Story of Old Landmark Retold
Hornell Tribune, March 7, 194?, by Holly Bowker
House now occupied by Director and Mrs. R. W. Wingate was one-time important tavern; Erected 117 years ago Temperance Tavern still sits by the side of the road watching the college students go by. For 117 years, the old white house has watched Alfred grow from a small settlement of pioneers, into a center of learning as the home of Alfred University.
The fifth generation of the original owner now inhabits Temperance Tavern on North Main Street. Prof. and Mrs. Ray W. Wingate live in the venerable patriarch, the older house in Alfred, inhabited by Mrs. Wingate’s great grandfather in 1818.
A certain Mr. Spicer constructed the inn in the dooryard of his log cabin which stood between the present homes of Dean I.A. Conroe and Prof. Wingate. The site chosen for the inn was in the marshes of the pond. Consequently, a bank of stone was raised and covered with sod. On this artificial platform the building rose. Today, the sound of footsteps on the ground outside is transmitted through the stones, and can be heard within the house.
At the same time Mr. Spicer began to build the State Farm house, but the tavern being completed first has the honor of being Alfred’s oldest building. The tavern was purchased by “White Ox” Amos Burdick who came here after leaving the bogs and swamps of Canisteo.
At the time of its purchase, the hotel lands comprised nearly all of the present campus. Bartlett Dormitory stands above the spot where the old family orchard bore fruit. Delta Sig’s location, a gift of the Burdick’s was once strewn with hotel barns and sheds that extended to the bridge. The inn itself did not border the road so closely. Across from the hotel, low bars separated the road from the Canakadea, a shallow stream with scarcely any banks.
In its prime the inn represented a typical 19th century tavern. A bar room occupied the right front quarter of the building. It was ordinary enough except for two outstanding features – hard drinks were never sold and it contained an unusual window. The center pane of the window bore, and still bears, the portrait of a collie dog, several names, a verse and a line etched on the glass by a diamond point.
“Silas Burdick is the rascal who did this scratching”, the inscription on the window reads. Beneath is the verse:
“Little deeds of kindness,
Little acts of love
Make this world Eden
Like the heaven above.”
Today this room is still known as the bar room.
The hotel parlor was on the left. It was rather a gay room, perhaps even gaudy, with its walls flaunting a multitude of red hearts painted by the artistically inclined daughter of the innkeeper. Within each heart some travels left his autograph. Horace Greeley’s name was one of the many famous guests. This room is now considerably altered and the jumble of hearts is gone.
The servant’s quarters is the most fascinating room upstairs in the house. Located behind the North Chamber it was completely shut off from the rest of the second story. It had no access into the hall, but was connected directly with the kitchen below the narrow stair. Its isolation was to prevent looting of guests.
Old fashioned latch keys appear on every door. Today only one latch has been replaced by an unromantic door knob. Three trees of the original orchard still watch the progress of generations. There the yellow birds still seek the lilac tree. A house today – but a house with a past and a personality.
Transcribed by Joanne LaForge, volunteer