Auction and activity at Boonville’s Hulbert House

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BOONVILLE — The Hulbert House hasn’t seen so much activity since last century, when the likes of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and New York Gov. Thomas Dewey visited.

The stately structure, at 106 Main St., was the scene Saturday, Feb. 22, of a big auction that drew a crowd of nearly 200 people, according to auctioneer Bernie Brzostek. He conducted the auction on behalf of the Hulbert House’s new owner, Carol Vogel, of Carl’s Wholesale Furniture in New Hartford.

The Hulbert House has witnessed many comings and goings, since it was built sometime between 1812 and 1819 — historical records are unclear about the date, despite the 1812 sign on the building front.

Among its famous guests have been Roosevelt, William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody, Gen. U.S. Grant, Horace Greeley, Dewey and more.The visitors feasted on a menu that included venison, salmon, brook trout and partridge. Other guests included hunters and trappers headed to the Adirondacks, mail carriers on horseback, stage coach riders, travelers on the Black River Canal, and passengers on the Black River Railroad.

Among the historic scenes the structure has witnessed, two stand out:

• A review of Boonville’s 97th Regiment -- the “Conklin Rifles” when they departed for the Civil War in 1861, by Col. Charles Wheelock, from the balcony of the Hulbert House.The soldiers had camped out on the village square the night before. They reunited at the Hulbert House at the end of the war, and returned a silk flag that Hulbert had given them, sewn by Boonville ladies — now torn and battle-scarred. The flag is now kept at the Oneida County History Center in Utica.

• The “Battle of Boonville,” between farmers and other townspeople and state Troopers, in 1933. The Boonville residents gathered at the Hulbert House to peacefully protest low milk prices.Troopers arrived to break up the demonstration, and reportedly used unnecessary force to do so. Two thousand people gathered to denounce the troopers when the head of the State Police came to talk with local law enforcement. A grand jury later found that the crowd should have dispersed when ordered to do so.

On May 2, 1983, a powerful F-3 tornado missed the Hulbert House, but severely damaged several homes and businesses in the town.

Despite the years o wear and tear, the Hulbert House still stands. It was famous for its “Pioneer Bar” — with the unique 1940s round bar made from cherry at the former Ethan Allen plant in Boonville — its mounted moose head and buffalo head, and fireplace made of bricks from Utica’s old City Hall.

At the Feb. 22 auction, the famous bar was sold to “local people ... a young couple,” who planned to put the bar in their basement, Brzostek reported.They spent “about four grand” for that privilege, he said.

The moose and buffalo heads were not auctioned, but were kept by Vogel, Brzostek said.

A fee of $5 each for bidders to attend the auction raised $920 for Irwin Library, the auctioneer said.

Vogel could not be reached for comment.Brzostek said Vogel, “hasn’t made up his mind” yet about what the first floor of the Hulbert House will be used for. Meanwhile, the owner is “making efficiency apartments upstairs.”

Ephraim Owen built the sturdy structure, of Black River limestone. Richard Hulbert bought it in 1839 and added a third story and an extension to it, as the hotel’s fame spread across the country. Hulbert was elected Oneida County clerk twice, and was also elected to the state Legislature.He was known as a genial proprietor with a hospitable personality.

Hulbert died in the late 1860s, and the hotel-restaurant passed through several owners, until it was purchased in 1949 by A. J. Garbarino.He had the building renovated, and added four murals painted by Boonville artist John David Mahaffy to an inside wall.

In 1965, after another succession of owners, the Daskiewich family purchased the property.For many years, it was the scene of weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, reunions and even haunted house tours.It hosted visitors for Woodsmen’s Field Days, the Oneida County Fair, festivals and other events.

But hard times hit the hotel in 2016, and it was closed on July 30 and put up for sale for $569,000 -- later reduced to $235,000.In December 2018, it was put up for auction, and retained by the owners with the highest bid of $100,000.On Feb. 21, 2019, the 16,000-square-foot building and its 3.9-acre parcel was purchased for $87,000 at a county land auction by Vogel.

The antique and other furniture and kitchen equipment from the former restaurant were also auctioned off Feb. 22.Vogel donated the landmark’s ledger -- signed byfamous and not-so-famous visitors for the past 200 years or so -- to Boonville’s Erwin Library.

This column was written for the Rome Historical Society by Chip Twellman Haley, retired Daily Sentinel news editor.Comments, old photos, suggestions for future columns or guest columns may be emailed to:chiphaley@yahoo.com.Copies of the books “Rome Through Our History,” Volumes I and II, a collection of some of Haley’s columns, may be purchased at the Rome Historical Society.

The Rome Historical Society, 200 Church St., is open from 9 a.m. to 3p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.Go online at www.romehistoricalsociety.org, visit their Facebook page, or call 336-5870 for more information.

CAPTIONS:

THE WAY IT WAS — Visitors park at the front of the Hulbert House, in this old postcard photograph.(Photo courtesy Woodgate Library)

WITNESS TO HISTORY -- The Hulbert House has witnessed local history from its spot on Main Street in Boonville, since the early 1800s.(Photo courtesy Erwin Library)

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