Gems of Canajoharie’s past on display
Nine historic stops part of Victorian Home Tour
CANAJOHARIE There are few places in the village where the architecture of previous centuries is not visible.
History shows up in every time-worn gray stone and slate shingle, but the place isn’t a museum. Many of the historic houses and churches are still in use, still lived in, the way they were designed to be, which means most of the time curious pedestrians aren’t allowed a closer look.
That will change for a few hours Saturday. The owners of nine historic buildings in the village have agreed to open their homes for the Victorian Home Tour.
“Canajoharie was a bustling town in those days,” said Dolores Jacksland, who organized the tour. “This allows people to see it as it used to be.”
The nine sites cover a range of history, from a wooden 1600s saltbox home to the hulking Arkell Mansion to the Church of the Good Shepherd.
While Jacksland said each site is unique, she was quick to mention the pristine 1938 General Electric kitchen still in use at the 122 Cliff St. home. She described the tile, the old appliances, how Mr. Shineman, who worked for GE 80 years ago, installed everything and how it’s still working today.
Number one on the list however, is the imposing stone home that dominates Barclay Street. The thick oak door, heavy lion’s mouth knocker and jagged slate roofline all give the sense of royalty, but to owners Tony and Laura Meadors, it’s just a house.
“I never owned a house before and I wanted something big and cool,” Tony Meadors said. “I mean, if you’re going to go into debt ...”
The Meadors moved from San Diego 10 years ago and set to work stripping the ’70s-era wallpaper and freeing the dark woodwork from years of paint.
“This is why you buy an old house,” Tony Meadors said, motioning to the elaborate woodwork, most of which was imported from England. “You couldn’t reproduce this with $10 million.”
The home was built in 1884 by William Arkell and eventually owned by Beech-Nut President J. S. Ellithorp, both Canajoharie legends. The Meadors, on the other hand, after 10 years in town, are still “those new people from California.”
The old Catholic church on Cliff Street, also on the tour, is owned by another newcomer. Eric Stroud of New Jersey bought the church a few years ago for its pipe organ.
“I always wanted to have my own personal pipe organ,” he told The Gazette earlier this year, “which is not an easy thing to arrange. I thought about putting one in my house, but I would have had to build on. Then I was looking online and noticed a lot of churches had been closed in upstate New York.”
Stroud converted a room at the back of the church to a living area for himself and his wife when they visit, but the sanctuary is the same vaulted beauty patrons enjoyed for more than 100 years. He’ll be playing for visitors Saturday.
Jacksland doesn’t know how many people will come out for the tour but said locals are especially conscious of history with the possible restoration of the West Hill School in the balance. The Village Board will decide Aug. 7 whether to take ownership of — and responsibility for — the historic school on the hill.
“I hope this gets people thinking about it,” she said. “In Europe, they preserve their buildings; here, we knock them down to build Rite Aids and shopping malls.”
The Victorian Home Tour is put on by the Canajoharie-Palatine Chamber of Commerce and will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Passes are available for $10 at the information booth near to the dummy traffic light downtown on the day of the event. All proceeds go to pay for village holiday decorations.