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Students visit Olmsted House

By Upstate Institute on October 2, 2012

Judith Wellman, Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 Chair for Regional Studies, organized a visit for students to meet with Ted Bartlett of Crawford and Stearns Architects and Preservation Planners at the Jonathan Olmsted House. The house, which was built about 1810, is an important historical resource for the university and the community. It is historically significant as the founding place of what was to become Colgate University, in 1817, and as the homestead of Deacon Jonathan Olmsted, who was a prominent early settler and one of the founders of the University. The building is architecturally significant as a distinctive example of timber frame construction from the Hamilton settlement period.

This semester, Dr. Wellman is teaching the Upstate History class, HIST 313. This class explores the social, political and cultural history of central New York in the first half of the 19th century focusing on topics such as women’s rights, utopian communities, anti-slavery and the Erie Canal, amongst others. In addition, the students will have the opportunity to directly explore the community outside Colgate by visiting The Fenimore Art Museum, the Oneida Community Mansion House and the Olmstead House.

Dr. Judith Wellman is Professor Emerita at State University of New York at Oswego and Principal Investigator at Historical New York Research Associates. She has more than 30 years of experience in research, teaching, cultural resource surveys and grants administration in U.S. history, women’s history, local history, Underground Railroad history, and historic preservation. She is the author of “The Road to Seneca Falls: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the First Woman’s Right Convention” (2004).


  • Upstate Institute said:

    Thanks for adding these memories, Nina!

  • Nina Stevens McCane said:

    Hello to those who know the Olmstead House in Hamilton, NY!!!
    My name is Nina Stevens (maiden name) McCane.

    I am VERY familiar with this home as I LIVED in the Olmstead House from 1965 (age 6) through 1972 (age 12) with my 6 brothers and sisters and parents, Alice and Randall (Randy) Stevens. Randy Stevens was the head of Foundations/Fund Raising for Colgate University for those 8 years. My father, Randall Stevens was an alumni of Colgate University – Class of 1951. He passed away in 1994 of MS. We all miss him so much!!! Our mother was a part-time nurse at Hamilton Hospital.

    I looked up the Olmstead House online to see if there were any historical photos or articles. Very happy to see this article and a few other websites with photos. We were talking of childhood memories of the Olmstead House over dinner. So many amazing, wonderful memories!!! I think I could describe every inch of this home in detail still at age 56. There are secret passageways within this house that many do not know about. The long left wing that was built onto the Olmstead House in the mid to late 1800’s housed the “Founders Room” on the lower level. This room had a slate floor, a huge fireplace, many handmade wooden chests that contained newspapers and other printed material from a century before and a handmade room length wooden table. The table was surrounded by wood and wicker tall back chairs…at least 20 of them. We used to carve our Jack-o-Lanterns on newspaper on this table. Plenty of room for 20+ kids to create awesome pumpkins! But, the “real” (historical) use of this room was to have the founders of the town of Hamilton meet as a unified group to discuss business related to Hamilton and Colgate University. Every year, on July 4th, we would all have to leave the house so that the members of this meeting had privacy and confidentiality. We could return about dinner time. I was young, but remember at least 15-20 people parking along the street and in the barn lot across the street there on Preston Hill to attend the meeting. We always went to the movies and a picnic lunch at Taylor Lake park.

    If anyone is reading this…please contact me via email given. There are so many stories to be told. So many things to tell about this beautiful,
    13 room home with the green shutters with Christmas trees carved in them. There is a young female ghost many of us witnessed. Always in a white nightgown and bonnet, carrying a candle, silently descending the large formal front staircase inside the huge front door. She was lovely!

    To all Colgate students, alumni, faculty and staff…thank you for all you were to us! Nina Stevens McCane

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