Brick fundraiser set for Johnstown’s Drumm House

The Drumm House is seen in this 2008 photo. (The Leader-Herald file photo)

JOHNSTOWN — The Drumm House can be described as an understated treasure that sit quietly on the very outskirts of Main Street. The house, often overshadowed by some of the more prominent historical buildings, is one of three buildings owned by the Johnstown Historical Society, and will soon be getting some needed curb appeal through a new brick walkway. Helen Martin, President of the Johnstown Historical Society said the walkway will allow the entire community the chance to be involved through a renovation campaign called “Saving Johnstown’s History One Brick at a Time.”

Residents will have the opportunity to purchase a commemorative brick which will be installed in front of the Drumm House, making them a part of helping to preserve some of the city’s rich history.

“This is a very exciting project for us, not only will it be a focal point around the Drumm House, but it will give all who purchase the bricks a vested interest in the work the Historical Society is doing to preserve the three historical buildings that we own — the Johnstown Historical Society Museum, the Drumm House and the James Burk Inn. the James Burk Inn,” said Martin.

The society is partnering with the Wisconsin-based company, “That’s My Brick”, to create the brick walkway adjacent to the historical Drumm House. The house was built in 1763 by Sir William Johnson. “That’s My Brick.” They create custom, laser-engraved bricks that use a layer of black fused glass on the brick’s surface. Martin said the public can purchase an engraved inscription to honor or remember a friend or family member, commemorate an event, or identify themselves or their organization as a supporter of the Historical Society. Proceeds from brick purchases will help to support the upkeep of the three major historical sites in the city. Bricks come in two different sizes, 4 inches by 8 inches and 8 inches by 8 inches, priced at $125 and $150. Martin said they are hoping to begin the walkway as early as this summer.

“I am really hoping that we can have the prep work done before July but we will see. Depending on how quickly we receive orders for bricks and receive them will determine how quickly the walkway progresses,” said Martin.

Martin said they are looking to design a walk that features a cannon at the center, with bricks installed along its path. She said the cannon will represent one of the two cannons that were in possession of Sir John Johnson, son of Sir William Johnson, in 1776. Sir John abandoned both near what is now Tupper Lake when he fled to Canada, where they remained until 1937 before being turned over to the Historical Society.

The Drumm House is one of the oldest buildings still standing today, built by Sir William Johnson for his first school teacher, Edward Wall. Sir William opened the first public school west of the Hudson River after finding Wall through a newspaper advertisement. The house sits on the site of the first Episcopal Church and has a small cemetery attached. It has been restored to its original design including details that help to depict life in Johnstown during the 1700s.

In an effort to encourage support of the project, Martin said the Historical Society recently completed their annual membership renewal mailing with over 400 letters sent out to the community. The letters included a new membership brochure and information on the brick project. Martin said brochures can also be found at Mysteries on Main Street in Johnstown, the Chamber of Commerce, the public library and other locations.

“The public is definitely invited and encouraged to purchase bricks,” said Martin.

As for other projects in the works, Martin said they are working on a grant through the Historic Structures Report, which she said is sizeable in the amount they could be given.

“If we are fortunate enough to be awarded the maximum grant amount, which is $10,000, we will still be liable for the remainder of the costs which would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $14,000 to $18,000, “said Martin.

This is a cash match, Martin said, so they are focusing on raising the rest of the funds should they be awarded the grant. This report would be necessary for the Historical Society to even be able to consider possible renovations to the James Burk Inn.

“It will give us necessary information on structural weaknesses, if any, dating of all areas of the Inn and original features of the Inn. Ultimately, we would like to restore the Inn so that it contains the types of rooms that were originally there such as the tavern room. We have already done some restorative work to the front porch and hope to paint the exterior,” said Martin.

The Historical Society hosted their first Festival of Wreaths fundraiser at the James Burk Inn last November, with another event scheduled for this November.

“This was a very successful fundraiser for us the first time so we are hopeful that success will be repeated,” said Martin.

If you would like more information on ordering a brick to support the Drumm House contact the Historical Society at (518) 762-7076 or Helen Martin at (518) 762-7638 or [email protected]

By Kerry Minor

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