The Gates House Museum

Perry Avenue, Warsaw, NY

One of the most important historical buildings in the community is the Gates House on Perry Avenue owned by the Warsaw Historical Society. The house was constructed in 1824 by Horace Hollister who established the first carriage and sleigh factory here. His shop was a few rods north of his house. It is a splendid specimen of early architecture and one of the few in the area which preserves its original exterior. It has been the birthplace of a dozen civic and philanthropic organizations and the homestead of the truly distinguished Seth M. Gates Family.

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In 1836 Mr. Hollister sold his property to William Chauncey and Timothy Buxton. After a few years they removed their shop to a site at the rear of where the Carmichael Monument business is now located on South Main Street.

Hon. Seth M. Gates of Leroy who had served two terms in Congress as an Antislavery Whig bought the property in 1844. He had suffered two paralytic strokes and had been advised by his physician to give up his promising political career and leave his chosen profession, law. He came to live in Warsaw to be near his parents, his brother and two sisters who lived here.

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In Congress he had distinguished himself in his stand against slavery. By one of his acts against that evil, he so incensed the Southern governors that no less than five of them mentioned him in their annual messages and a wealthy planter of Savannah offered a reward of $500 for his body to be delivered in that city. He was a strong advocate of temperance and opposed to the masonic fraternity. He helped John Quincy Adams and others to secure the passage of the bill guaranteeing the right of petition. His home was believed to be one of several stations of the "underground railroad" though no documentation exists. He was an eloquent speaker.

Four of his twelve children were born in this house. One of them Dr. Merrill Edwards Gates became President of Rutgers College in New Jersey and later of Amherst College in Massachusetts. Another son, Lewis Eddy Gates taught English literature in Harvard University, wrote books on literature and studied literature in English colleges.

Mr. Gates' third wife was the daughter of Colonel Nathanial Rochester, the founder of the City of Rochester. There were no children of this marriage. The Gates family continued to own the house until 1893 when it was sold to William H. McConnell.

The Society of the Village Works in 1893 organized by the women of the Protestant churches to look after the many poor families in town, bought the house from Mr. McConnell. A so called "City Missionary" was hired for the purposes of helping the poor people in the community.

The Society also ran a so called "Industrial School" for many years where girls were taught to sew or embroider among other things and boys carpentry and other trades and bookkeeping. Often between 80 and 90 would be enrolled in each group. The teachers served without pay. Indian basketry was also taught in the building,. Finally, after the public school added domestic science and manual training to its curriculum, there was little need for such a school. When the public welfare became more efficient, the services of a "City Missionary" were no longer necessary.

In 1894 when the public school started a kindergarten, it rented a room on the first floor for that and one on the second floor for the first grade. There was no place for the students in the school on Buffalo Street. After the wing was added to the school building 1900, the Gates House was no longer rented. Some years later rooms in the house were again rented due to the crowded condition of the school house.

Having no further use for the building and being in need of substantial repair, the Society of the Village Works turned the old house over to a society called the Wyoming County D.A.R. and the Historical Society. It was during the period of the Depression of the 1930's when boys needing work were given employment repairing the house under a N.Y.S. project directed by Henry Ten Hagen.

A great many organizations have held their meetings there. The property was eventually given to the Warsaw Historical Society who have maintained it and kept in repair with the help of an appropriation from the Town of Warsaw. The Society has created a historical museum and has improved two-thirds of the basement for display purposes. Before the Warsaw Historical Society owned the building, a large wood house on the back side of the building was torn down and a strip of land sold the hospital when the east wing was added to that institution.

The Warsaw Historical Society was formally organized in 1938 but was inactive during the Second World War.

Excerpted from Quasquicentennial, 1968, Warsaw, New York