History being restored

PORT HENRY A Port Henry landmark is getting a new lease on life. The Witherbee Estate on Broad Street has been purchased by a California investor and is being renovated. Its impossible to make everything original, but we will restore as much as possible to original condition, said Jack Sheldon, a local contractor who is heading up the project with Earl Peltier. We hope to create the same atmosphere and look the building had when it was built, he said. The house was designed and built by Walter C. Witherbee in the late 19th century. It served as a family home and later became the local American Legion hall and later the Knights of Columbus building. Its been vacant nearly 20 years. Earlier this year Mike Horrell of Sacramento, Calif., purchased the property from Tom Eliopolis for $500,000, according to Sheldon. Mr. Horrell wants the house to become a bed & breakfast, Sheldon said. He wants the building to be an asset to the community; hes very community-minded. After the purchase an engineering firm was hired to study the building and make plans. With a $2 million budget. Sheldon and Peltier are hard at work. Its going to take two years to complete, Sheldon said. We hope to have the first floor open for the town (of Moriah) bicentennial next year. When complete the house will have 16-17 guest rooms as well as living quarters for the Horrell family. The building looks huge from the outside, but inside it seems even bigger, Peltier said. Besides a basement, which is now being reconstructed, there are three floors. It has nine fireplaces. Electricity has been restored to the mansion, which has sparked local interest, Sheldon said. The first night we had lights on inside cars were stopping along the street to take a look, he said. Its quite a sight at night. There are now more than 120 lights in the building. At Horrells insistence, Sheldon said the house will be restored using local labor. Anytime we can get local help well do it, Sheldon said. This is a good project for the community. The Port Henry Fire Department has already benefitted. Chairs found in the building have been donated to the fire company along with an 80-feet tall flag pole that now stands outside the house. Walter C. Witherbee was one of the founders of the firm of Witherbee, Sherman and Company, according to Joan Daby, Moriah town historian. Witherbee succeeded his father as a member of the firm, and was treasurer and later chairman of the corporation. When the American Legion bought the Witherbee Estate in 1946 few changes were made, Daby noted. The bar area was Witherbees Gun Room. The bathroom was there and a fireplace was hidden by the legions beer cooler. The American Legion built a step up stage for the bands to set up and play for dances in the long room just the other side of the bar. There were three large rooms, other than the kitchen and bar. These rooms could be closed off by sliding doors that, when opened, slid into the walls. The Witherbee family had their bedrooms upstairs, and a bathroom was there. Other bedrooms were there for guests, Daby noted. The Witherbees had Japanese help, and their quarters were on the second floor, in the back, above the kitchen area. There was a back room behind the kitchen that was used as a storage room. The third floor was never finished, Daby said. There was a barn in the back of the residence that was used for the coaches and horses. When the American Legion had it, they had a shooting range there and later square dances were held there. The barn was done in beautiful woodwork, Daby said. Soon after the Knights of Columbus bought the property in 1969, they demolished the barn. There was a pool on the grounds, just above the upper driveway, on a little knoll, Daby said. There was a stone wall all around the property and there were two driveways to leave and enter by. The Knights of Columbus sold the property to Eliopolis in 1990 and it has been vacant since.

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