Doug’s Dining Room Speaks
This piece was written in March of 1990, in the first-person voice of the building itself, by Skaneateles Town Historian Helen W. Ionta (1909-2000). The indented passages are from news accounts of the time.
I am the two-story brick building located at the southwest corner of the Skaneateles village parking lot. I was built in December, 1887, as a stable for Mr. Simon Irish who had a flour and feed store on Jordan Street.
The disastrous fire of November 13, 1887, had destroyed all the stables and storage buildings east of me, along Judge Marvin’s west line. Mr. Hoag’s lumber yard burned so vigorously that the Methodist Church horse sheds had to be taken down in order to save the church and the homes of Mr. O’Neill, Mrs. Shaw and Mr. Crozier.
Detail from an 1878 map showing William Marvin’s lot (#12 — then his garden and orchard, now the Village parking lot), the homes of Crozier and Shaw, and the Methodist church and its horse sheds, mentioned above.
“Skaneateles was visited by a bad fire on Sunday evening last, which started in an old barn belonging to George R. Crandon, owner of the Lake View House. The flames spread rapidly, licking up the store house of Stephen Thornton, and the barn of Robert O’Neill, containing 500 barrels of cider. Hoag’s lumber yard was next attacked, making a hot fire. The village fire department, with insufficient apparatus, fought a hard battle. The village has no steamer, and many were exhausted working the brakes of the two hand engines. The flames were finally checked, after some $25,000 loss had been inflicted, with but small insurance.” — Cayuga Chief, Weedsport, November 19, 1887
I was proud of my appearance because I was sure that I was more attractive than those old wooden stables which had burned. After a few years, Mr. Irish sold me to Grace Craner who sold me to Mr. H.C. Smith, owner of a flour and feed business. He sold me to Robert O’Neill who had another brick stable built at the time I was built. Finally, in 1900, Mr. O’Neill sold me to Mr. Thomas J. Chapman, a blind merchant who had purchased the flour and feed business and its building on Jordan Street.
Mr. Chapman had injured his eyes when taking part in a weight lifting contest with his friends. They stood in a bushel basket and lifted bags of grain. Mr. Chapman eventually became totally blind and had to give up his carpentry work. He and his partners, Mr. George Gibbons and Mr. William Weeks cleaned me inside and out and stored their grain, feed and flour in me. They took care of me and I enjoyed being a granary for the flour and feed businesses which followed in the store on Jordan Street.
“Several years ago a number of young men on James Chapman’s farm tested their strength and skill by standing in a half-bushel measure and shouldering a two-bushel bag of wheat. Among them was his son, Thomas J. Chapman, who accomplished the feat, but the strain injured his eyes, by the bursting of a blood vessel or other injury to them. He soon began to realize the fact that his eyesight was failing, but pluckily learned the carpenter trade, at which he worked as long as his eyes permitted. In April of last year, however, he purchased the flour and feed business of M.E. Smith & Co., which he has conducted since that time. His sight has continued to fail, and on awakening last Sunday morning he found he was practically blind, being able only to distinguish light from darkness. Mr. Chapman is a popular young man; steady, reliable and honest, and has many friends in this community. He is 29 years old and married. He will continue the flour and feed business, and as he is deserving of the patronage of the public, there is no doubt he will receive the goodwill of the public in his efforts to maintain himself and wife, without being a burden to relatives or friends. His efforts to be self-supporting is commendable and should be encouraged.” — Skaneateles Press, September 20, 1895
However, my comfortable life did not last long. In 1931, Mr. Weeks sold me to Charles T. Major, Sr. From then until 1956 I passed through many ownerships – 1937 to Mr. Seward Merrell, 1945 to Tucker Hardware Co., Inc., 1946 to Stephen Mucher Sr. and his wife Alexandra who passed me on to her son, Stephen Jr., in 1949.
This was a dark period in my life and I cannot even remember what use was made of me. Someone told the story that some horses were put in my first floor. One walked up the stairs and could not get down so he had to be taken out of my second story with a block and tackle. All I remember is that I was dirty and unkempt. My bricks and mortar came loose and I was most unhappy.
By 1956, I had a new owner, Mr. Donald Clark, who had an oil and heating business in the village. He stored his supplies within my walls. I began to feel better about myself because it seemed that people who passed by began to notice me. Perhaps it was because of my deteriorated appearance.
But in 1967, all of this changed. Two gentle ladies admired me and said that I was just the building for their toy shop. So, Mrs. Elsie Garrison and Mrs. Phyllis Lipe bought me from Mr. Clark. Mr. James Garrison repaired my broken bricks and mortar. I had a new door and a big window put in my east wall. He put in a new pair of stairs to my second floor. The Ladies cleaned and polished me inside. Then they moved in with shelves and counters displaying their interesting wares. In December 1967, I was opened to the public with a nice name, “The Toy Peddler.” There were dolls and toys, both antique and modern on my shelves but best of all, was the candy which brought the children. How I enjoyed the many visitors who came every day!!
After a couple of years, Mrs. Lipe sold her share in me to Mr. Clair Gutchess, Mrs. Garrison’s father. “The Toy Peddler” finally closed. I missed the children who were always so excited when they visited me.
However, another nice lady, Mrs. Beverly Stull, rented me and opened her antique business. She gave me a new name, “The Blacksmith Shop.” Most of my visitors now were adults who came to see and purchase her beautiful antique pieces. Mrs. Stull kept me clean and polished which made me happy.
In 1980, I had another new owner, Mr. Jerome Durr, a glass artisan, who wanted me for his shop. He designs and makes stained glass windows and other objects. He is also skilled in repairing stained glass windows such as church windows.
Mr. Douglas Clark, the fish fry man, purchased me in 1987 from Mr. Durr. He gave me a much needed face lift. He repaired my brick walls and gave me a new roof with new rafters,. I felt much stronger now. My east door was replaced by a window and a new exit to the west was opened. A second stairway to the upper floor was installed. The utility door on the second floor was replaced by an attractive window. My original doorway on the ground floor, which had been sealed, was replaced by a new one that matched the design of my window above. New lighting was installed inside and out. I even have a nice new weathervane on my roof to “crown” me and some folks think I look like a nice old colonial building.
Once again I was scoured and polished. Comfortable tables and chairs were added and now I was an attractive dining room. I was opened for business on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 1988, with my new name, “Doug’s Dining Room.”
I am very happy and feel rejuvenated in spite of my 112 years of serving the people of Skaneateles. I know if I am given tender loving care I shall serve the public another 100 years.
Written by Helen W. Ionta, Skaneateles Town Historian, March, 1990
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Note: In 2006, Doug’s Dining Room moved into the expanded Doug’s Fish Fry on Jordan Street and Kim DeMascole of Marcellus opened Sundance Farm Natural Foods in the brick building. She left in April of 2007. For a time – November 2007 to March 2009 – the building was used for extra office space by ReMax Real Estate. In June of 2009, Cristy Winkelman moved in with ECHO Off the Lake, a clothing consignment shop.
In December of 2011, Amy Smith’s Lucky Goat Soap moved in.