Friday, June 13, 2008

Susan B. Anthony's Childhood Home

When women's rights icon Susan B. Anthony was six years old, her family moved from their Massachusetts home and extended family to the hamlet of Battenville, in Washington County, New York. Susan's father Daniel had been hired by a family friend, Judge McLean, to build and operate a cotton mill along the Battenkill River, and to build a store and homes for the mill workers.

The family initially lived in one-half of the Judge's home until Daniel was able to build a new house for his growing family, which they moved into in 1832-33. The home is two-and-a-half stories and has fifteen rooms, including a second story classroom where Susan helped her cousin Sarah teach some of the mill girls on Sunday afternoons. From 1834-35 she taught in other area home schools and boarded with the host families.

The economic depression of 1837 caused hard times for the Anthony family when the mill lost business customers and was forced to close. Papa Anthony sent Susan and her sister Guelma to a Pennsylvania school for a year, but they had to leave in 1838, when Daniel Anthony declared bankruptcy and they lost their Battenville home and moved to Rochester, New York.

From then on, Susan taught in order to help support her family, later joining in the abolition, temperance and women's rights movements, and the rest, as they say, is History.

I have driven past the empty home on State Route 29 many times and noticed the historic marker indicating that it was Susan B. Anthony's childhood home, but it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago that I stopped the car to take a closer look. The house sits right on the edge of a very twisty part of the road and I was nearly blown backwards by several speeding trucks as I focused on my shot, but here's a photo of this historic home:



While Anthony's Rochester home is a National Historic Landmark, run by a non-profit organization, her Battenville abode is still in limbo. It was a private residence until January 2006, when it went into mortgage foreclosure (again!) and the minimum bid at auction was not achieved. Luckily, the mortgage holder, Freddie Mac, sold the property to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for a cool $1, and there are long-term plans to try to get this historic building, now listed on the Historic Register, restored and open to the public.

I gleaned a bit of information for this post from the delightful children's book, "Susan B. Anthony: Champion of Women's Rights" (Childhood of Famous Americans), by Helen Albee Monsell, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1986. I also consulted the website of the Susan B. Anthony Rochester Home and the redoubtable Wikipedia.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

We walked through the house this pass summer. wonderful place, but it does need a lot of work. Wish there was a fund or a "Friends" group started to get the ball rolling with NYS.

Next time, you might want to peek in the windows at the building next door. It's a a working 1770's tarven...Order the "Flip"....and make sure that the is not a coin at the bottom of the glass.

Walter Kruger said...

I bought the home in 1989, extensively restored the home and lived there with my family until we sold it to a person from California in 2002. Over the years my wife and I had many local tours of the home, along with THE SUSAN B. ANTHONY DAYS with the D.A.R. We have many photos to verify this. We also had visits from some past children that grew up there. The original 3rd floor girls' dormitory was converted into 2 bedrooms and a complete bathroom and a new in-law apt was added over the new country kitchen as well. When I started repairs in 1989, all of the main 1st floors were rotted and had fallen into the basement. I spent vast amounts of money to repair all the water damage that had been done. The person we sold our HOME to lost the home to the bank but had prior to that, had a caretaker or whatever he was, staying there. That person, sad to say, absolutely ruined the home and all the restoration work that had been done over the years inside and out!!! Some of the original plants and trees that Susan B. had herself planted as stated in one of her books, which I believe was, The Life and Times of Susan B. Anthony, were dug up or cut down. Our hearts sank when we had driven by years later after selling our home and had observed that there were hardly any trees, bushes, or plants anywhere around the home. It had been a very lovely and comfortable home that served well in the raising of our children and this is how I choose to remember it. If anyone would like to see the photos of the "before and after" contrast, please email me at kraftdeone@yahoo.com.

Anonymous said...

From the last ower of the Susan B. Home. Kruger should be ashamed of himseld! I have pictures of the way he left the home when I purchased it. He took advantange of the fact that I lived in California, and never paid any rent although he and his wife stayed in the home. He did not care obout the history of the home, he simply wanted to get this home off his hands. Kruger, has no clue what he did when he was dishonest in his dealings. In taling to the people in Greenwich, I was not the firt person that Kruger took advantage of! He should choose to remember another life when he was an honest man to his wife, his community and fellow people from other states!