By Greg Klein STAFF WRITER
---- — For a historic home like Hyde Hall, $250,000 will get a lot of work done.
“It is amazing how many things that money will do for us,” said Executive Director Jonathan Maney, after State Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) announced a new legislative grant for the historic house located in Glimmerglass State Park in Springfield.
“This is a great day for Hyde Hall,” Maney said. “This is a major step forward for us. It brings us much closer to a full restoration of the house.”
Maney said the money will restore the Tin Top gatehouse at the historic entrance to the property, turning it into a welcome center and gift shop.
The gatehouse, with its accompanying footbridge, is one of the earliest surviving buildings of its kind in upstate New York.
“You can see it is pretty much a mess right now,” Maney said. The current welcome center, which is located closer to the main house, will then be converted to meeting rooms.
The grant will also restore the stone front steps to the house, refinish the floors, and restore an 1830s Brahma water closet, which Maney said was one of the first — if not the first — indoor toilets in New York, west of the Hudson River and north of New York City.
Hyde Hall was built on the north end of Otsego Lake in the 1810s and 1820s by owner George Clarke and designed by architect Philip Hooker. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Joseph Brahma was an inventor whose plumbing works rival Thomas Crapper and is best known for creating the hydraulic press. The Hyde Hall toilet was commissioned from Brahma by Clarke and installed in 1833.
Hyde Hall Chairman of the Board Gilbert Vincent drew a parallel to the work done on the house in the 19th century and the work that will be done there in the 21st century.
“Roughly 180 years ago, very talented local craftsmen built this house,” he said. “Now we are very excited that we still have the same quality of craftsmen in this area that will finish the work.”
Maney also said he was excited about the local jobs that the grant would create.
“It is a great thing for the area, because all the workers we will be hiring will be local workers,” he said.
Seward said that one of his first acts in the legislature, in 1988, was to help write an operating agreement between the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Friends of Hyde Hall so that the house could be turned into a museum.
“Certainly everyone here recognizes the fact that Hyde Hall is a wonderful showcase,” he said. “Sometimes history needs a little help and that’s why we are here this morning.”