The public had an opportunity to explore the 1834 Jail and visit the Herkimer County Historical Society’s third floor storage area as two local organizations hosted open house programs as part of the statewide New York State Museum Week.
At the 1834 Jail, visitors had a chance to view the progress the Friends of Historic Herkimer County group has made in its restoration work at the jail. The rooms on the main level look bright and display panels about the jail and history of law enforcement in Herkimer County have been hung on the walls.
Upstairs, James Greiner, chairman of Friends of Historic Herkimer County, was guiding some visitors through the rooms, complete with jail cells and rather crude facilities. One side held the men’s cells and the other side, the women’s.
“Want to know how we know this is the women’s side,” asked Greiner. He pointed inside the area at one end of the row of cells where a claw-footed bathtub stood. When members of the Friends spotted the tub, they talked about pulling it out and restoring it, he said. The workers soon discovered this was not possible. It appeared the room had been built around the tub; there was no way to remove it.
An old news clipping about a chimney fire helped members locate the attic cell where Roxalana Druse was held, Greiner said. Druse was arrested and charged with the December 1884 murder of her husband and was the last woman hanged in the state of New York. Greiner has written a book, “Last Woman Hanged,” and was available to sign copies Saturday.
The Friends have been working on the jail restoration project room by room. An upstairs bathroom gave visitors an opportunity to view the high, metal ceiling there. Some of the other rooms are still covered with paneling and have drop ceilings.
Greiner pointed out rooms that were used as living quarters by Sheriff Richard Folts and his family in the 1970s.
Restoration and repair of the Church Street side of the jail tops the Friends’ to-do list for this summer, according to the group’s spring newsletter. The mortar on the building has loosened and the paint has faded and the Friends are seeking to raise funds and complete these repairs as soon as possible.
At the Herkimer County Historical Society, visitors were invited to tour the museum in the Suiter Building, where featured displays include “Working People Working Lives,” “The Chester Gillette and Grace Brown murder of 1906,” “They Came To Herkimer,” “Francis Elias Spinner: Treasurer of the United States” and the Joyce Keller Dollhouse collection.
In addition visitors were invited up to the third floor area to walk up and down the aisles and view the artifacts and documents from Herkimer County’s past. The table at which Gen. George Washington ate lunch at Shoemaker Tavern was among the items on display.
Page 2 of 2 - For more information about the Herkimer County Historical Society or to learn about upcoming programs, call 866-6413 or visit the website at www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyhchs/.
The Friends of Historic Herkimer County has a Facebook page. Donations may be sent to Friends of Historic Herkimer County, P.O. Box 703, Herkimer 13350. The group meets the second Wednesday of each month at the 1834 Jail.