By far and away, our largest project is the ongoing multi-year restoration of the General Walter Martin Home in Martinsburg. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of our efforts, this lovely stone mansion was the home of Gen. Walter Martin, perhaps the County’s foremost political leader in the early 1800s. The main block of the house was built between 1803 and 1805 in the Federal style, replacing a log house farther back on the property that Martin had erected in 1802. The flanking Greek Revival wings were added around 1835, after Martin had died and two of his sons owned the building.
When the Lewis County Historical Society acquired the property in 2003, the venerable stone building had fallen into considerable disrepair and portions of it were falling down. Through our efforts, we are beginning to bring the old girl back. Our volunteers have spent hundreds of hours on the early stages of conservation; doing research, obtaining grants, contracting heritage recordings to document and analyze the structure, hiring a professional conservation architect to prepare documents for conservation work, administering construction contracts, and putting their own sweat equity into the project for the betterment of the building and the Martinsburg community.
The conservation process began in earnest in 2005 when we obtained a grant from the New York State office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for a formal Condition Assessment or the building. This provided us with a basis for planning and prioritizing future conservation efforts. In 2013 we obtained a five-year grant for $250,000, which has recently been completed to install a much needed new roof, repair leaking and deteriorated chimneys, reset the front stone steps, provide structural reinforcing, and restore the south porch.
In 2018, we were awarded a new $75,000 grant, again from New York State’s office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The money has been used to replace deteriorated and leaking windows, restore portions of the north porch, repoint masonry and repair leaking stone window sills, and to design a barrier free entry to the building.
Heritage architectural design work has been provided by Randy Crawford of Crawford & Stearns of Syracuse, and construction is required to be bid publicly in hopes of continuing to support local craftspeople and build capacity for heritage conservation in the region. But make no mistake about it, we still have a long ways to go, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and donations needed to be obtained and raised, and hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteer hours still to be put in. Do we think it’s worth it to restore the very centerpiece of the Martinsburg community? You bet we do!
The Lewis County Historical Society will continue its efforts to bring life back to this heritage home through sound conservation practices. But we need your help. We rely heavily on volunteer efforts and donations of time and money toward continuing these efforts for the revival of this important piece of Lewis County history. For more information about the Greystone project OR to volunteer to help with Greystone OR to donate or provide financial support for Greystone, please contact Cole Mullin, Office Manager, at the Historical Society at 315-376-8957 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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