The Senate House Museum in the historic Stockade District of Kingston was constructed in 1927 to help display the growing historical collection of the adjacent Senate House. The museum contains a large collection of documents, drawings and paintings, including paintings of Kingston native and noted painter John Vanderlyn (1775-1852) as well as those of Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Sully, James Bard and Ammi Phillips.
The cornerstone for the museum was laid on September 10, 1927 in a ceremony attended by over 5,000 people. Judge Alphonso T. Clearwater presided over the ceremonies, a distinguished event that included the attendance of New York State Governor Alfred E. Smith. Following the cornerstone ceremony, a reception and luncheon were held for Governor Smith, members of the legislature and distinguished guests at the nearby Hotel Stuyvesant.
The two-story colonial revival structure, constructed of field stone, was designed with the character and architecture to complement the original Senate House. The building was designed by Sullivan P. Jones, the state architect. The Senate House Museum opened on June 14, 1930.
“Senate House Museum Opened. Ceremony Brief But Impressive Included Dedication and Raising of Flag of the State of New York.
Mayor Edgar J. Dempsey and Judge A. T. Clearwater opened the Senate House Museum this morning in a brief by impressive ceremony consisting of a short dedication and the raising of the flag of the State of New York.
While two members of the Kingston police force stood guard, Judge Clearwater officially opened the building saying, “In the name of the state, the Senate House Association and the city of Kingston, Mayor Dempsey and myself declare this building open to the public.” At the same moment, the state’s official flag was raised on the standard in front of the building to its position beside that of the flag of the United States.
The judge then conducted the party present in a tour of the museum, explaining the relics and properties of interest. In the lobby of the building a tablet marks the rear wall to the effect – “Erected by the State of New York to commemorate the founding at Kingston of the government of the state on the thirtieth of July, 1777, and the organization of the first legislature on the tenth of September of that year. Cornerstone laid on the tenth of September, 1927, by His Excellency, Governor Alfred E. Smith.
The subjects of interest in the building are arranged in periods, each period being given a definite space or room. One section of the lower floor is devoted to the paintings of John Vanderlyn, valued at more than $200,000. Another collection of interest is that of Judge Alton B. Parker, a group of autographs of provincial, colonial and constitutional governors, bequeathed to the museum by Judge Parker.
Beginning this morning, the Senate House Museum will be open to the public every day in the year, Sundays and legal holidays excepted. The museum will be opened each day at 10 a.m. until noon, and from 1 o’clock until 4:30 p.m. These regulations comply with the state law in regards to public buildings containing collections of value. Children under 16 years of age will not be admitted to the building unless accompanied by parents or guardians.
Many visitors were expected to view the collections this afternoon, a steady stream of onlookers having viewed the contents of the building this morning.” (“Senate House Museum Opened.” The Kingston Daily Freeman. June 14, 1930.)
The Senate House in the historic Stockade District of Kingston was the meeting place of the first New York State Senate in September and October 1777. The elected representatives met in this simple stone house that was constructed in 1676 by Wessel Ten Broek, an immigrant from Westphalia in West Germany. In 1751 the property passed into the hands of Abraham Van Gaasbeek, a local merchant. Van Gaasbeek “offered a room in his house for the use of the first State Senate, which met there on the morning of September 10, 1777.” The patriots adopted a government system that included a governor, a lieutenant governor, senate, assembly and judiciary, a system that is still in place today. Members of the Senate spent little time working there as they had to evacuate Kingston in October as British troops under the command of Major General John Vaughan made their way north from Manhattan, plundering the Hudson Valley. The British attacked Kingston on October 16, 1777, burning over 300 homes, barns and buildings. New York State acquired the property in 1887. The Senate House is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For more information about this historic building check out The Old Senate House, 1777, City of Kingston, N.Y., published in 1883 and authored by Frederick Edward Westbrook.
The vintage postcard was published by William O'Reilly, Inc., located in Kingston, New York. The Senate House Museum is the more prominent building on the right, while the original Senate House is in the background on the lower left. The postcard was never mailed. My photograph was taken in the spring of 2016.