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Sandra Scott Travels: Visit The Port City’s Sphinxes

posted by Sandra Scott at 2018-08-01 17:36:00


Where can you find two Sphinxes in Upstate NY? In front of the historic Richardson-Bates House in Oswego. How many times a week are you in the city of Oswego? How many times have you been to the Richardson-Bates House? Take an hour on two to visit this house to see how the well-to-do lived in Oswego more than 100 years ago.

The Richardson-Bates House is one of the most intact house museums in New York State. The opulent interior reflects the 19th century Victorian fascination with art, culture and history. Often, in the day before photography, the wealthy liked to have pieces of art from foreign countries similar to the sphinx on display to show their interest in foreign destinations, but also it was an indication of exotic places they had visited. The house was built for Maxwell Richardson, a real estate attorney, insurance broker, and two-time Oswego mayor. It was built in two stages between 1872 and 1890. Norman Bates, the sole heir of the Richardson family, inherited the house in 1910. After the death of his widow in 1945, the children donated the house and 90 percent of the original furnishing to the Oswego County Historical Society to be used as a public museum in memory of their family.

The Entrance Hall was designed to impress and it does. It was where one left their calling card. Following proper etiquette, the owner of the card waited in the carriage while the servant delivered the calling card leaving it on a special Calling Card tray. If the card was delivered in person the corner was folded over. The first call rarely resulted in a face-to-face meeting. The Reception Room is where most visits took place and where family portraits and other personal expressions of the family were on display. The Drawing Room was considered the best room in the house. It is where they entertained and where the furnishings, decorations, and pieces of art were a showcase of their wealth. Take note of the beautiful stained glass and woodwork which is beyond the realm of most people today.

I am sorry to see the demise of the formal Dining Room. When a family gathered around the dining room table in the day, before television and cell phones, it was the time of sharing family stories and just enjoying the conversation. I read where the Princess Kate’s children are not allowed at the dinner table until they have learned to converse properly. There are excerpts of Naomi Richardson’s 1884 diary detailing her days spent on needlework, receiving visitors, and visiting others.

Upstairs, her bedroom is on display but also of special interest is the County History Gallery. I was surprised to learn that the Ox-heart Cherries that I loved as a child were made in Oswego. People who are familiar with the “Great Rope” by Rosemary Nesbitt will recall that Alvin Bronson, during the War of 1812, would not tell the British what public stores were in Sackets Harbor. When he was ordered to board the British ship to Quebec and he refused to get up from his chair – the British sailors carried him aboard in the chair. The chair is on display.

There is also information about Dr. Mary Walker, an abolitionist and Civil War surgeon, who was the first and only woman to receive the Medal of Honor. The medal was rescinded in 1917, two years before she died only to be restored in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!

posted at: 2018-08-01 17:36:00, last updated: 2018-10-28 15:31:53

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