Madison Co. Historical Society, Part 2

I’m continuing about our trip to Oneida, NY, to see the lovely Cottage Lawn house that is now the Madison County Historical Society. You can read the first part here.

The house was built in 1849, property of the Higinbotham family in Oneida, a prominent family in pre-Civil war era. Believe it or not, the town bank was in this house! Mr. Niles Higinbotham was the first bank president and owner of the Oneida Valley Savings Bank. The bank opened in 1851 with $105,000 in capital, in a room in the house.

Two additional rooms for the bank were added in 1853-54, before the bank was nationalized in 1865 and moved to downtown. There was a vault room built in the 1870s, and it had metal shutters and walls 18″ thick! I just cannot imagine having a bank with the townspeople’s money in my own home! How times have changed, haven’t they!

Here’s the vault lock on a steel door.

Vault Door Lock

The bank room is filled with archival materials for the Historical Society now. It’s a small room, about 15 by 12 feet or so, I’d guess. We couldn’t find the light switch, so the photos didn’t turn out well in the dark. I did snap a good photo of this old desk chair, a Windsor Student Chair, dated from the early 1800s. It belonged to Peter Smith, father of famous Gerrit Smith.

Peter Smiths Bank Desk Chair

We moved to the Dining Room. The room has lovely wallpaper, and it’s very old. Legend says the daughters of the house wrote their names on the wallpaper somewhere. The Historical Society people have searched for them, to no avail; perhaps the ink has faded by now.

The table is set with beautiful china.

Dining Set

The Higinbothams, like many affluent American families, supported local manufacturers. There’s Chittenango Glass, China, and assorted pottery from Canastota on display. The table china hails from England, but it has paintings of the hops plant on them, which is a nice touch. Madison County was once the nation’s leader in hops production, back when beer was the favorite family beverage (water was too unsanitary to drink back then).

Dining Room Dishes

Blue Staffordshire china

Fine China

The summer kitchen, like most homes in the early to mid-1800s, was in the cellar. A dumbwaiter brought food and beverage upstairs to serve for meals. In 1865, the kitchen as moved to the first floor. How’s that for kitchen trim color?

Kitchen Back Door

I love the Sterling Company stove– dated to 1860. It’s original to the house. Still works!

Sterling ompany Iron Stove

Kitchen Sink

I love the tin ceiling.

Kitchen Tin Ceiling

An assortment of jugs sits next to the stove.

Kitchen Jugs

This completed our tour of the downstairs. In the next post, I’ll show you the upstairs bedrooms. I also discovered that– once again- the Oneida Indians are intertwined in another one of our excursions! They are showing up everywhere, it seems!

About the Author

I've been traveling throughout New York State since I got the travel bug after touring the Herkimer Home on a school field trip as a youngster. We've been blogging about our travels since 2006 and have visited over half of New York's 62 counties so far.

Comments (2)

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  1. saint3 says:

    I’ve come across this sliding mechanism in some old offices. I imagine fleeing from a room bolted by this lock which gets jammed.

  2. Bengbeng says:

    an awesome post due to the historical furniture. waiting for the tour of the upstair bedrooms. a walk back in time