Our stories relating to the one hundred year history of the Kent-Delord House always focus on the family, friends, acquaintances, and visitors. However, there were other inhabitants that contributed to that illustrious history—the animals! The Delord property was a working farm for most of the 19thcentury with the various animals kept on the property essential for the livelihood of the residents. Obviously pigs and chickens were prevalent on the property, but there also were ducks, a milk cow and usually a horse to pull the carriage.
There was one horse that became a celebrity of sorts in Plattsburgh; his name was Zollicoffer.
In 1862 Fannie Delord Hall came to Plattsburgh to care for her ailing grandparents while husband Frank went to serve as Chaplain in the 16th New York Volunteer Infantry in Northern Virginia. As a Chaplain, Frank had to provide his own transportation and equipment to use in his duties at camp. He had been advised to bring “…a good pair of boots with tops to reach the knee, haversack to carry food on the march, three or four of underclothes, and his own saddle.” Frank used a type of saddle designed by Gen. George McClellan and adopted as the standard issue of the US Cavalry. In his journal letters to Fannie, he wrote:
Dec. 3, 1862 Washington, DC
“…So left for Washington at seven. Very pleasant baggage men. Checked my box right away when I told him it was my saddle & charged me no freight; checked it through.”
That left him to purchase a horse when he settled in with the 16thNY Volunteer Regiment encamped at Belle Plain on the shores of the Potomac outside of Washington, D.C.
Belle Plain VA Dec. 6, 1862
“Early in the morning, I went to the Dr. Crandall’s tent & asked him to let me take his horse old Zollicoffer. We had seen a horse in a stable on the way over & I thought I would go back before breakfast & see if it was worth anything & buy it if it was and it could be bought. I had a splendid ride, my first ride on old Zollicoffer. I went over several miles to Col Corceran’s head quarters & saw three horses or at least found them. The last & only one that was worth anything was Col. Corceram’s head quarters. The saddle horse of a Virginian lady but she looked at me very decidedly & said “no, you don’t have my horse if you pay $1200 for it.” So I contented myself with buying two turkies & a chicken, strapping them over my saddle horn & sailing into camp with them, much to the amusement of the officers.”
Dec. 7, 1862
“At breakfast I happened to ask Dr. Crandall, (not supposing that he would sell his horse), happened to ask him what he valued him at. When he said he valued him at $150, I told him at once that I would give him that price for him when to my surprise, a few days afterwards he consented to sell him to me. He said he would not have sold him out of the regiment.
It is a great black horse with strong legs & easy gate & very fully quite sound, & about 6 years old. Just what I want & it seems as if God has very surely provided for me. The horse can outrun any thing in the regiment, is accustomed to the battlefield, don’t wind among the cannon & shells, as he well showed shortly after & is finely trained, reins very well & my rig out, they tell me is complete.”
For the next five months Frank and Zollicoffer were inseparable as Frank made the rounds of hospitals and provided spiritual services to the soldiers. The last major event that the duo was involved in was the Battle of Salem Heights, VA, on May 3, 1863. It was during this battle that Frank and Zollicoffer went onto the battlefield to rescue fallen comrades and bring them back to safety. For this action Rev. Francis B. Hall was awarded the Medal of Honor. Within two weeks of the battle, Frank had mustered out with his unit and returned to civilian life. He did not return alone. He brought both Zollicoffer and his groom, Sam, back to Plattsburgh with him.
As I mentioned earlier, Zollicoffer was somewhat of a celebrity. According to the local paper the horse led every Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day) parade up until his death. He might be the only horse in the area (state?) that was eulogized in the paper after his death! Zollicoffer died at age 30 and was buried in the middle of the garden in the rear of the Delord property. The eulogy maintains that “a bed of white flowers grew upon his grave, a spontaneous floral memorial to the noble pet beneath”
Frank Hall had very strong negative feelings toward Gen. McClellan and openly said, “McClellan is a traitor & that the Army of the Potomac was rotten at the corps core.” The incident worried Frank for a short time but soon subsided.
General Felix Zollicoffer was the first Confederate general to die in the Western/Kentucky Campaign, Jan. 19, 1862.
Think about it—here’s Frank Hall, a Union Chaplain riding a horse named after a Confederate general, and using a saddle named after a Union general he despised!
Article commemorating Flag Day in the
Plattsburgh Press RepublicanJune 13, 1944
Excerpt from STORY OF FLAGSTAFF AT KENT DELORD HOUSE
…From the south, Mr. Hall has brought the fine large black horse he had ridden and likewise his Negro groom, Sam. Sam, very black and thin and tall, did not long survive his transplanting to the northland. His room was over the stable but when he became ill he was removed to the house and cared for…On that memorable day (in 1865) when in the length and breadth of our war-worn country, the bells were jubilantly proclaiming the end of the bitter conflict, ‘mid the pealing, Sam’s soul was wafted to his Maker. In Riverside cemetery now rests all that was mortal of the master and Zollicoffer’s groom.
Article eulogizing the horse
Plattsburgh SentinelMay 26, 1899
“He was want to take part in the Decoration day ceremonies and drew the loads of flowers that were used in decorating the graves of dead heroes every year. It was fitting and beautiful, but also had something of the pathetic in it. He was an intelligent horse and did not forget the stirring times of his earlier life. At a strain of martial music, he would prick up his ears, showing evidences of the old patriotic fire. He was only a horse, but a good one who never shirked a duty. He served faithfully in the War of the Rebellion, and carried his master, Rev. F.B. Hall, then chaplain of the brave 16thN. Y. Vols., on his errands of mercy and duty.
How proud and willing he was to do his part in helping decorate the graves of comrades, after the cruel war was over, in the years that followed!
When Zollicoffer died a few years ago, he received honorable burial in the middle of the garden in the rear of his master’s home. It is a pretty and true story, that a bed of white flowers grew upon his grave, a spontaneous floral memorial to the noble pet beneath, who died, aged thirty years.”
What’s In A Name – The Final Episode!
I counted over 500 roadways on a current map of the greater Plattsburgh Area (available at the Chamber of Commerce and other locations!) Comparing this to the 1877 and 1899 maps, you can see the tremendous expansion of our city. I’ve given you some of the history of the street names, but here’s some other little bits of street trivia that I call Odds & Ends.
1907 postcard of Margaret Street, Plattsburgh, NY
Some streets are named for what or where they are
Bridge Street was called that because the main feature is the bridge. The street was first constructed on March 24, 1800. The bridge has been replaced several times.
When the new Bridge Street Bridge opened on Nov. 11, 1930, a crowd of around 5,000 spectators turned out for a military and civic parade led by the 26th Infantry Band and 26th Infantry color Guard. A dedication ceremony featured an address by the New York State Historical Society President. A plaque was placed on the bridge to commemorate the event and the fact that the bridge was built by local artisans using local stone.
The stone construction replaced the old steel truss bridge. The Wonderland Theatre, the first movie house in Plattsburgh, was demolished to make way for a stone staircase leading down to a park alongside the Saranac River toward the Macdonough Monument..
Division Street got it’s name from a division of the New York Stock Exchange that set up a ticker in the late 1920s in the rear of the Witherill Hotel.
Protection Avenue was first called Church Alley (because it connected Margaret St. to the Churches on Oak St.) It was renamed because the village police station and a number of the early volunteer Fire Companies were located there.
Broad St was, well, broad (wide). Nathaniel Platt owned a number of lots in the vicinity of Broad Street and was responsible for the extra width of that street. His exact reason for that has been lost to history.
Oak Street was originally named Boynton Lane in 1805, but shortly after it was called Lover’s Lane. At this time the street only extended from Broad St. to Cornelia. By the 1820s the street had been extended to Boynton Ave. and was named Oak Street for the “magnificent” old oak tree that stood in front of the Oak Tree Inn (now where Stafford Middle School is located). There were no other oak trees on the street and now there isn’t even that one!
I’ll let you guess the origin of Court Street! (Hint: look at the building on the corner at Margaret St.)
The old Court House and the Cumberland Hotel across the street. Notice the plank sidewalk!!
Then there was the street that wasn’t
On some very early city maps you might find Gold Street. It was never completed. The plan was to connect Brinkerhoff St. to Court St., but that would have removed some valuable business real estate. So plans were abandoned. Today you can see where it was started with the alley on Brinkerhoff St. next to the State Bank of Albany.
See the entire 1852 map of the city in the Plattsburgh Public Library
And then there was the misspelled street name
The early settlers in the vicinity of Main Mill Street were from the state of Maine. Some how the “e” was lost!
The Rattlesnake Den and The Dog Kennel Corner
At the corner of Margaret and Bridge streets stood the 2-story stone Clinton County Bank owned and occupied in 1846 by Amos Prescott as a jewelry, stationery, and book store. After the fire of 1849, Prescott rebuilt and continued his business. He was a “soft shell” Democrat but after the Fremont campaign became a Republican, and his store was a headquarters for the Republicans. In derision it was called the “rattlesnake den,” and the corner was “Rattlesnake corner,” a favorite loafing spot. The Democratic headquarters was the store of William Reed across the street, and this was known as the “dog kennel.” It is said that from morning till evening when the church bell rang at nine o’clock, Samuel Couch, Tarleton, and others talked politics in the Prescott store.*
*Old Plattsburgh by Marjorie Lansing Porter, 1944.
The Rattlesnake Den and Dog Kennel Corner became more commonly known in the early 1900s as Cady’s Corner. The Cady Drug Store was a local landmark.
Early streets were just dirt roads. Streets were either dusty or muddy. One 19th century resident told about the “good old days” when crossing Bridge Street meant slogging through deep mud and driving with mud to the hubs of the carriage wheels. In 1849, the Plattsburgh-Saranac plank road was built. Hemlock planks were used through the Plattsburgh section. Street paving didn’t happen until the 20th century.
Richard Yates erected the first lamppost at the corner of Broad and Margaret Streets in 1836. His intent was to promote street lighting. He must have been successful as a few years later Jonas Maurice was elected by the Village Board to light the street lamps in the city.
The first street number was posted on a Bridge St. business in December 1850. William K. Dana erected a 7 ft. long oval white porcelain sign on which a large number 1 was painted in black.
Plattsburgh’s first sidewalk was laid on Durkee St. in July 1851. Made of hemlock planks 1½ inch thick, it was a fashionable promenade at the time. Early each evening villagers gravitated in that direction to stroll and exchange pleasantries of the day.
Now one last tidbit of street lore:
The street now called Cumberland Avenue was formerly know as Bellevue Avenue, and before that it was called Chemin du Roi – a nod to the early French influence in our region. Nuns from Montreal rented a frame building (near where the Elk’s building is today) from Henry Delord. The nuns provided it as a hospital during the Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812.
A c.1915 view of the Delord House on Cumberland Avenue
You are invited to visit the Kent-Delord House Museum at 17 Cumberland Avenue. Our tours will give you more information about the history of Plattsburgh and the fascinating role that three generations of the Delord family played in its growth!
Thanks for stopping by. More nuggets of Plattsburgh history will be coming your way soon!!
What’s In A Name part III
In 1785 the founding fathers of the small hamlet of Plattsburgh gathered to create a government and lay out the main roads of the village. By 1798 Plattsburgh’s population was around 250 people. There were four main thoroughfares that led from the surrounding countryside to the mills along the river in the hamlet. They consisted of Cumberland Head Road, another connected to Beekman’s Patent (Beekmantown), South Street that led past the blacksmith shop to the west and southwest area of the township, and the last was the Peru Road.
As the village of Plattsburgh grew so did the number of roads. Not having GPS or Google maps to aid in giving directions, the founding fathers used the houses of prominent citizens or local landmarks to identify and name those roads. Thus we find a significant number of our city streets today are named for early settlers, local and national heroes and what was on or near the road.
So, examining the names of many of Plattsburgh’s streets has become quite a history lesson! Let’s continue…
Plattsburgh’s Illustrious Leaders
South Platt Street
While it was Zephaniah Platt who secured title to 33,000 acres along Lake Champlain, it was his brother Charles who was the first to actually build a home on that land in 1785. Even though there were 32 other individuals who invested in the land venture, it was the Platt family who organized and led the venture. Thus, the new community was called Plattsburgh. The members of the family were respected leaders and businessmen, so they were also honored with a street named after the family. Earlier I told you that Platt Street in the French Quarter was renamed in 1909 to Montcalm Avenue, but there was another road in the southern area designated as S. Platt Street. So the family didn’t lose out on having their name on a street too.
This Platt family tree shows the descendants of Zephaniah Platt. Hand-drawn by Charles Platt in 1761. Located in the Plattsburgh Public Library.
William Bailey was a prominent businessman, landowner, judge, and civic leader in the early 1800s. He was a partner with Henry Delord in the Red Store. Bailey owned a large tract of land in the north end of the village. His son John named a street after him as neighborhoods began to develop in that area. The Bailey home still sits on a portion of that land off Cornelia Street today.
The original 1795 Bailey house burned down in 1822, but was rebuilt in 1825 into the current stone house.
Captain Joseph Boynton built and sailed vessels on Lake Champlain as early as 1805. During the War of 1812 hostilities, two of his boats were seized (and then purchased) by the American government and added to Macdonough’s fleet.
William Beekman of New York City held the patent (ownership) on what is now Beekmantown. The street now named for him was originally a road that ran more or less directly into the settlement of Beekmantown.
This street was named for Judge John Palmer, one of the first trustees when the Village was incorporated in 1815. He was also on the first Board of Trustees of Plattsburgh Academy and served as the village District Attorney in 1818. He married Peter Sailly’s daughter, Charlotte and was the father of Peter Sailly Palmer, an historian and author of comprehensive histories of Plattsburgh and Lake Champlain (from which I got some of this information!)
Dr. John Miller came to Plattsburgh in 1795. He was considered a “pioneer physician,” making his calls on horseback with his saddlebags as his medical bag. He was one of the founding members of Plattsburgh’s first medical society in 1807. By then the number of doctors in Plattsburgh had risen to four!
Once called Mill Alley, the road from Broad to Bridge Streets was renamed to honor Sheldon Durkee. This road was the first street formally laid out in the settlement. The Durkee family house was located at the south end of the street. Durkee was considered one of the heroes of the Battle of Plattsburgh as he, with two other Americans, were shooting at the advancing enemy when they suddenly surprised three British soldiers. As one of the Americans was wounded and the other went for help, Durkee marched the prisoners by himself into camp. Asked how he managed to bring them in, Durkee is said to have replied, “I surrounded them.”
Abraham Brinkerhoff owned a large tract of land in the center of the settlement. In 1811, a committee established to build a school purchased land from Brinkerhoff for $100. It was on the corner of Oak Street and, at that time, a “contemplated” street that became Brinkerhoff Street. Abraham gave much of the land around the street to his daughter, who then donated some of it for the building of the First Presbyterian Church. Hiram Walworth, a reporter for the Plattsburgh Republican, wrote that the street was named in honor of Abraham’s wife, Mary Platt Brinkerhoff, daughter of Zephaniah Platt.
The original First Presbyterian Church was under construction when the Battle of Plattsburgh was fought. British used the church as a cavalry barracks. American forces fired on the Church during the battle. Construction was completed in 1816. However, during the fire of 1867, the church along with 70 other buildings in the city were destroyed.
Green street connects Bridge Street to the Saranac River. The inn on the corner, built on the foundation of the first building in a prior settlement, was owned by Isaac Green and his wife. For a long time this place was the community center of Plattsburgh. A victory celebration for Thomas Macdonough was held there and in 1817 President James Monroe was entertained there by the village’s citizenry. Formal dance parties were held there regularly and civic group held meetings in the upstairs rooms of the tavern.
1852 Map of Plattsburgh. Located in the Plattsburgh Public Library
Count Charles de Fredenburg, a Captain in the British Army received a English land grant to settle the area along Lake Champlain in 1767. A small community had started when the Revolution forced the families back to safety in Canada. De Fredenburg returned to find everything in the settlement burned to the ground. He stayed for a while, but eventually it is said that he became mentally unbalanced and was never seen again. When his heirs tried to claim the land, their title proved worthless.
Smith Mead Weed, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was an influential businessman and politician. During the second half of the 19th century, Weed served multiple terms representing Clinton County in the NY Assembly and was a delegate to the 1876 and 1884 Democratic Nation Conventions. Through his political influence, the Delaware and Hudson Railroad extended their tracks all the way from New York City through Plattsburgh to Montreal.
Weed also developed a park with a fountain and gazebo on the banks of the Saranac River across from his home on Cumberland Avenue.
Named for Samuel Couch, a fervent Republican who was usually found on “Rattlesnake Corner”. (I’ll tell you about this in the next episode!) He was the city coroner during the first part of the 1800s. Anne Gilliland, early City Historian, related an amusing story: “A letter was once addressed to some person on Sofa Street, which of course, puzzled the post office personnel, until a quick-witted young lady solved the problem and the letter reached its destination.”
The City Fathers had seen fit through the years to also honor military heroes, Macdonough and Macomb, Civil War Generals Sheridan and Sherman with street names, as well as numerous U.S. Presidents, Grant, Lincoln, Monroe, Roosevelt, Truman, and McKinley. In fact, Hotel Champlain on Bluff Point served as the summer White House in both 1897 and 1899 for President McKinley and staff. The McKinleys believed that the hotel’s water had beneficial effects on their health. Subsequent historians question the wisdom of this decision. A document provided to the Assembly of New York later attributed a typhoid outbreak amongst hotel staff to the unsanitary properties of the water.
President McKinley and staff at Champlain Hotel.
I know I haven’t described all the streets named after important and not-so-important citizens and others, but I have given you the highlights…
However, there is one more episode in this series to come! Stay tuned!!
Plattsburgh, New York – A City’s First Century, Richard Frost, 2002.
What’s In A Name? Part II
In 1785 a group of men established a settlement on Lake Champlain at the mouth of the Saranac River. Led by Zephaniah Platt, Melancton Smith, Ezara l’Hommediey, Thomas Treadwell, and joined in short time by Peter Sailly, the new village of Plattsburgh was created.
Drawn by the abundance of natural resources and new opportunities, more settlers began to make this area home including many French and French Canadians. What better way to acknowledge their impact on Plattsburgh than to name streets after some of the more illustrious persons.
Our own Henry (née Henri) Delord was one of the “movers & shakers” in the early growth of Plattsburgh. An immigrant from Nimes, France by way of the Caribbean, Henry embraced his adopted land becoming a landowner, businessman, judge, and community leader. During the Battle of Plattsburgh, he risked his business for the American forces, only to see that patriotism lead to his bankruptcy. (It’s a fascinating story folks! Visit the Kent-Delord House Museum to find out more!!)
Delord’s friend and neighbor Peter Sailly was born in the Lorraine region of France. As a young man he had served in a corps of soldiers who were bodyguards for King Louis XVI. Having inherited heavy family debts in France, Sailly with his wife and children immigrated to the US for a new start in 1784. Traveling throughout New York State, he was taken with what he saw as unlimited possibilities in the Lake Champlain region. The next year the Saillys joined the Platt group settling in Plattsburgh. He began to prosper trading in potash, timber, and furs. He was active in community affairs and elected to numerous political positions including serving in the House of Representatives (1805-1807). In 1809, Sailly was appointed Collector of Customs by Pres. Jefferson and served in that capacity until his death in 1826.
(btw: According to one of Peter’s descendants, the correct pronunciation of the name is “Sul-lee”!)
The French Quarter
In the mid-19th century a large number of Quebecois had settled in this area seeking industrial jobs. St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church was started by the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate Missionaries from Canada in 1853 to meet the spiritual needs of those French-speaking residents in Plattsburgh. The neighborhood near the Church became known as the “French Quarter” and the streets named accordingly.
St. Charles Place
Father Sallz, an early priest of St. Peter’s, named the street in honor of Charles Auguste, Bishop of Nancy, France.
Originally this street was called “Stove Pipe Street” since all its houses didn’t have chimneys, just stovepipes sticking out. It was later named Platt St. In 1909 as part of the City’s 300th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s entrance to the lake that bears his name, the street was re-named in honor of the French general Louis Joseph Montcalm commander of French forces during the French and Indian Wars. Montcalm died defending Quebec in the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
Come on—I think the name Samuel de Champlain is imprinted on the brains of everyone who lives in the North Country!! There had to be a street named in his honor!! Did you know we don’t really know what Champlain looked like? All the images we have are just artist representations of how they think he might have appeared. The only real image we have is a drawing by Champlain in his 1609 journal, depicting a battle between Iroquois and Algonquian tribes near Lake Champlain.
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, known simply as Lafayette, was a key figure in both the American and French Revolutions.
For his leadership and bravery during the Revolution, Maryland made Lafayette a “natural born citizen” of that state in 1784. This made him a natural born citizen of the United States when the Constitution was adopted in 1789!
Frances Henrietta Delord Webb met Lafayette during her honeymoon trip through Europe in 1833. Her journal describes the visit: “Tuesday, April 8, Attended a Soiree at Madame Curtis’. Met with a host of Americans. Lafayette with three granddaughters were there. I conversed for a long time with him. He expressed to me his strong attachment to America. He appears to retain the faculties of his mind most remarkably [age76]. He invited us to visit La Grange [Lafayette’s home]. Both Frances Henrietta and Lafayette died the next year.
Two other city streets with a French connection are:
No, it is not a woman’s name! Peter Sailly came from this region in France.
Named in honor of Marinus Durand a French immigrant (also from Nimes!) who married Peter Sailly’s daughter. He served as deputy Collector of Customs and was a Quartermaster during the War of 1812.
The naming of our city streets is proving to be quite a lesson in the history of Plattsburgh!!
Keep checking this blog—there’s more to come!!
THANK YOU to Mayor Read, Mr. Farrington, and all the other City staff responsible for the quick response to correcting the street sign honoring Lucretia Davidson!
Why Is Lucretia Davidson important in Plattsburgh’s history?
Lucretia Maria Davidson was born Sept. 27, 1808 to Dr. Oliver Davidson and his wife, Margaret Miller Davidson. Her father was one of the first four physicians in the young settlement of Plattsburg. The family struggled not only financially but also personally. Of the ten children born to the couple, only four survived to adolescence and only two of those lived to adulthood.
Here’s an interesting aside: Dr. Davidson designed the weather vane that capped the newly built Plattsburg Academy in 1811. It depicted an angel blowing the trumpet of fame. Unfortunately, the Academy was completely destroyed by fire in Nov. 1871 and the weather vane lost.
When Plattsburg Academy opened in 1811, Lucretia, then 4 years old, attended to learn to read and write Roman letters (today this is printed letters in all caps). This is when her family discovered her first poetic attempts. Lucretia, mortified that others were seeing her work, burned all of them. She had learned script by the time she was seven and then began almost a decade of prolific writing. Encouraged by her mother, also a writer, she was continually composing poetry, often stopping all other activity to steal away and write the thoughts spilling into her head.
When Lucretia was 15, she received a scholarship to attend the Willard School in Troy, NY. However, too much attention to her studies and not enough to her health force Lucretia to return to Plattsburgh a short time later. After her recovery, she went to Miss Gilbert’s school in Albany, but three short months later she returned home gravely ill. Lucretia died at age 16 years and 11 months from consumption, now called tuberculosis.
Although Lucretia was prone to destroying the poems she decided didn’t meet her standards (estimated to be about 1/3rd of all her writing), she left behind 278 completed works – an amazing amount of poetry for such a young person. These works were praised by a number of notable writers of that time period including Edgar Allan Poe. Samuel F. B. Morse wrote a glowing biographical sketch of her which was published in 1829.
Other interesting asides: The youngest Davidson, Margaret, was only 2 yrs. old when Lucretia died. She also began to write poetry at a young age and by ten years old had written a drama (in two days) which she and some friends performed. Sadly, like her sister, Margaret succumbed to consumption shortly before her 16th birthday. The family had moved to Ballston Spa in 1833 in hopes that environment would be beneficial to the health of both mother and daughter. Margaret’s writing had caught the attention of Washington Irving, of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” fame, who wrote a glowing biography/eulogy of the young poet.
The Davidson house in Plattsburgh was next door to the Delord house on Cumberland Avenue. Frances Henrietta Delord and both Davidson girls knew each other and, although not in the same grade, attended Plattsburg Academy. When Frances Henrietta died in 1834, Margaret wrote a 13-verse tribute to her and sent it to Betsey Delord. Margaret had just move from Plattsburgh the previous year.
The complete works of the Davidson sisters were published together in 1850
Quick question: What is the most common street name in the United States?
No-don’t Google it!! Just give the first answer that comes into your head!
Asking this question in my small (not very scientific) survey, I found that the majority of people gave “Main” as the #1 answer.
According to the top websites on this question the answer is either “Second” or “Park.” While the City of Plattsburgh does have a Park Avenue, there is no street named Second. It is also interesting to note that in New York State “Park” leads the list of most common names, but “Second” is not even in the top ten.
Why am I talking about street names? Well, the other day I was driving on N. Catherine St., turned onto Cornelia St. and then onto Margaret St., when it popped into my mind that quite a few of the city’s streets are named for women! Mind you these are not little side streets, these are some of the main thoroughfares in the city. This led to the larger questions: 1. How did all the streets in Plattsburgh come to be named, and 2. Why are the main ones named for women?
On June 16, 1785, Plattsburgh’s first town meeting was held at the home of Judge Charles Platt. Three men were elected commissioners of Highway and they soon laid out the principal roads of the town (city) that remain today.
Let’s start our “walk-about” with the streets named for women.
The main road through early Plattsburgh was named in honor of the “bright little Quaker” mother of Col. Melancton Smith (U.S. Army) and Capt. Sidney Smith (U.S. Navy), Margaret Mott Smith. Margaret’s husband Jude Melancton Smith was an officer during the American Revolution. He represented Duchess County in the first provincial congress as well as in the convention meeting in 1778 to consider the Constitution of the U.S. Smith along with the Platts were the original proprietors of Plattsburgh.
Margaret Street circa 1895
Col. Melancton Smith named a new street, then hardly more than a lane running west, for his young wife, Cornelia. He also named Elizabeth Street for his sister, Elizabeth Gilman. She was married to Henry S. Johnson, one of the up-and-coming lawyers in early Plattsburgh.
Grave of Cornelia Smith wife of Col. Melancton Smith in Riverside Cemetery
When Gilead Sperry gave the village of Plattsburgh a portion of land for a street to run to the south, his wife was given the honor of it being named for her, Catherine Kilburn Marsh. In an1822 newspaper article it was stated that she spelled her name with a “K” and the road was originally referred to as Katherine Street.
The Hon. J. Douglas Woodward was renowned for his efforts in laying out and improving the city’s streets as well as “living a pure life.” The city honored him by naming a street after his daughter Helen, who was a long-time principal of Plattsburgh High School. It is interesting that the part of what is now Brinkerhoff north of Helen was named after Woodward himself, but later it was decided to extend the Brinkerhoff name the entire length of the street. Also the northern part of Couch Street was named after Woodward’s wife, Matilda, but again the name Couch was extended for the entire street.
Charlotte Street was named for the wife of Rev. Hiram Safford who had been a Major of the 7th regiment of the Reg. N.Y. Volunteers. Charlotte was a granddaughter of Israel Green, proprietor of the renowned tavern in Plattsburgh. Charlotte St. ran from Bridge St to the Old Roman Catholic Cemetery where it then became Peru St. Let me warn you before you go looking for this street on the city map – it’s not there any more! At some time after the late 1970s, the entire street became Peru St.
Bird’sEye View Map showing location of Charlotte St. in 1899
Marion Street was named for the wife of Judge William P. Mooers who owned the land adjacent to the road.
Grace Avenue was a relatively new street addition in the 1930s. It was named after Grace Healey, wife of Samuel Healey, one of the developers of that area of the city.
One last interesting street named after a Plattsburgh female is Lucretia-Davi(d)son Dr.** This is a 20th century addition to our street names. There are no houses along it since it is a very short connector from Byrne Lane going north around the U.S. Oval. One might think that length mirrors Lucretia’s life. She began writing poetry at age four and died just short of her 17th birthday. Her poetry caught the attention of notable writers including Edgar Allan Poe…but that’s a story for another time.
**You probably notice the misspelling in Lucretia’s name. After calling this to the attention of City officials, they said the sign would be corrected.
It is a testament to the early leaders of Plattsburgh that they wanted to immortalize their mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters by naming the city’s streets after them.
(This is part I of a series on the names of Plattsburgh’s city streets)
Keep checking this blog—there’s more to come!!
Three Centuries in the Champlain Valley, Mrs. Geo. F. Tuttle 1909
Press Republican, Jan. 7, 1935 & Mar. 1-5, 1982
Old Plattsburgh, Marjorie Lansing Porter 1944