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Perpetuating American Traditions for Future Generations

About the Hancock House

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The original Hancock House on Beacon Hill in Boston..

 

 

Front Parlor – August, 2017

 

 

 

 

The Hancock House was a gift to The New York State Historical Association (NYSHA) from native son and philanthropist Horace Moses. He built the house as a repository for the purpose of perpetuating “American Traditions in History and the Fine Arts,” and it served in this capacity for many years as the NYSHA “Headquarters House,” although it can no longer claim this title. This imposing Georgian mansion is a replica of Thomas Hancock’s (uncle to John Hancock) Beacon Hill residence built in 1737 and 1740, and was razed in 1863.

 

 

 

 

Horace Augustus Moses learned the paper industry from the ground up, eventually building and purchasing mills which he consolidated into the Strathmore Paper Company. Never forgetting his rural beginnings, he began to make considerable donations to many Ticonderoga charitable and educational enterprises, including Valley View Cemetery Chapel, Liberty Monument, Moses-Ludington Hospital, the Community Building, and the Hancock House. In building the Hancock House he achieved one of his earliest lifetime ambitions to establish a museum with a library that would make Ticonderoga a focal point for public interest in the region’s fascinating and nationally significant history.

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The Governor Hancock Room

The Hancock House Museum and Research Library was dedicated in 1926. The Ticonderoga Historical Society today manages this elegant structure as a regional museum and reference library. There are interesting and exciting exhibits on all four floors of the Hancock House, including the Harmon Art Gallery. The modern library houses a large collection of regional material on civic, social and economic elements and also has one of the largest collections of genealogical resource materials in the region.

The choice of Ticonderoga as a museum location was indeed a logical one, for the village is located directly on “La Chute,” the river or creek which connects Lake George and Lake Champlain, at the heart of a section rich in the historical lore of our state and nation. The “Northern Gateway,” as the section was called, is exactly that, for control of the easily accessible water routes to Canada meant control of the entire northeastern part of this country. The geographical location of Ticonderoga and its fort made it the key to this gateway.

ticonderoga-historical-society-100w-4The Hancock House was erected in 1926 and presented to the Association by Horace A. Moses, a native son of Ticonderoga, to further the interest of the people of northeastern New York and the Lake Champlain and Lake George valleys in history and the fine arts. After careful consideration the house was constructed as a replica of the famous  Hancock home which stood on Beacon Street in Boston.  When razed in 1863 the land was sold to real estate developers James Beebe and Gardner Brewer who erected a double brownstone that stood there until 1917.  The land then was purchased by the state and later the west wing was constructed to Massachusetts State House. A marker was placed at the stop to recognized the original Hancock House.

John Hancock, the Revolutionary patriot, second president of the Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence and later Governor of Massachusetts, was a rich Boston merchant and his home was one of the finest of Colonial mansions. The original house was erected in 1737 by Hancock’s uncle, Thomas, and was considered a “wonder-house” in its day. The stone trim was contracted for in the “tenth year of the reign of George the Second” with stone cutter and quarry owner, Thomas Johnson of Middletown, Connecticut. The stones for the walls came from a quarry in Braintree (now Quincy).  Undoubtedly, many figures of prominence in the early history of the Champlain Valley well knew about the original Hancock House and its hospitable hosts.

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The Great Parlor – showing the “Bombe Desk” – currently on a two US city exhibit tour.

Among the reasons why this building was chosen, were the facts that it represented a splendid specimen of Georgian architecture, that it could be faithfully executed from the measured drawings made by John Sturgis before the original was destroyed, and it would be fireproof. The exterior has been carefully copied, built of Weymouth granite.  Atmospheric and weather conditions have a happy effect on this stone, producing the illusion that the color tones of the building change, sometimes assuming a cast of green, again rose and at other times only a deep and very warm gray, adding to its charm for its many friends who come back to see it year after year.

The same care and faithful attention to correct detail in reproducing the original house has been used in the interior, especially in the main hall and stairway and in the two rooms to the right of the hall, which are exact duplicates of those in the earlier Hancock House. (The beautiful Great Parlor reflects the grandeur and craftsmanship from the mid 1700s.) An interesting feature of these rooms is the color scheme. Contrary to the popular belief that everything colonial should be painted white, gray was a very popular finish in these early days, and the walls and woodwork of these rooms are finished in an off-tone gray that is in the best eighteenth century American taste.

 

John Hancock Dining Table 

 

A recent gift to the Ticonderoga Historical Society from a descendant of Sarah Quincy Greenleaf, sister to  Dorothy Quincy, John Hancock’s wife.   The table is made from “Birdseye Walnut”, supported by eight boldly-turned and tapered legs with brass castors.  Two separate sliding stocks and three replacement leaves are part of this significant and historical piece of furniture.  The attending documentation for the table notes that it could be extended to approximately 30 feet.  (The chairs are from the Society’s collection.)