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Historical society photo reveals mystery tower

NORTH EAST — If anyone likes a good mystery, it’s those who belong to the North East Historical Society (NEHS). For the society’s members, the unknown is merely a puzzle waiting to be solved, and with the society embracing new ways to reach its fellow sleuths (read: members), uncovering the past is certainly becoming, if anything, more efficient.

Exhibit A: The society’s annual potluck dinner, held on Nov. 13, included a slide show of people and places from Millerton’s past. That sounds innocuous enough, but the sharp eyes of the historical society’s members saw something that didn’t look quite right in a 1917 picture of the E.H. Thompson Hose Company marching in the village’s Labor Day parade. Just what was that tower in the picture’s background?

No one at the meeting knew. That set in motion a series of investigations from historical society members in search of the origins of the building and what it had been used for.

Through the society’s archives, as well as a search through past fire inspection records, a rough timeline was established. The tower appeared to be rising out of the livery stables building, which was located roughly where the Oakhurst Diner is now. That building burned down in 1925, so an end date for the 40-foot tower was established. And a picture from the society’s records from 1907 showed the livery, sans tower, meaning it would have had to have been built later. A 1910 fire insurance map, accessed by member John Hicks, showed the livery, but no tower, and the 1928 edition, post-fire, confirmed there was no longer a livery building in that location.

Through the society’s resident technology expert, Marty Reynolds, an e-mail blast was sent out to all the North East Historical Society’s members. Lo and behold, it struck pay dirt.

An e-mail from Gary Thompson, now living in Denver, included a digital scan of a Millerton postcard from 1920 that offers the clearest photographic evidence of the tower that the society has to date, indicating that between 1910 and 1920 an addition was built onto the livery building that included a tower and porch. It seems there was a store front installed facing out onto Main Street as well, and the name of the shopkeeper, which looks like “Manning,†is visibly etched on the glass of the storefront. It’s not the entire story, but it’s yet another promising clue.

What was the tower used for? To store grain to feed the horses drawing the livery carriages? Who is Manning and at what point did he take over the livery and decide to build an addition?

These questions are the fuel that keeps the North East Historical Society burning. E-mail blasting is working out to be a successful venture for the group, confirmed NEHS President Ralph Fedele, who said it was cost effective and “instantaneous, getting responses from members right away.â€

Do you have more information on Millerton’s mystery tower? Contact the North East Historical Society by phone at 518-789-4619, by e-mail at rdfedele@optonline.net or by mail at PO Box 727, Millerton, NY 12546. And most importantly, happy hunting.

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