The Summer Garden Party Fundraiser, the inaugural fundraising event for the Gustav Stickley House Foundation, was a success beyond expectations, raising more than $33,000 for the restoration of the historic home at 438 Columbus Avenue in Syracuse. The original fundraising goal for the event was $15,000.
Held at the Stickley family’s summer retreat – The Pump House on Skaneateles Lake – the fundraiser drew 125 people, and also served as a family reunion for about 20 descendants of Gustav Stickley.
“It is beyond my wildest dreams,” said Amy R. Shook Perez, secretary of the foundation and co-chair of the fundraising event with Sarah Stickley Wiles. “It was as great of a launch as I could have hoped for.”
The Summer Garden Party was hosted by Gustav Stickley’s great-granddaughter Amy Wiles Morelli, her brother and Gustav’s great-grandson Richard Wiles and his wife Janice. The foundation is greatly appreciative to the family for opening their historic summer retreat as the location of this important event to honor the legacy of their great-grandfather, said Perez.
The Pump House building was originally constructed by the Skaneateles Water Works Company in 1890 to supply water from the lake to Syracuse and the Erie Canal using a large coal-fueled pump to send water east through a 19-mile long pipe. The pumping station was eventually moved and the property sold.
In the mid-1920s, Gustav Stickley’s eldest daughter, Barbara Stickley Wiles and her husband, Ben Wiles, purchased the building and converted into a family summer retreat. Gustav Stickley spent many summers at the Pump House with Barbara and her family. He oversaw the construction of several stone paths, as well the living room fireplace and hearth – to him one of the most important features of an Arts & Crafts home as a place for family to gather. Gustav also planted trees and plants on the property, many of which survive today.
The Pump House has remained in the Wiles family. The house and the grounds remain essentially the same as when Gustav enjoyed summers there.
“How many felt as if you were walking back in time when you went through the house?” said David Rudd, president of the Gustav Stickley House Foundation and co-owner of Dalton’s American Decorative Arts and president of the Arts and Crafts Society of Central
Great-grandson Skip Nitchie, who traveled to the event from Portland, Oregon, remembers spending time at the home of Great-Grandfather Gus on Columbus Avenue. “I always loved the house,” he said. “I loved to play there.” One of his fondest memories is the large landing leading to the staircase to the upper floors. The landing is so large that it made the perfect stage for “showing off” for the children.
An exciting update on Phase I of the restoration project – the exterior of the Gustav Stickley house – was presented by Beth Crawford, project manager, of Crawford and Stearns Architects and Preservation Planners of Syracuse.
She announced the discovery of the exterior paint colors chosen by Gustav Stickley for the home.
Those colors were determined after a paint consultant in Connecticut took 35 paint samples from the house. The home’s original color scheme was deemed to be associated with Colonial Revival architecture, which was in keeping with the style of the house when it was built in 1900, prior to the 1901 Christmas Eve fire that led Gustav Stickley to renovate the home in his Craftsman style.
“The really fantastic news is that the second color scheme is what we all considered a really familiar Arts & Crafts color scheme,” said Crawford. That color scheme includes three tones of green with black window sashes. Also, Crawford herself crawled under the existing front porch and found what appear to be broken stone caps and original pieces of wood trim that can likely be replicated.
Crawford and Stearns are talking with contractors interested in taking part in the renovation project, the first stage of which focuses on exterior work including the roof, cornices and recreating the front porch according to the original plans drawn Gustav Stickley after the fire.
She also expressed how fortunate it was that the Audi family, owners of Stickley, Audi & Co. had purchased the house in 1996 to preserve its place in history. The Audis donated the house to the University Neighborhood Preservation Society (UNPA), with the transfer complete this past May. “The new project is taking their dreams forward to restore the home,” said Crawford.
UNPA is overseeing Phase 1 of the project, restoration of the exterior. The property will then be turned over to the Onondaga County Historical Society, which plans to renovate the interior.
Crawford said that the Gustav Stickley house has always been of great interest to her since she first toured it as a senior student of interior design at Syracuse University. Her professor was Frank Morigi, a member of the Central New York Arts & Crafts Society. “It’s been in my head ever since and it’s really exciting for me to be able to work on this house, she said. “In terms of decorative art and architecture, Gustav Stickley is the cornerstone of the Arts & Crafts Movement.” said Crawford.
Crawford also deemed the Summer Garden Party fundraiser as huge success. “This was our first opportunity to make a public statement” to draw attention to the project, she said. “The money (we raised) is important, but being able to introduce people to the house and the project to renovate it is priceless.”
The garden party brought together many of Gustav Stickley’s descendants from all over the country, some of who had never met or
not seen each other in many years. About 20 great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren attended. Ben Wiles, Gustav Stickley’s grandson, age 99 ½, still lives in Syracuse.
Great-granddaughter Cindy McGinn, the granddaughter of Gus’ second daughter Mildred, traveled to the event from Wellesley, Mass. McGinn, said she would love to listen to her grandmother’s stories about her childhood and developed a growing interest in and knowledge of her great-grandfather’s furniture-making and influence on the Arts & Crafts movement. “I was very close to my grandmother, and you feel like in a way they are living on through having it,” said McGinn.
Also at the event was Aminy I. Audi, CEO and Chairman of Stickley, Audi and Co., who serves as a foundation board member. She said that she was very pleased with the collective effort from so many people and community groups to restore the Gustav Stickley home. “If the success and enthusiasm of this event is any indication, I’m sure the future is bright,” she said.
Someone very familiar with the passion of preserving the history and legacy of Gustav Stickley is Ray Stubblebine, a member of the
board of trustees of the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms, in Parsippany N.J. “The house on Columbus Avenue is a lab, it’s an experiment to try all the ideas he had,” said Stubblebine at the event. “He had a huge influence and this house in the grand-daddy.”
The Gustav Stickley House Foundation would like to thank antique dealer Mark Kegel, of Concord, N.H. for his donation of a Gustav Stickley circa 1903 Thornden Rocking Chair for a raffle drawing at the event. The winner of the chair was Renee Wiles, wife of great-grandson Chris Wiles.
Along with The Gustav Stickley House Foundation, event partners included UNPA, Syracuse University’s School of Design, Mid-Lakes Navigation Company, Dalton’s American Decorative Arts, the Onondaga County Historical Society, Crawford and Stearns Architects and Preservation Planners, Super Apartments, NBT Bank and Environmental Design Research. The foundation would also like to the following area businesses that donated beverages at the event: Freedom of Espresso; Brooklyn Brewery; Last Shot Distillery and Anyela’s Vineyard. Food was provided by the Sherwood Inn.
-Patricia Rycraft O’Toole