Baldwinsville History Mystery: May 17, 2017
Question: While driving in the a downpour during our recent up and down weather with the possibility of snow in May, the devastation of what has become known as the “Year Without A Summer” came to mind. This drawing depicts a man examining his ruined crop. What do you know about the weather that year?
Last week’s answer: Many readers likely remember seeing this little frame structure sitting at 18 W. Genesee St. in the shadow of the Village Hall. In its last years it served as the office of the Greater Baldwinsville Chamber of Commerce. In 1987 the little building was demolished to make room for an addition to the Village Hall. Demolition and removal of the remains took only a couple of hours and with it went a witness to more than 150 years of village life.
Unlike some buildings that grow larger with additions over the years, this building had the opposite experience. It began as part of a fairly modest Greek Revival style home built on the Oswego Street hill in 1835. Located at 72 Oswego St., the house was among many built by Henry Marvin, “a man largely interested in and identified with the building up of the village.”
As the village grew and manufacturing prospered, Oswego Street became a prime residential area. Following the Civil War, many of the earlier homes were removed and large high style Victorian homes were built upon their lots. The Greek Revival house at 72 Oswego St. had been purchased by the Presbyterian Church c. 1850 to be used as a parsonage. By the end of the 19th century, the house was small and old fashioned in comparison to its larger trendy neighbors. A new pastor was on the way and it was time to upgrade the parsonage. A new Victorian style home would be built on the site.
In those days lots were not cleared by demolition. Unencumbered by water and sewer systems, power supplies, central heat, telephone and cable wires, extant structures were usually just moved. In 1894 the “old” house was moved through back lots, down the grounds of the old academy and across Elizabeth Street, where it was relocated on the south side of the street. There it was used for church activities and events. At times of overcrowding at the academy, the house was even used for school classes.
In 1919 the house was purchased by Dr. Earl Kratzer, a village dentist, who sold it to his brother Leslie. Earl kept ownership of the west wing of the house. Once again the house was moved. Leslie moved the main portion further to the west on Elizabeth Street, bringing it closer to the Oswego Street corner. Earl had the small wing section moved even further to the west. That section was moved across Oswego Street and through backyards until it reached 20 W. Genesee St., Earl’s home. The former parish house parlor was now converted into a garage for Dr. Kratzer’s automobile.
Kratzer’s dental office was across the street at the corner of Charlotte and River streets. In 1937 that parcel was acquired for the new federal post office. Dr. Kratzer then had the little frame building remodeled again transforming it from a garage into a dental office.
Following Kratzer’s retirement in 1951 the structure was used by several dentists and entrepreneurs until its last occupant was the Chamber of Commerce. Its last owner was its next-door neighbor, the village. By 1985 the village hall was severely overcrowded and larger quarters were needed. The building was demolished in 1987.
Jim Henman was the first to call in and correctly identify the photo:
“I used to shovel the sidewalk back there back in the ‘50s,” he recalled. “It was his office for a long time, and when he passed away, another dentist took it over, and then it was the Chamber of Commerce building… then it was knocked down and the new Village Hall was built there.”
Contact Editor Sarah Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 434-8889 ext. 310 with your guess by 5 p.m. Friday (please leave the information in the message; we are not generally able to return calls regarding History Mystery responses). If you are the first person to correctly identify an element in the photo, your name and guess will appear in next week’s Messenger, along with another History Mystery feature. History Mystery is a joint project of the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse and the Baldwinsville Public Library.