A Significant American Architectural Statement

The National Historic Register Listing, 1979

 

The Reuel Smith House, 28 West Lake Street, Skaneateles NY has been designated as a nationally significant example of architecture worthy of preservation. It was put on the National Register of Historic Places on July 27, 1979. Copies of the original plans for the home and documentary photographs are archived in the Library of Congress.

 

Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register of Historic Places is part of a federal program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

 

The Historic American Buildings Survey, 1962

 

The Reuel Smith home was also the subject of the Historic American Buildings Survey Project for which its Chief Photographer, Jack Boucher documented it in 1962 as an existing historic structure that added to the American heritage in architecture.

 

The home has been the subject of architectural study sessions and 
local history private tours, from time to time.

 

Changes and Restoration

 

The Reuel Smith house was built from 1848 to 1852 to a set of plans designed by A. J. Davis , and appointed and furnished with marble fireplaces and fixtures from New York City. His second son E. R. was likely influential in urging his father to select Davis as architect. Educated at Georgetown and Yale, and in Europe, he spoke six languages, explored the high seas and interior Chile, authored a book, painted, sketched and lectured — a man of letters and refined taste who would have appreciated A. J. Davis's talent. 

By 1904, E. R. had inhereted the estate and wanted some upgrades. With A. J. Davis's death in 1893, he instead looked to a Syracuse luminary to expand and improve the home: Archimedes Russell changed the chimney pots, replaced French doors with picture windows to capture the lake view, and allow for radiated heat, as well as expand the kitchen, laundry room and others.

 

The third owner of the house was
E. Reuel's youngest son, Sedgwick, and around 1950 to '52, he moved the servant's quarters off the back, creating a new neghborhood cottage on a subdivided lot.

 

Over the years certain details of the estate were lost: the bargeboards (gingerbread) rotted and were removed, and greenhouses, gardens and outbuildings were demolished or relocated. Eventually, character defining features were restored, and today its original charm is evident.

 

In 1975 Robert and Shirley Feldmann, a grocer and Realtor with a family of four purchased the home and began a restoration process. David B. Lee carefully restored the bargeboards and added a family room over the garage, designed by Paul Vaivoda, with board and batten siding, tall windows and a roofline to match its Gothic Revival style. Over the course of forty years, the Feldmann's recieved a Historic Preservation matching grant from the New York State Parks & Recreation Deprtment. It saved the house when the conditions of the roof were found to be so bad that multiple contractors refused the 

work. A specialist came over from 

Quinlivan Pierik and Krause (QPK), and at that point, the decision was made to apply for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, which was successful.

 

Today the home is carefully maintained, and viewed by many who drive or stroll by it on a West Lake Street journey, or glimpse it from the water on the good ship Judge Ben Wiles Dinner Cruise, a Lightning sailboat or a kayak.

 

 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places

and the Historic American Buildings Survey

Left: Paul Malo photograph of the Reuel Smith home from its Wikipedia page

Below: Cobweb Cottage from the lake view

Left: One of the interior photos taken by Historic American Buildings Survey Chief Photographer Jack Boucher in 1962.

Below: Link to Library of Congress archives documenting 28 West Lake Street.

Below: Photo of the Reuel Smith House (circa 1952) showing the servants quarters extending off the back, prior to being moved and turned into a separate cottage, which remains next door to this day.

Left: Alex J. Davis signature.

Top: One of two brass plaques on the home, the other documenting inclusion in the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Below: Cobweb Cottage, Skaneateles New York, in 1975, just after the sale to the Feldmann family, who set to work on restoration inside and out.

Insets: Silkscreened wallpaper designed by Elsa Watts Smith for the dining room in the 1940's. Construction: 1994 restoration of the bargeboards by David B. Lee

Left: Robert and
Shirley Feldmann, circa 1990

Surrounding: Scans of the original plans as drawn in 1848 by Alexander Jackson Davis for Reuel Smith, in the original portfolio; Specification sheets from A. J. Davis; Hoag Brothers note is from the builder of the 1904 modernizations, which were done by Archimedes Russell for E. R. Smith. These plans and drawings remain in a private collection and are used here with permission.