,
the hotel was in the midst of the early commercial center. At the
time the hotel was closed this center was moving eastward to where it is
today, and the old place is on the margin between the business and residential
cores (thus the threat to the building).
The Public Square was the center of activity in the first half of the 19th century. At all corners were found taverns, shops, stores, and offices. In the immediate vicinity f the Madison County Hotel were the Village Pound, Hay Scale, a livery stable, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, and a silversmith. The c. 1830 engraving of the hotel shows that the property at 42 Albany Street was occupied by the hotel's large livery stable. This has been confused in recent years with the old barn which had stood until the 1970s where the present Oneida Savings Bank parking lot is - they are entirely different buildings. The engraving shows a broad gabled front with two large doors, windows on the second floor and a fan light in the gable. Carriages can be seen in the open doors and a path led along the side of the barn to the area out back.
To the left of the hotel, and between the hotel and the livery barn, was a small building over the door to which hangs a large golden watch. This was the silvers smiths shop of Joab Gillette where he seems to have been located continuously as early as 1810 and up to 1827. Here he repaired watches and clocks and made silver spoons and perhaps jewelry. In later years the shop was occupied by the offices of Edward Allen, an attorney, and Elisha Farnham, a local manufacturer.
To the east of the hotel, perhaps before the large livery stable was built were found the tailor's shop of John McNeil in 1814 and the dress making shop of Mrs. D. and C.S. Storms in 1818.