WATERTOWN – A “world-class” exhibit, “Hungerford’s A $ hes,” first announced nearly two years ago, is still on track for display at the Jefferson County Historical Society, although delays caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic and building issues at the society’s headquarters have caused scheduling hiccups.
Andre J. Hungerford, an attorney based in Portland, Maine, drove overnight to arrive in Watertown in the early morning hours of Thursday, April 21, accompanied by his 21-month-old son, Preston James Hawk Hungerford. A likeness of Preston was featured in a Sept. 13, 2020, 14-by-9½ birth announcement in the Watertown Daily Times. The announcement, drawn by DC Comics artist Adrea R. Mutti, had Gothic undertones.
The birth announcement also hinted about the exhibit focusing on the life and times of Orville Hungerford, 1790-1851, a Watertown pioneer, businessman and philanthropist. He was a two-term United States Representative for the 19th District in New York, and a prominent local merchant, banker, industrialist, Freemason and railroad president, who, with the help of his wife, Betsey, envisioned the Watertown & Rome Railroad and raised money to make it happen. Orville’s railroad plan was audacious, envisioned only a few years after railroads were established in the US
The Hungerford mausoleum is at Brookside Cemetery.
The Hungerford world tree comprises tens of thousands of individuals who lived (or are living) in the US, England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.
Mr. Hungerford, a family member representing the exhibit, was in Watertown to attend the April 21 evening meeting of the board of directors of the Jefferson County Historical Society. A few hours before it, he, along with son Preston and society board president Stephen B. Bolton stopped by the offices of the Watertown Daily Times.
“It’s like a small army of people putting it together,” he said. Hungerford said of the exhibit. “But we need to finally do it. We’ve tried to put together a world-class team. ”
Mr. Hungerford was asked if the delays in getting the exhibit off the ground has resulted in any frustrations for him.
“Here’s the thing,” Mr. Hungerford said. “It took Orville Hungerford from 1832 to 1851 to raise over one million dollars for the Watertown & Rome Railroad. He went through a lot of ups and downs. ”
“So, actually no,” Mr. Hungerford said of any personal frustrations. “I use him as the inspiration. Eventually, we’re going to have the exhibit. Eventually COVID will calm down. Eventually the roof will be repaired. ”
The “Ashes” in the name of the exhibit refers to potash, and which led to a path of wealth for Orville Hungerford. He came to Jefferson County from Farmingham, (now Bristol) Conn., In 1804 at 14 years of age with his father, Timothy, and family. They farmed land on the northeast slope of Dry Hill.
Timothy, a pioneer, couldn’t afford to send Orville to college. Shortly after arriving here, Orville began working as a clerk at a general store in Burrville owned by his brother-in-law, (husband of sister Hannah) Jabez Foster. A few years later, the store would move to Watertown.
While Orville watched over the store, Mr. Foster made regular trips to Albany, and once there, began a week-long trek to Manhattan via sloop and other means to purchase supplies, which he brought back to his store.
The pair, Mr. Hungerford said, specialized in potash in their early days. Local farmers would bring them ash from wood fires. They operated an “ashery,” which turned the ashes into potash, a potassium compound used in agriculture and industry. The material was transported to Albany and New York City. The trips, made before the Erie Canal were completed in 1825, were arduous. By the age of 22, Orville Hungerford had become a very wealthy man for Watertown.
A roof replacement project at the Jefferson County Historical Society, 228 Washington St., the Paddock Mansion, began last year from funds received from grants and fundraising. A separate project, funded by Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds, targeted the installation of an elevator, interactive exhibits and HVAC updates at the building.
Mr. Bolton said the roof, made of steel, was supposed to be completed last summer.
“We had a couple major leaks caused by roof construction,” he said. Bolton said. “That has to be repaired. Hopefully, that will get done this summer. Everything keeps getting backed off. First, there was the pandemic of course. And we had problems with the roofer’s schedule last summer, which delayed things, which delayed the elevator. ”
Looking forward to later in the year, Mr. Bolton said, “The roof should be straightened out and the elevator will be done. The interior work will hopefully be done this summer. ”
The “interior work” involves damage caused by a leaking roof that happened during construction.
“There’s wall work to be done, the ceilings and floor work to be done,” Mr. Bolton said.
That work, Mr. Bolton said, will be covered by the contractor’s insurance. The roofing contractor is Monahan & Loughlin, LLC, Hudson Falls, Washington County.
“We just came to a settlement with them to cover the cost,” he said.
comic theme returns
“Hungerford’s A $ hes” is now scheduled for later this year or for sometime in 2023.
A few months ago, an eight-page exhibit prospectus was published. It’s in comic book style with Mr. Mutti its artist. Its production designer was Tom Napolitano, a comic book producer and letterer for DC Comics.
The inspiration for the “Hungerford’s A $ hes” prospectus was the 1994 annual shareholders report by Marvel Comics, also done in comic style. A subtitle of the upcoming exhibit is “Using Comic Art to Make History Come Alive.”
“We wanted to do something totally unusual,” he said. Hungerford said. “This is all original artwork. The New York State Museum gave us some examples of what a museum prospectus looks like. ”
The comic book telling Orville’s story, to be released in association with the exhibit, will be 22 pages. It will be based, in part, on Edward Hungerford’s 1922 book, “The Story of the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburgh Railroad.” The book was serialized at the time in the Watertown Daily Times.
The 22 pages in the comic book will be enlarged and printed on aluminum to help tell Orville’s story for exhibit visitors. The 34-inch-by-23-inch prints will have a gold-color frame around them. The work is being done, Mr. Hungerford said, by Duggal Visual Solutions headquartered in Brooklyn. The company provides graphics and digital displays for the world’s most recognized brands and museums.
Mr. Hungerford hopes that the comic book theme will help to attract younger visitors to the exhibit.
“By using sequential art, we can tell someone’s life story in 22 pages, and your mind fills in the gap,” he said. “Pages one and two can be 10 years apart, but your mind does this wonderful thing of filling in the blanks.”
Large portraits of Orville and his wife, with 3-D effects, are also being produced by Duggal Visual Solutions. There will also be items at the exhibit owned by Orville and passed down to family.
“A cousin has his desk,” Mr. Hungerford said. ‘Another cousin has his china. We have his cane. ”
There are also portraits galore of the family from two centuries back, including those of several women in the clan.
“What’s interesting is that we know what the males and females looked like, which is unusual,” Mr. Hungerford said. “Females have been written out of everyone’s history. One of the fortunate things is that we know what Orville’s wife, Betsey, looked like, and what his brother Dexter’s wife looked like. ”
The 22-page comic book will also feature prominent women in the family.
The exhibit will have an overall theme of money. The origin of the name Orville goes back to English author Fanny Burney, who is believed to have used it for the first time in her novel, “Evelina.” In French, it can be translated into “golden city.” “Orville’s name implies gold,” Mr. Hungerford said. “Everything he touched turned to gold. If you forget his political career and everything else, he made money. ”
Many of Orville’s letters have also been preserved.
“I think what’s unusual is that a lot of people don’t have like family letters, photographs, portraits from 150 to 200 years ago, because it’s considered ephemera,” Mr. Hungerford said. “People throw it away. But we have a good chunk of his stuff. ”
Orville Hungerford is his great uncle x4.
Mr. Hungerford said the exhibit will also feature bank notes signed by Orville and an actual $ 10 proof of a bank note from 1836 the family purchased. One proof will be enlarged super-sized by Duggal Visual Solutions for display at the exhibit. That project alone, Mr. Hungerford said, is costing about $ 4,400. Production of the 22-page comic book is running about $ 30,000, not including the printing, Mr. Hungerford said.
Ware Petznick, former executive director of the Shaker Historical Society in Shaker Heights, Ohio, is a curator for the exhibit. She knows Mr. Hungerford through their mutual association with the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Both are graduates of the university.
“I’m delighted to know that the historical society is committed to moving forward,” Ms. Petznick wrote in an email. “COVID has delayed plans, but I’m definitely still on board to tell the fascinating story of Orville Hungerford.”
exhibit likely in 2023
Toni L. Engleman, executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Society, said on Monday that the date of the “Hungerford’s A $ hes” exhibit is “fluid” and that the board of directors reaffirmed its commitment to it at its April 21 meeting.
“We know we’re going to do it, we just don’t know when,” she said. “It’ll probably be pushed into next year. If weather agrees and construction goes faster than we thought, it could possibly be this year, but that might be pushing it. ”
The work on the elevator at the society is progressing nicely, Ms. Engleman said.
“We had to clear out every room the elevator was touching,” she said. “Anything in those rooms is now in hallways and in exhibit rooms.”
Ms. Engleman said a worker is scheduled to arrive in early May to work on the interior damage caused by the leaking roof during construction. Water damage occurred on three floors.
Hopefully, all work could be completed by the end of August, Ms. Engleman said. It will then be assessed as to when the facility will re-open to the public.
“It’s just depending on how long it takes us to get things back together,” she said.
n WHAT: Exhibit honoring the life and times of Orville Hungerford, 1790-1851, a Watertown pioneer, philanthropist and businessman.
n WHERE: The Jefferson County Historical Society’s Paddock Mansion, 228 Washington St., Watertown.
n WHEN: Sometime following a construction project at the mansion. “It’ll probably be pushed into next year,” said society executive director Toni L. Engleman.
n MORE INFO / INQUIRIES: Write to Richard W. Hungerford Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.