Baldwinsville History Mystery: Jan. 30, 2019
Question: This photo shows a well-worn building in its last moments. In its heyday it was a prominent landmark and a popular “place to be.” Can you identify the building? Do you know its story from landmark to derelict?
Last week’s answer: The home in last week’s photo is located at 39 Downer St.
Built circa 1880, the house became the home of George Gardner Mercer and his bride, Fannie Hosmer Pelton, when the couple married in 1881. George and Fannie raised four sons in the Downer Street home. Their first child, Clyde, was born in November 1882. The Gazette and Farmers’ Journal reported, “Mercer is smiling; it’s a boy!” Clyde was followed by three more brothers: Russell (1884), Cassa (1888) and Gardner Dobell (1894).
The son of miller Stephen Mercer, George grew up in Onondaga Valley and came to Baldwinsville in 1880 to enter into a merchant milling partnership with his brother-in-law, Elijah P. Clark. The pair acquired the historic mill that had been built in 1828 by John McHarrie, Jr., son of pioneers John and Lydia McHarrie.
Clark passed away in 1903 and in 1912 the operation incorporated under the name Mercer Milling Co. George became president in 1912 and remained in that position until his death in 1915.
George’s unexpected death at the age of 60 left his widow alone in the large home. Their son, Gardner — nicknamed “Spike” — married his high school sweetheart, Irene “High” Darrow, that autumn. The newlyweds moved into the Mercer home.
Five years later, young Gardner followed the family tradition and joined Mercer Milling as a general worker. Eventually moving into the position of head miller, Gardner kept the water powered business vital and growing. Gardner semi-retired from the milling business in 1960 after 40 years. Among his continuing duties was dressing the millstones, a task which he declared was his favorite.
Gardner and Irene remained in the Downer Street home, which now was in the midst of a neighborhood. New houses had sprung up as the village population tripled between 1880 and 1960.
Gardner passed away in April, 1980; Irene passed away in 1981. Guided by photographs from Gardner and Irene’s granddaughter, current owners Jean and Tom LaMere have restored the home’s facade to its gracious turn of the century appearance. Milling has vanished from the banks of the Seneca and the landmark Mercer Mill is now a boutique hotel, the Red Mill Inn.
Email your guess to email@example.com or leave a message at 315-434-8889 ext. 310 with your guess by noon Friday. If you are the first person to correctly identify an element in the photo before the deadline, 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.