Table of contents
- Tour of 322 Main Street – The Fairchild Mansion
- First Floor
- The Second Floor
- The Third Floor
- A Few Words About the Fairchild's
- Construction Notes
Tour of 322 Main Street – The Fairchild Mansion
The original portion of the house was built in 1867 by David J. Yager, a prominent citizen and the father of Willard E. and Marion Yager. As first constructed it was almost square with a flat roof. A photograph of the original structure is on the wall in the library room.
Soon after the marriage of George W. Fairchild and Josephine Mills Sherman, he purchased this property with a 200 foot frontage on Main Street and the same depth on Grand Street. In 1897 he enlarged and remodeled the house. At that time the tower was built on the easterly front corner, a third floor was added and the tile roof installed.
The roof is of Belgian style tile, and is extremely heavy, supported by massive timbering, including stress members to compensate for the wind load on its large surface. In 1915 still more alterations were made when central heating was introduced and the structure rewired for the increased need of electrification.
After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild in the early ‘20’s, the house was unoccupied except for a caretaker, until 1929 when it was purchased by the Oneonta Masonic Lodge. Sherman M. Fairchild, the son and heir, gave the Lodge the library, the expensive draperies and floor coverings, most of the furniture and the art objects that adorned the various rooms.
More about Masonry and the Fairchild’s can be found in the Library.
The Library is the first room to the left of the portcochere entrance, located in the northwest corner on the first floor. This room is trimmed and beamed with Honduras mahogany. The drapes at the windows have recently been replaced, while the valences were retained, thus blending to maintain the decor of the1900 period. Most of the books of the library were left by the Fairchild’s, though the Freemasons have added many Masonic reference books. You should note the bust of Fred M. H. Jackson, which was sculpted by a Lodge Past-Master, Harold S. Booth and presented to be placed here in the library. Mr. Jackson was a prominent Mason and well known in our area as an excellent ritualist. The furniture has recently been reupholstered, caned and all of the goosefeather stuffed pillows cleaned and restored. Note the complimentary chandelier. The bust of Longfellow sits atop a beautiful Italian marble pedestal and the bust of Goethe sits atop a Mahogany pedestal. The ornate fireplace, with tall mahogany columns, supports the canopy and surrounds the mirror and carved woodwork complimenting the Italian Marble facing, brass trim and brass screening of the front of the fireplace. The andirons have similarly carved marble posts, and an angelic figure is embedded in the rear plate of the fireplace. Several antique articles and Masonic memorabilia are seen in the display case.
Main Entrance Hall
In leaving the Library, we pass into the Main Entrance Hall. Please stop for a moment and observe the foyer entrance and how it makes for a “mood transition” - you entered up the stone steps, through glass paneled doors, through inner wood doors and into the foyer - paneled in brass-coated wall covering and wainscoting – and through a second set of glass paneled doors thence into the house proper. What a fine view of the wonderful staircase with the magnificent mirror at the landing, providing depth to the structure. Here you view another of the six fireplaces located on the first floor, but this one is unique, in that it is non-flue and therefore decorative, with brown-toned ceramic tile and black iron “lion’s paw” motif feature. The black iron feature is continued through the chandeliers in both avenues of the hall. Note that these chandeliers were able to be lit with electricity or with natural gas. The woodwork in the Hall is quartered oak. The “built in settee” which was recently reupholstered, also the bench and hall rack with the “lion’s paw” motif. The six-foot brass and silk floor lamp was a gift to Most Worshipful Charles Smith by Dingo Lodge #30, as a reminder of his visit to their Lodge and his election as an Honorary Member of that Lodge. The family of Most Worshipful Smith presented the lamp to the Lodge as a gift. Many of the beautiful drapes throughout the Hall have been recently replaced.
The West Entrance
The entrance to the hallway from the west, through which many of you entered, is similar to the main entrance, with the exception that the entrance is under the portcochere thence through a foyer or vestibule and directly into the hallway.
The Reception Room
We leave the hallway area in order to enter the Reception Room, which includes the tower erected in 1897. Please note the fine curved windows in the tower and the distinctive lighting fixtures with teardrop globes. The chandelier was able to be lighted with electricity or natural gas. The feature woodwork is sycamore wood and blends delightfully with the decor. The furniture is authentic, though recently renovated and reupholstered and was typical of the period and style of furnishings that the Fairchild’s introduced into the mansion. The window drapes in this room have also recently been replaced. The grandfather clock was a gift to Most Worshipful Charles Smith, whose portrait and plaque is hung on the wall above the settee, and now a gift to the Lodge by his family. Here is another of the fireplaces used to provide warmth before introduction of central heating and is faced with small decorative tiles composing an interwoven ribbon design, which is repeated in the design of the hearth. The hearth is bordered by tiles having intertwined links and wheels. Just below the sycamore wood mantle the tile features two maces with crossed staffs. Note the mirror which is set-off by the extensive, carved sycamore wood surrounding the fireplace.
The rooms on the main floor are separated by draperies and also with pocket or swinging doors, so that most of the rooms could be sealed off, for reason of comfort.
The Drawing Room
The room next to the Reception Room was the family Drawing Room, or Sitting Room, for the purpose of recess after meals or evening family time. The Lodge attached heavy linoleum to the floor and positioned a billiard and a pool table, and also the pictorial record of most of the Past Masters of Oneonta Lodge since 1859 and Past High Priests of Oneonta Chapter Royal Arch Mason. You may recognize some of the later officers.
The Dining Room
When entering the Dining Room most everyone is awe-struck by the beauty and size of the room. The fine mahogany wood paneling, beamed ceilings, the cherry wood used in the fireplace, sideboard, table and chairs and the “lion’s-paw” motif certainly promote the beauty of the room. The length of the table is evident, whether for seating twelve, or in the event of an extended family gathering of twenty-four or even to the thirty for a community affair. The genuine French tapestry wall covering, the bell system and the restored and designed floor enhances the beauty of the room. What comfort Mr. Fairchild must have taken in entertaining many notable personages during the years that he was in Congress: six terms beginning in 1905. During this period he was a participant in the Panama Canal proceedings and became the ranking member of the potent Ways and Means Committee. We know that Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild and stayed for varying lengths of time in the mansion.
The Fairchild’s tried to maintain the lighting effects of the early1900’s where possible and practical and the chandelier in the dining room is ornate and interesting. Here we find a different style fireplace - one of brick and tile with brass tools and a firewood cage with grate. This adds to the cheerful atmosphere of the dining room.
Of particular note is the ornately carved pedestal of mahogany surmounted with a metal statue of ”Tellus” (the Roman goddess of the earth).
The Billiard Room
We enter the Fairchild’s Billiard Room, finding it light and airy, with the many windows and doorway leading onto the masonry porch located at the rear of the building. The marble and brick fireplace compliments the brass tools, andirons and screen. The central heating plant is located in the basement beneath this room and consists of two low pressure hot water furnaces, side by side – one fired by natural gas and the other by oil.
The silver maple wood makes the room much brighter and carries with it the atmosphere needed in a room reflecting the outdoors. The fine floor covering and the paintings add to the luster. Note the two green and white pedestal lights on the mantel indicative of the original decorative pattern for all of the lighting including sconces (now removed).
The room is now used by the fraternity as a card room and during the winter months is used as a “downstairs meeting room” so that we can conserve energy and not heat the upper floors.
The Butler's Pantry
The Butler’s Pantry is still furnished with the original stove and other items used in the 1900’s. How convenient this was with the large preparation kitchen next door. Today, our caretaker uses the preparation kitchen and sitting room next to it for his privacy. The call-bell system was headquartered in the preparation kitchen, a central location for all services.
To the rear of this building were located the Stables and Garage and living quarters for the horsemen and chauffeur. Their quarters were finished with plaster and lathe walls to ensure that the vehicles would be in good condition. Here also was the darkroom used by Sherman Fairchild in his early work with photography.
We again traverse the hallway, on our way to the Grand Stairway, to gain entrance to the second floor. Please note that the doors were constructed of solid woods, veneered so that the facing side of the door has matching woods to the room on which it faces. This is true, not only with the hinged doors, but also with the pocket doors.
The First Floor Guest Bedroom
We could go to the upper floors by means of the elevator installed in the mid-1960’s, primarily from a gift of 100 shares of IBM stock from Jessie Smith Dewar, daughter of M.W. Charles Smith. In gaining entrance to the elevator, we necessarily pass through the Guest Bedroom (now a second billiard room). Here we find the sixth fireplace, distinguished by the facing consisting of large floral design tiles with a cameo-type central tile. The hearth is of tile with a “wheel design” border. Again, the metal work for the fireplace insert, tools and andirons is brass. The quartered oak woodwork is complimented by the cherry and black walnut woods of the fireplace. Off of this bedroom are a closet and also a bathroom, containing one of three distinctive, decorated washbasins. We believe prominent guests stayed here as it was convenient to the westerly entrance, off the portcochere and did not require guests to ascend the stairs leading into the family’s private area.
Most of the windows, except those fronting Main Street in the Library, have full wooden shutters in the upper and in the lower sections. These shutters recess into the side framing of each window thereby providing screens, for vision and also to maintain more even temperatures within the building.
The whole building was renovated in 1915, at which time much of the plumbing and electrical services were up-dated. The central hot-water heating system was introduced, which made all of the living quarters much more comfortable. Today, the Masonic Lodge has installed two, low pressure hot-water furnaces, side by side, in the basement below the “Billiard Room”. One is fired by natural gas and the other by heating oil, so that we are prepared, in the event of an emergency, to heat the building with either furnace. They are vented through the fireplace flue in the “Billiard Room”.
The Second Floor
The second floor area of the building contained the Family private rooms. Mrs. Fairchild’s bedroom was situated in the northwest corner facing Main Street. The extension of the main hallway led from the stairs toward Main Street with a doorway opening into her bedroom. Immediately to the rear of her bedroom was Mrs. Fairchild’s bathroom, which connected to Mr. Fairchild’s bedroom. A second fancy porcelain decorated washbasin is in this bathroom. Mr. Fairchild’s bathroom was white tiled and now doubles as an Emergency Exit from the second floor.
Mrs. Fairchild had a sitting room on the westerly side of the building and to the rear of the tiled bathroom. Next to this were two other rooms and another bathroom housing the smallest bathtub that we have ever seen. We believe that these two rooms may have been for a close relative or a servant.
Mr. Fairchild’s bedroom has a fine parqueted floor and several pieces of restored furniture in it, and today serves as the entrance for the elevator on the second floor. Mrs. Fairchild’s bedroom serves as an office for the Masonic Bodies. We are hopeful that in the near future we maybe able to recover the flooring in the office area.
Upon obtaining possession of the building, the Lodge erected a partition at the head of the stairs and removed the easterly wall of the hallway, after installing a weight-bearing beam the length of the opened area to allow for the second-floor dining room.
There were apparently two guest bedrooms on the easterly side of the second floor, opening into the hallway extension. These have all been altered to accommodate the dining room which constitutes the area of the hallway and these two bedrooms. In addition, there was a third bedroom to the rear of these, and adjacent to Grand Street for Sherman’s use, and which is now part of the dining room area. Our second floor kitchen is in the area formerly used as a “sleeping porch”. Of course, the bathroom which is located by the rear portion of our dining room, was for the use of Sherman Fairchild. We assume that he used the sleeping porch for some of his laboratory work and studies.
The Third Floor
The third floor is where the fabulous ballroom was located. We know that in 1915 Sherman hosted a reception for West Point Cadet Augustus M. Gurney and held some of the festivities in the ballroom. Other Oneonta residents regaled their fond memories of several parties held here. The ballroom was transformed into the Masonic lodge room. There were other room adjacent to the ballroom for servant’s domiciles, and there was a stairway leading from the third floor on the Grand Street side, down to the second floor, in addition to the stairway in the rear. Renovations by the Masonic Lodge have sealed this stairway off and also removed much of the servants’ quarters. The “theater seats” on the westerly side of the Lodge room were obtained from the Palace Theater when it was demolished. The benches along the sides of the Lodge room were obtained from the Oneonta Club when it ceased to function.
The hallway area adjacent to the Lodge room is referred to as the “tiler’s room” and here we find much Masonic memorabilia. This includes Masonic aprons from the early1800’s to the present, also the original Charter of Milford Lodge, located in the southerly part of the Town of Milford, issued in 1814 and signed by Dewitt Clinton. Otego-Union Lodge was recently merged into Oneonta Lodge and several items of significance of that Lodge adorn the walls adjacent to the entrance to the 3rd Floor entrance to the Elevator. Another bathroom with the significant decorated porcelain washbasin is located here. The sloped ceiling areas of the third floor conceal the massive timbers installed to support the heavy tile roof. The tower commands a magnificent view of Oneonta, with its’ curved-glass windows allow almost 225 degrees of viewing.
A Few Words About the Fairchild's
George Winthrop Fairchild was born in Oneonta in 1854 of “poor but honest parents”. At age 13 he left school to support his mother, first doing farm work at $8.00 a month and then becoming a printer’s apprentice at the Oneonta Herald at $3.00 a week.
He was a master printer at age 17 and a year later was shop foreman for the Bainbridge Republican. Then wanderlust hit him and for some years he was a tramp printer, traveling from city to city throughout the east and middlewest, until finally he returned to Oneonta and became foreman of the Oneonta Herald Shop.
He saved his money, invested it shrewdly and was soon able to buy an interest in the paper. Eventually he was to become its editor and sole owner. His first big chance came when he became interested in the manufacture and sale of an automatic press invented by a Worcester man, D.T. Erickson. Fairchild went to London and sold the English rights for $100,000 and deposited the money in a British bank. The bank failed the next day, thus wiping out the profit which would have put the company on its feet.
In 1891 George Fairchild married Josephine Mills Sherman, the daughter of a prosperous Davenport farmer. She had just been willed a considerable sum by an uncle who had been one of the original ‘49ers and this gave the young publisher access to capital he soon put to use.
Harlow Bundy, friend of George Fairchild and a former Oneonta lawyer and Postmaster, and married to a granddaughter of the pioneer Eliakim R Ford, was manufacturing a time-recording device in Binghamton. Harlow had tried out the invention while he was the Oneonta Postmaster and sensing that there was a great future in the device moved to Binghamton, a business hub, and formed the Bundy Time Recording Company. The company prospered and soon more capital was needed for expansion. Bundy turned to his old friend, Fairchild, who made an initial investment of eight thousand dollars and became a director. The company was soon reorganized as the International Time Recording Company and a factory was built in Endicott. Bundy moved there and erected a fine home which, in later years, became the Endicott public library.
Computing machines and scale companies were brought into a merger with ITR and the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company was formed with Fairchild as president and Bundy as vice-president. This company, greatly expanded, is the International Business Machine Company of today. Fairchild later became chairman of the board.
About 1911 Fairchild stated to many of his acquaintances, “I am organizing a company to be known as Computing-Tabulating-Recording. Invest $2,000 and I think that I can make you some money; but don’t do it if you can’t afford to lose.” Those who followed his advice became millionaires.
There is a “story”, of a local banker who invested in this company. He was in the habit of rewarding employees of the bank and his residence employees, such as his chauffeur, with stock certificates during the holiday season. His most valued employees he gave Bank Stock and his less valued employees he gave IBM stock. Such is life!!
George W Fairchild died in New York in 1924 and was buried in Oneonta as was Josephine. Their only son, Sherman Mills Fairchild, and inventive genius followed in his father’s financial footsteps and became one of the wealthiest men in the country before his death in the 70’s.
Upon the death of Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild in the early 1920’s, the manse was unoccupied except for a caretaker until 1929, when it was purchased by Oneonta Lodge No. 466 Free and Accepted Masons. After the initial sale, Sherman M. Fairchild, son and heir and his Aunt May, Mrs. Fairchild’s sister, walked through the building to consider the disposal of the Fairchild belongings. It is related to us, that Sherman and Aunt May were to take the items they desired and leave the remainder to the Lodge. As the “story” goes, Sherman was not disposed to take many items, so he and his personal secretary followed behind Aunt May, as she toured the dwelling making selections for herself and for Sherman. Sherman then instructed his secretary to cancel many of the items being selected, as he did not desire to have any but the most personal and meaningful items. As a result the Lodge became the possessor of much furniture and many fine articles and objects of art. The Lodge immediately auctioned off furniture, upon taking possession of the structure, including the bedroom furnishings. As you have been touring the building, you should have noted the many fine paintings, sketches and other articles which were left here by the Fairchild’s, and which we proudly display.
Roof is of Belgian Style Tile.
Foyer entrances are paneled in brass-coated-paper wall covering.
Note the Tear Drop Light Globes and a Tiffany Desk Lamp, and the window drapes were recently replaced and furniture reupholstered. The 6 ft. brass and silk floorlamp is in the Entrance Hall. The Lion-paw motif of the Dining Room continues in the furnishings of the Hallway. The Bell System push-button in Dining Room has been disconnected as the system was headquartered in the food preparation kitchen adjacent to the Butler’s Pantry which is now the caretaker’s kitchen.
The furniture has recently been upholstered and caned and all goosefeather stuffed pillows restored. Note the ornate, complimenting chandelier. The bust of Longfellow sits atop a beautiful Italian Marble pedestal and the bust of Goethe sits atop a beautiful mahogany pedestal. The ornate fireplace, with tall mahogany columns, supporting the canopy and surrounding the large mirror and carved woodwork which is complimented by the Italian Marble facing, brass trim and a brass screen in front of the fireplace. The andirons are complimentary in that they are surmounted with similar carved marble posts. Note the angelic figure composing the surface of the rear plate of the fireplace.
There are seven fireplaces- 6 on 1st floor and 1 on 2nd floor.
NOTE THAT EACH OF THE FIREPLACES HAVE A MIRROR FEATURE.
Main Entrance Hall
This fireplace is the only non-flue and therefore strictly decorative fireplace, composed of brown toned ceramic tile and trimmed in black lion motif iron, with similar andirons.
Note the open-jaw lions holding forth on the mantle supports and iron fireplace works. This mode is continued through both chandeliers in the Main Hall.
The Dining Room
The brick and tile fireplace, woodwork appears to be made of cherry wood, and is trimmed in brass, with similar tools. Note the metal firepot cage insert. This room has a beautifully carved mahogany pedestal supporting a magnificent metal statue of Tellus.
The Billiard Room
Marble and brick Fireplace with brass screen, andirons and tools is comforting as it acts as a flue for the central heating furnaces located in the basement level directly beneath this room. Note the lights, on each end of the mantle, which are peculiar to this room. Similarly patterned lights originally decorated the ceiling and the sconces on the walls.
The Downstairs Guest Bedroom
The Floral Design Ceramic Tiles of the fireplace facing apparently are of Italian origin - note the Bust in the top-center of the design, also the floral border on the floor tiles. There is a metal insert, but no andirons or tools.
George Fairchild's Bedroom
The wood trim in this room is primarily cherry with some quartered oak. The face of the fireplace is tile, as is the flooring, while the insert is brass, as are the other tools.
I am sure you have noted that this building is one of the “showplaces of Old Oneonta” and is listed on the “Historic Site Register” of both the United States of America and New York State.
The intentions of the members of Oneonta Lodge No. 466, Free and Accepted Masons are to preserve the building to the best of our financial ability.
We are NOT IN ANY WAY TAX EXEMPT and therefore are not a burden to the taxpayer of the City of Oneonta or of Otsego County.
We hope you have enjoyed your visit to a building - a home - a mansion - that has a glorious historical past and a very worthwhile present existence.
Revision of 23 July 2008
R. W. Fred G. Hickein, Master 1962.
Oneonta Masonic Lodge No. 466