A history of the Landmark Tavern Building

The history of the beautiful and historic Landmark Tavern building begins with the efforts to procure a canal route from Binghamton to Utica.  This route would join the coal fields of Northern Pennsylvania with the recently-opened Erie Canal.  The farms, hamlets and villages of the Chenango and Oriskany river valleys, through which the proposed canal was to be constructed, had the potential for great prosperity if this new transportation route were built. The canal would also bisect the Third Great Western Turnpike (today’s Rt. 20), which ran through the hamlet of Johnsville.  Johnsville was later renamed Bouckville.  Johnsville in the 1820’s and 1830’s was a small cluster of homes and businesses, mainly on the eastern end of the hamlet.  The western end of present-day Bouckville (formerly Johnsville) was referred to as a “cedar swamp” in newspaper accounts of the 1820’s.  Farms in the area had originally been established on the hillsides to avoid disease-carrying mosquitos.  The construction of a canal offered the chance to drain the swamps and create lowland farms that could use the rich alluvial soil of the Bouckville area.

THE COBBLESTONE DISTILLERY AT BOUCKVILLE

When news of the pending passage of the canal bill became known many people began to plan new business ventures along the canal route.  Local farms were producing an abundance of grain and the grain could be sent to market by wagon, but that was a slow and laborious process.  A better way to transport the grain was to process it into whiskey and then send it to market in barrels on the new Chenango Canal.  As a result, a fine cobblestone building was erected c.1837 on the west side of the canal and a distillery was begun. The following is a listing of owners of the distillery at Bouckville as compiled by Matthew Urtz, Madison County Historian. 1847 – Burchard & Edgarton — Distillery — Whiskey (We do not know if they were the original builders of the distillery.  They are the first recorded in the county files.  The information for 1847 comes from the record books of Miss Gertrude Edgarton.  In that book was recorded the sale of 30 barrels of whiskey to be sent on the boat “Utica,” to New York City, by way of the Chenango and Erie Canals.) 1855 – John Woodhull — Distillery — Whiskey (John Woodhull installed a rectifier.  In this process, the spirits or liquor goes through repeated distillation.) 1855 – Woodhull & Seawood — Distillery — Whiskey 1859 – William Woodhull & Joseph Forward — Distillery — Whiskey 1865 – William Woodhull & Joseph Forward — Distilling & Malting — Whiskey & Malt Liquor 1867 – The building was purchased from Woodhull & Forward by Horatio S. Brown, John C. Beach and Charles F. Dedrick and converted into a vinegar manufactory. (In 1868, Samuel R. Mott will buy Dedrick’s one-third interest in this firm and will later own the entire operation and convert it into a cider and vinegar firm – the beginnings of the Mott’s product name.)

CARGO SPACE

Many of the items destined for Bouckville were received at the dock owned by Moses Maynard and kept in his storehouse along the canal.  However, it soon became obvious that Bouckville needed a place where local citizens could come and trade the goods which they produced in exchange for necessities and other desired items. The push for a new store actually came from Maynard’s wife, Polly, who envisioned a many-sided structure to be built across the road from the “White House.”  When plans were drawn up for the pie-shaped lot, it was realized that only four sides could be built in the available space. A joint-stock company was formed with Moses Maynard as the head of the company and other area investors represented, including James E. and William Coolidge. James D. Coolidge’s son, James E. Coolidge, was to be the architect and chief carpenter for the Cobblestone Store project.  Realizing the limitations of the pie-shaped lot, Coolidge drew up plans for a building that would be truly unique.  The years 1847-1851 were devoted to the planning, gathering of materials and the construction of the building.

BUILDING THE COBBLESTONE STRUCTURE

After the set of plans was determined, work on the building began with the digging of the foundation and basement level.  This was a period of pick and shovel work and the digging of such a massive hole must have taken a great deal of time. With the foundation/basement hole completed, a base for the exterior walls was needed before layer after layer of cobblestones could be placed. The base of the foundation and the exterior walls of the basement portion of the building are estimated to be four foot thick. The outside wall of the building had to be perfectly vertical as construction continued, but the inside wall became narrower and narrower until the stone wall at the peak measured 12 to 16 inches wide.  This meant that on each floor of the Cobblestone Store, the interior walls would start out tight against the stone and show a wider and wider opening toward the ceiling.  This created a real challenge for the carpenters. At the same time that the stone walls were being raised, the interior was being built by the carpenters. The completed Cobblestone Store building would have a basement area, three distinct floors and a cupola installed on the roof.  Another unique feature of the building is a pair of triangular-shaped windows on the east and west ends of the building.  Decorative and distinctive, they have been a source of conversation for many decades. The complexity and detail of this building is best seen in the construction of the roof.  This can still be seen today when viewed from the unfinished third floor.  Many leading architects have come and studied the construction techniques used by James E. Coolidge and marvel at both the complexity and the ingenuity of his design.  Studying each exposed beam, and the way it was used, one can readily see the supporting function of each.

CONNECTING  STORIES

On a board found in the Landmark Tavern building and now on display to the left of the modern tap room: “This window cased by David Douglas Hougham on this 17th day of October 1851.  Four carpenters now work on this house.  Written by D.D. Hougham.  Chartered by Coolidge Brothers & Company, Bouckville.  Isaac Forward and his son, Hougham and Henderson – joiners.  A great day – not a cloud to be seen.  A frosty morning – just the same through the day.” When construction reached the cupola level, Mr. Coolidge used a six-sided design, the entire cupola being about 12 feet wide.  Legend states that each side was dedicated to one of the six wives that he married during his lifetime.  His fifth wife was alive during the initial construction of the building but died before the structure reached the height of the cupola.  Coolidge married for a sixth time in 1851 (Mary Coburn Smith) and this may have prompted the six-sided design. You can see the entire area around Bouckville from each of the diamond-shaped cupola windows. The result of four years of labor was a building unlike any other in the U.S.  It has been featured in numerous articles and books and is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Each side of the front of the building is 24 feet wide, for a total of 96 feet of road frontage.  The frontage faced the Cherry Valley Turnpike, the Chenango Canal and after 1850, the Rome to Hamilton Plank Road, which ran alongside the canal.  The stores on the ends of the building were rectangular in shape, while the two stores in the middle were more pie-shaped.  It became the first mini-mall of its day with a different type of store eventually occupying each section. Each store entrance can be visibly seen today. The Post Office for Bouckville was housed in the Cobblestone Store for many years and the first telephone exchange for the community was also headquartered there.

OWNERS THE STONE STORE

1847-1851 – The Cobblestone Store was built. April 1, 1851 – James E. and William Coolidge purchased the building from Moses Maynard and his wife. 1861-1875 – William Coolidge.  By 1861, William had purchased the interest of his brother, James E., in the Cobblestone Store and directed the store enterprise until his death on May 3, 1875. June 14, 1876-1882 – Lewis E. Coe.  The property was sold through the estate of William Coolidge by Joseph W. Forward and Mary J. Coolidge – Executors of the Estate.  Mr. Coe paid $795.00 for the property. February 24, 1883 – Lewis E. Coe and Hurd D. Brockett form a partnership.  This was the locally famous store – Coe & Brockett.  The partnership continued until the death of Lewis E. Coe in 1897. 1897-1911 – H.D. Brockett and Mrs. Coe following the death of Lewis E. Coe. 1911-1940 – Charles M. Coe – He was the son of Lewis E. Coe.  The telephone exchange was located in the Stone Store during this time period.  The manager of the store for many years was Allie F. White, followed by Mrs. J.M. Daniels.  At this time there were also apartments to rent on the second floor. June 28, 1940 – Charles M. Coe to Robert Palmiter and Valerae K. Palmiter.  Mr. Palmiter lived in the building with his family and also ran an antiques business from the premises.  He died in a tragic auto accident in 1968. June 12, 1970 – Valerae K. Palmiter to Andrew B. Hengst, Sr. and Andrew B. Hengst, Jr.  The Landmark Tavern was opened on September 25, 1970. April 8, 1977 – Andrew B. Hengst, Sr. and Andrew B. Hengst, Jr. to Andrew B. Hengst, Sr., Andrew B. Hengst, Jr. and Stephen G. Hengst as joint tenants. 1977 to the present – The Hengst family continues to operate the Landmark Tavern.  This consistency of ownership is evident in the style in which the business is conducted.

SAFE HAVEN FOR RUNAWAY SLAVES

A story told by Brian Palmiter, which had been related by his father, Robert Palmiter, states that the Cobblestone Store had a way to hide runaway slaves during the Civil War time period.  The slaves were supposedly hidden on the Chenango Canal boats by the boat captains.  When the boats docked at Bouckville, the runaways were secreted to the Cobblestone Store and hidden in a cavity just to the right of the fireplace, which is located in the second dining room of the Landmark Tavern. Brian stated that he can remember seeing a panel in that area that could be slid out.  Behind the panel was an opening where a person could stand up and be hidden. Information collected by Jim Ford

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