June 28, 2011


Dryden home willed to Historical Society

One of the society’s founding members donates her brick house built in 1836

HomeBob Ellis/staff photographer
The owner of a brick home at 14 North St. has willed to the property to Dryden Historical Society, which is pondering the pros and cons of accepting the 175-year-old house. Owner Rebecca Simpson, who died in April at age 92, was one of the Historical Society’s founding members.

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — The late Rebecca Simpson left her 175-year-old homestead to the Dryden Historical Society, which must decide in the months ahead what to do with it.
The brick mansion at 14 North St., the Southworth family’s home built in 1836, would become the society’s property once Simpson’s will clears probate court.
Simpson, who died on April 27 at age 92, was one of the society’s founding trustees in 1981.
The society could sell the property.
The society has been based since 1988 at the History House, 36 W. Main St., which it owns.
The society’s officers are discussing whether to move their offices and collection of historical items to the Simpson mansion or remain at their current location. They will have six months to decide, once the will clears probate court, said Mike Lane, the attorney who serves as Simpson’s executor.
Simpson had no survivors.
How to use the property, which includes a barn, is one issue being discussed.
Betsy Cleveland, the historical society’s president, said the group definitely is interested in keeping the property. Any further plans are being worked out by the society’s board of directors, she said.
“We would have to move slowly, to see what’s best for the house and our organization,” said Gina Prentiss, the society’s founding president. “I could see it as a house museum eventually, and our society’s offices and collection would be there. But it won’t happen overnight.”
Prentiss said the current History House is small but carries emotional value, as the society’s volunteers worked on it over the years.
She said the Simpson house would make a more spacious exhibit area but would require more staff, who would be volunteers.
The current location is open on Saturdays and by appointment on other days.
Lane said the society must consider the cost of maintaining and heating the 14-room house.
The Simpson property is assessed at $250,000. Property taxes came to $1,842 last year at $6.39 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The History House is assessed at $115,000. The Dryden Historical Society paid over half of the property tax it normally would last year — $525.02 — because it is a nonprofit but the house has an apartment so it is partly residential and provided income.
The same situation would be true if the society makes part of Simpson’s mansion into an apartment.
“We can’t conclude we would sell our current house right away,” Prentiss said.
She said Simpson kept her house and its furnishings in excellent condition.
“It was a surprise to have this happen,” she said. “Becky was a friend. I think she respected our group enough and felt we would respect the house.”

To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe