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Hull House Foundation Formed by Gary N. Costello

posted Apr 23, 2012, 11:04 AM by Pamela Davison   [ updated Apr 23, 2012, 11:09 AM ]

The Patriot, Volume 1, Issue 1 – September 2007

The c. 1810 Hull House, the oldest stone house in Erie County, has a new identity and a new lease on life.  On December 5, 2006 several years of effort were rewarded with the granting of a provisional charter by the Board of Regents of the State University of New York of the Department of Education, thus creating the Hull House Foundation.  This was achieved through the diligence and unwavering commitment of a small group of Hull House devotees, formed some five years ago, engendered by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier.

This group, made up of Landmark Society Trustees, concerned citizens and several Hull descendants, took on the task of planning, fund raising and recruiting other interested parties into the ranks.  Since its formation, known then as the Hull House Committee, their ranks have swelled, and they have succeeded in generating over one million dollars in funding for the project - a giant step towards the estimated total price tag of four million dollars. They have also acquired more than ten additional acres of adjoining land, including the Civil War era barn, and the family cemetery. In addition they have embarked on a campaign of restoration of the house that has begun to reverse several decades of deterioration and to transform the historic home back to its original early nineteenth century appearance.  Evidence of this transformation can be easily seen by passers-by in the new cedar shingled roof, four rebuilt brick chimneys, stone parapet end-walls, and the beautiful federal style oval attic windows.

While the Landmark Society acquired the house in 1993, placing it into a kind of ‘protective custody’, a long period of uncertainty ensued during which little progress was made toward its restoration or the development of a plan for its eventual use. The house was quickly approved, however, for listing on both the National and the State Register of Historic Places.

All of that has now changed.  A plan has been put forth by the Hull House Foundation to develop the house and grounds as a heritage destination that will attract local, regional and other visitors from across the state. This will be the one site in Erie County that will focus on the presentation and interpretation of life as it was on the Niagara Frontier in the opening years of the nineteenth century – and to do so from the authentic site.  School children and visitors to the Hull Family Home & Farmstead, as it will be called, will walk on the grounds and stand in the home just as did Revolutionary War veteran Warren Hull and his family.

Work will begin this summer on the long awaited restoration of the interior of the home – including the six remaining fireplaces and the rebuilding of the seventh – believed missing since the 1940’s.  Also slated for eventual return are the appropriate out buildings that would have typically served a large farmstead of the early 1800’s.  The Hulls owned over 340 acres on which they grew crops of wheat, corn and barley.  The farm quite likely would have included a barn, milk house, smoke house, well, privy, and other assorted structures.  A full archaeological survey has been initiated to aid in this study.  Every effort will be made to accurately depict the culture and lifestyle of those who settled on what was then the frontier.  Once completed, trained docents dressed in the appropriate garb of the era will lead visitors on guided tours.

Several million dollars in additional funding is yet to be raised, and several years of work remain in order to complete all phases of the project.  A large share of that cost will go to creating a state-of-the-art visitors/education center for the Hull Family Home & Farmstead, which will include an exhibit area, meeting room, class room, archives, gift shop, service kitchen, administrative office, and lavatory.  Returning this priceless historic resource to the public for its enjoyment and edification is the paramount goal of the Hull House Foundation.  This will be accomplished through a variety of opportunities for the public.  School field trips, immersion weekends, special events, a lecture series, seminars, and theme weekends are all in the planning.  Much remains to be done.  It is hoped that many more interested area residents will come forward to assist – for there exists ample opportunity as the Hull House Foundation strives to ‘Relight the Past!’