Cattaraugus County Museum and The History of the Stone House

Now the Cattaraugus County Museum and Research Center there are years and years of varied uses attached to this property.  

Erected in 1868 , the venerable Stone House, located upon the campus of The Pines Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center, 9822 Route 16, Machias, NY, is the sole surviving structure of the 19th Century Cattaraugus County Alms-House and Insane Asylum, which became the Cattaraugus County Home/Farm and Infirmary.

The institution was established in 1833 when the County Legislature resolved to acquire property to care for the indigent, aged, orphaned, infirm and insane. In 1834, the County purchased 200 acres, including the existing site, for $2300.00, and started construction of several wood-framed buildings for the patients. The Napier family of stonemasons from Machias erected the existing Gothic style Stone House as the Alms-House (poor house), for the princely sum $18,000.00. The Napiers were accomplished craftsmen, and also constructed the original Ten Broeck Academy at Franklinville, NY (now demolished), the Illinois State Capitol at Springfield, Ill., and all the trestles and piling for the NY & Philadelphia Railroad between Machias, NY and Emporium, PA.

The 1869 Beers & Co. Atlas of Cattaraugus County depicts a stone quarry near the Napier homestead, in southeastern Machias, near the Catt. Co. Highway building on Rt. 16. Due to its proximity to the Napier property and the building's location, it's likely the quarry provided the natural material for the Stone House, which remains as a monument to the industriousness and deft skill of the Napier family.

By 1885, there were 60 residents in the Stone House, including "paupers, idiots, and epileptics". Throughout the 19'' and 20th Centuries, the Alms-House and farm was a shining example rural self-reliance. The bustling barn complex across the street provided dairy, meat and poultry products for the institution, and was supplemented by bountiful gardens and orchards. The residents and County employees of the institution provided the farm labor. The wood-framed residences and outbuildings were demolished, and the acreage and barn complex across the street were sold in 1957, leaving the Stone House as the sole vestige of a very successful 19u' Century socioeconomic communal enterprise.

Finally, the Stone House is a solemn memorial to the 123 (at least) souls buried in the paupers field just north of the Stone House on Rt. 16, across from Lime Lake. These former Indigent residents of the Stone House had no family or funds for interment in a "mainstream" cemetery.

Throughout its 135-year history, the Stone House has been on the chopping block before. During construction of the existing nursing home in 1961 and extensive renovations in 1979, the Stone House was also in jeopardy. Thanks to the foresight of the former County Legislatures, however, the Stone House was recognized for its historical value, and spared from demolition. To its credit, the current Legislature has maintained the Stone House in fine condition and it is not a dilapidated, crumbling structure. Today, the fully functional, handicapped-accessible building is utilized by the Catt. County Dept. of Nursing Homes & the Dept. of Health, and open to the public. If you have not seen the building recently, please visit to gain a better appreciation for its remarkable condition and viability.

Although the original gable roof and fourth floor attic space have been removed, these alterations do not diminish its intrinsic value as a precious thread woven deeply into the rich historical fabric of Cattaraugus County. As the oldest continually operated County building, and indeed the only County owned landmark left, the Stone House is a tenacious survivor, worthy of preservation to be enjoyed by future generations.

Bradley Parker, Trustee Cattaraugus County Historical Museum

www.llcoa.org/Machias%20History/cattaraugus_county_home.htm

Cattaraugus County Historical Museum and Research Library

The Cattaraugus County Museum and Research Library is now located in the historic Stone House built in 1868. The Museum & Library are county-owned and operated, specializing in the history of Cattaraugus County, NY.  Moved to 9824 Route 16, Machias, its current location in 2005 from Little Valley, the facility has seen an increase in patron visits. Visit the website for further information.

http://www.cattco.org/museum

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