The Historical Society Museum is located at 55 Cayuga Street in Seneca Falls, NY in a house with a long and varied history. The first structure was built in 1823 as a one room wooden house. Edward Mynderse, son of the early land developer Colonel Wilhelmus Mynderse, erected a two-story brick structure in the Italianate Style circa 1855 on the site. The building was part of a ten-acre estate with carriage house, tool shed, vineyard, garden and orchard.
The Mynderse Family lived there until 1875 when Mrs. Leroy Partridge purchased the house and began an extensive remodeling and updating that changed the two-story dwelling into the three-story, 23 room, Queen Anne Style home that you see today. Architectural and decorative details which were added, include painted and stained-glass windows, gas lights, carved fireplaces and the entire third floor.
Many of the furnishings and exquisite stained-glass windows that enhance the beauty of this home are original to the house.
The mansion was sold to the Norman Becker Family in 1890, who raised six children in the house. The Becker’s lived there until 1961, when the Historical Society bought the building. The house as we see it today has undergone no major changes since the 1880’s. It is a beautiful product of the late Victorian era and as such, is a marvelous document of Victorian lifestyle and culture.
Located in the back yard is the Town Clock that was once on top of the Hoskins Block and moved to the grounds by Texaco Oil in October 1968. The clock is a Seth Thomas #7 Tower Clock, designed by A.S. Hotchkiss and built by Seth Thomas Clock Co. of Thomaston, Connecticut.
Dated November 26, 1895, it is an eight-day, time only, weight-driven clock. Through the combined efforts and generosity of many people and Gould’s Pumps, the clock may still be enjoyed by many. It is powered by a synchronous gear-headed motor driving through the clock mechanism.
Also located on the Historical Society’s grounds is the original Gothic Revival tool shed called the “Bee Hive”. Take a trip back in time when you visit this historically-accurate replica of a general store.
To further take advantage of our beautifully landscaped lawn, we invite area students to visit and play lawn games that date back to the early 1900’s. We hope you’ll drop by so you can see the mansion’s beauty both inside and out.
Upon entering the house, the front hall is the first room seen. To reflect its purpose, the design was to be grand while at the same time appearing hospitable. The lighting and golden oak wood work are from the 1880 remodel. Along the walls hang prints and engravings of some historical subjects including the life of George Washington and the American Revolution.
The drawing room is the most formal room in the house, used only on special occasions. Originally two rooms connected by a pocket door, Mrs. Partridge wanted a larger room and architect James Cutler produced this result. The Brussels-type carpet, flocked wallpaper, carved woodwork, English tiles surrounding the fireplaces, the stained glass and the gasoliers are all original to the remodeling of 1880. Notice the naturalistic motifs of fruit and flowers, especially sunflowers, found in the border of the carpet, the gasoliers, the stained glass, and the woodwork.
Floral motifs, such as those found in the Drawing Room, are also found in the dining room, carved into the oak woodwork. The sideboard and the fireplace both display Eastlake motifs.
The library was a place where the men would gather while the women went to the drawing room to talk. Cigars and various games were enjoyed here. Today the library is used as a gift shop for the Historical Society where you can purchase information about the house as well as the history of Seneca Falls.
The family parlor is opposite the drawing room. It was an informal sitting room, where the family spent most of their time. The room may be closed off with pocket doors for privacy or to keep the heat in. An American Rococo Revival style parlor suite is the center piece of the room, as is true with this set, old drawing room furniture was often moved into the family parlor when a new set was purchased.
The dining room was designed in the Tudor Style with the exposed beam ceiling and paneled wainscoting. The sideboard mirrors the fireplace and once again the sunflower motif is evident. Gathering around the table was a major ceremony in the Victorian household.
Just off the dining room is the butler’s pantry, which was used for final food preparation, cleanup of the china and silver as well as storage of the china, glassware and silver. The sink is made of copper with a marble counter top. There are also two sideboards in this room, one in the American Renaissance Revival style made of walnut and a smaller one in the American Restoration style.
Next is the kitchen, which would have seen a great deal of activity all day as the meals were being prepared on the cast iron stove. This stove has six burners and a tank on the side to keep water hot all day long. Behind a curtain is the back hall and a back stair that the maid and the cook would have used as they worked throughout the house.
As you go up the front stairs notice the checkerboard pattern, Mr. Cutler used it as a design element, but the Becker children and grandchildren actually played checkers on all six landings. Midway between the first and second floor are beautiful stained-glass windows painted by W.J. McPherson of Boston. These windows depict Morning, Noon and Night and were installed in the 1880’s.
Separate bedrooms and dressing areas are furnished in period pieces. Part of the suite is a bathroom that was remodeled in 1905 and as was the custom the original tub was moved up stairs to the maid or cook’s room.
Some of the other exhibits include a Fire Company display, children’s toys including Schoenhut Circus toys, products of Seneca Falls ranging from buttons to televisions and the Women’s Rights Movement.
The Historical Society’s library contains books on local history, women’s rights history, genealogy research materials, periodicals and microfilm. These have been used by researchers from all over the country for varied projects.
Also housed at the Historical Society is a collection of over 20,000 photographs and 200,000 items ranging from personal papers to wills and deeds, which are available by appointment to researchers.