The mending wall: Richardson-Bates repairs centuries-old exterior barrier

Above left, the shattered remains of the Richardson-Bates Home and Museum wall before recent renovations; above right, the newly refurbished barrier as seen Thursday morning.

OSWEGO — The wall outside the Richardson-Bates Home and Museum has been restored, helping the property return to some of its original beauty.

Located at 135 E. 3rd Street, the Richardson-Bates Home and Museum (RBHM) has been slowly restoring the building's cosmetic components during the COVID-19 pandemic to help improve safety and its historical aesthetic, officials said.

The Oswego County Historical Society took custody of the house in 1946 after children of the Bates family, who left 90 percent of the original furnishings, gifted it to the society. According to Mary Kay Stone, president of the Oswego County Historical Society, the “major pieces of the (home) area are all original.”

The current building dates back to 1867, but construction was occurring on the site as early 1840. Jacob and Naomi Richardson held the property until their son, Maxwell, inherited it and built the house that stands today.

A notable feature surrounding the property is the most recent project: the original stone wall, dating back to the late 1860’s. It was a base for an iron fence, historians say.

The wall had become a safety concern, falling into disrepair across its 150 year life span including recently when portions “cracked and chipped” during a previous winter, and pieces collapsed onto the sidewalk.

The new stone wall, finished earlier this year, is about 325 feet long and “expensive, but necessary” according to Stone.

Funding for the wall came from two different grants given to the RBHM from the Central New York Community Foundation Inc., as well as the Oswego Renaissance Association. The balance of the cost of the wall repairs were shouldered by the historical society and RBHM supporters in the form of local fundraisers, as well as donations from the public.

D&S Landscaping was the contractor for wall repairs using limestone capstones with a versalock base.

“They were so precise in measuring the straightness and levelness of it,” Stone said, noting the particularly exacting process of seating the stones in a gravel bed.

It was “the most meticulous project ever” and “picture perfect,” according to David D’Ambrosio, an assistant at the museum.

D&S Landscaping took the old wall away, save for a few pieces kept for various upcoming projects, according to Stone.

“I was hunting for an intact stone, and there wasn't even one.” Stone said.

Guarding the home and enduring the elements over the span of 150 years greatly affected the look and integrity of the wall.

“The Oswego weather really took its toll,” D’Ambrosio said.

Prominent designer Andrew Jackson Warner of Rochester had the idea for the current Bates House, and he was the same man who designed the historic West Baptist Church in Oswego.

The RBHM house has seen two major renovations during its lifespan: the addition of the northern and southern wings, and the demolition of the original 1840 structure built by Jacob Richardson to replace it with the modern version.  The north wing was finished in 1876 and the southern wing was finished in 1889, respectively. The renovation of the southern wing included a study and dining room, and was designed by Oswego architect Jon Seeber in 1889 in an attempt to “modernize and upgrade” the building, according to Oswego County Historian Justin White.

Due to COVID-19, the museum is currently closed to the public. The time has allowed museum supporters to work with researchers, volunteers and interns on an electronic archiving of their historical artifacts, officials said.

“All of those records can be digitized and we would be able to email them to people” Stone said.  

Officials say they’re working on re-opening plans and will have more information for the public in the near future. For more information, call at 315-343-1342 or online at rbhousemuseum.org

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.