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Griffin House has rich history

WARRENSBURG Tucked into a woodsy plot near the Floyd Bennett Bandstand in uptown Warrensburg is a historic, elegant home that is now the Griffin House Bed & Breakfast, but once was the residence of a premier North Country community leader and generations of his family members. The Griffin House, until recently known as the Merrill-Magee House, is named after its original owner, the benevolent and prominent Stephen Griffin II, who operated mills and owned an expansive tannery in the 1800s. The Griffin Houses Greek Revival edifice and the front portion of the building were constructed in the 1850s, but the portion of the home that now host the tavern and lounge date as far back as 1812-- well before 1839 when Steven Griffin II (1812-18930 purchased the home. Griffin was a prominent lumberman in the Adirondacks, and he owned mills and extensive acreage of woodlands. In 1880 he built a tannery in Hamilton County, and a prosperous town called Griffin grew up around the enterprise. The community, near the hamlet of Wells, is now a ghost town. Griffins father, Stephen Griffin I, was an Ensign in the Revolutionary Army, who earned a place in American History when he guarded Joshua Smith, the man who arranged the secret meeting between Benedict Arnold and Major Andre. From 1838 to 1847, Stephen Griffin II owned and operated the popular hotel, The Adirondack House, which stood where Rite Aid is now. Stephen Griffin II passed on the homestead to his daughter, Mary Griffin, who married Dr. Cyrus Merrill from Port Henry. The couple moved into the Griffin homestead, staying there primarily in the summers. Cyrus and Mary Griffin had a daughter Grace, who was the apple of Cyrus eye. In 1909, Grace Merrill and her father went on trip around the world in 1909, a rarity at the time. Dr. Cyrus Merrill died in 1926, and Grace inherited the Griffin-Merrill estate. Grace first married a politician, legislator James Monroe Lown in 1927, and he died some time thereafter. This week, Ruth Fruda of Warrensburg recalled life on the Griffin-Merrill estate. Fruda worked as Graces personal servant during the summer of 1952. Grace had both a full-time cook and gardener working at her estate, Fruda said, recalling how Grace entertained friends from England in the Victorian gardens by their swimming pool. Fruda also remembered how Grace enjoyed British-style tea on rainy afternoons with the hired help in the estate's laundry room. Grace enjoyed an elegant lifestyle, yet she was very down-to-earth, Fruda said. In 1955, Grace married Edward M.P. Magee, who died in 1964. For years, Grace didnt live in the home, but stayed in a room above the garage to the rear of the estate, as the main home was not insulated. Grace Merrill Magee died in 1979, and the property was later acquired by Florence and Ken Carrington, who operated a restaurant, tavern and bed & breakfast on the premises beginning in 1982, known as the Merrill-Magee House. The Carringtons built the guest house in the rear in the 1990s, to accommodate more visitors. Pam Carrington Converse took over the enterprise from her parents, and they sold the business to Stewart Smith, Connie Maxam and Chris and John Brown in 2006. Now, Stewart Smith and Connie Maxam operate the enterprise with a recognition of how the Griffin House plays such an important role in the history in the southern Adirondacks. Jeannie Russell manages the bed & breakfast and the restaurant Graces Restaurant and Lounge for the owners. Graces is open to the public as well as serving the needs of the guests. Graces Restaurant and Lounge features both a formal dining room, a banquet room and a friendly tavern. Their menu features everything from penne pasta with chicken, mushrooms, spinach and sundried tomatoes to filet mignon with Portobello mushrooms and cabernet demi-glace. Each room at the Griffin House bed and breakfast has its own individual fireplace -- perfect for those crisp fall evenings. Russell noted that the guest accommodations have been fully renovated in recent months. We are seeking to enhance the grandeur that has always characterized the estate, she said. The spacious lawns and beautiful Victorian gardens have for decades been the backdrop of weddings and outdoor receptions, while the intimate restaurant has served up elegant meals, and local group meetings have been held in their banquet room at the rear. Whether its a gala celebration, a retirement party, a meeting of the local historical society, or merely a conversation in the tavern, the establishment has hosted so many memorable occasions over the decades and the proprietors intend to see the tradition continue.

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