100 Years Ago - January 1913
John Smith’s house lives on
John G. Smith will be remembered in Warrensburgh history as the man who first brought electricity to the Queen Village, close to the turn of the 20th century. In 1893 he started building his electric light plant on the shore of the Schroon River in the heart of town and by 1894 the first privileged few were able to partake in a luxury that their forefathers could never have imagined. Not too many years passed before he had an 800-light machine operating and messy kerosene lamps were regulated to the attic as the town luxuriated in the dawn of a new era. Incandescent lamps lighted Warrensburgh village streets. By comparison, it was 1910 before Bolton received electricity.
Modern day explorers
Delbert Chambers, a valued member of the present day Warrensburgh Historical Society, has been exploring the old riverside property off Electric Avenue where John G. Smith had his electric light plant. This property was originally the site of the B.P. Burhans leather tanning mill and today the land is owned by the Warrensburgh Historical Society. Chambers and I puzzled over a historical reference that says, “A new building was erected farther down the river and a flume several hundred feet long was constructed to convey water from the dam to the wheel pit in the new structure.” We don’t know where this was, and any information from readers will be appreciated.
Smith’s dream home endures
As I detailed last week, John G. Smith was determined to build an ideal home for his bride, and the dwelling, at 46 Hudson St., is now a grand, historic landmark.
Present day resident Mike Lawler tells me that Walt Herman, a South Main St. store owner here in the late 1950’s, was once employed with a crew of men building the house. The cellar walls were completed as early as Oct. 1909 by Norman Stone. In 1913 A.L. Mix, the village photographer, had a sign above his shop that read, “You’ll see Mix’s sign above the door, a pleasant, warm retreat, just opposite to John G. Smith’s, north side of Hudson Street.”
Town resident Lenore Smith, related to the Smiths by marriage, told me that the house was originally filled with rare and beautiful furnishings. As reported in last week’s column, among those to next live in the house were Jessie Smith, a relative of John G. Smith, and her husband storekeeper Charles Lavery. Years later, area hotelier Doug Burton purchased the house.
Warrensburg businessman Donald Brooks Stone and his wife Grace were the next owners. I received many phone calls this week from readers and relatives who offered their recollections.
Stone was involved in many business ventures. Warrensburg native Donald Putney said Don Stone built North Gateway Restaurant in North Warrensburg “from the ground up” after a previous enterprise existed there — a small ice cream stand complete with “car hops.” He said that Don’s “truck stop,” which I said last week was located north of town in the 1950s. was actually located next to the Judd Bridge near where Rebecca’s Florist & Country Store now operates.
Sandra LaFond, Don and Grace Stone’s daughter offered other details. After the Don Stone’s death, his wife Grace Baker Stone occupied the home through the 1980’s with the help of Thelma Plumbly and Mary Somerville. They called themselves, “The Golden Girls.” After moving away from the house, Grace Stone, 88, died Dec. 23, 2008 in Warrensburgh.
Detmers acquire 46 Hudson
Jarrod York, grandson of former Warrensburg supervisor Maynard Baker, said that between 1988 and 1996 he worked at 46 Hudson St. for Chris and Eva Detmer as groundskeeper and handyman. Chris Detmers was a partner in Adirondack Studios, a nationally-renowned enterprise, once in Warrensburg but now in Argyle, that designs, builds and installs scenery and interactive environments.
The Detmers extensively rehabilitated the carriage house at 46 Hudson. Jarrod said that Erica Ross Walker later lived in the second-floor apartment in the outbuilding.
Next in home: Sandler & Cooper
The next owners of the John G. Smith house were Raluca Sandler a local dentist and Gary Cooper, a real estate agent/broker and entrepreneur.
Sandler, a Romanian immigrant, had visited Warrensburg in the mid-1980s, I hear, and was charmed by the town. She opened a dental office on Main Street, and her properties were always well-decorated with floral displays. She eventually started her own flower shop, Aloha Florist, next to her dental practice.
Raluca married Cooper and in 2006 they bought the Smith house which had its own heated greenhouse and that renovated carriage house.
Cooper and Sandler added a wrought iron fence to encircle the property, a pool, a circular brick drive and walkways, a fish pond and fountain in the front yard as well as extensive landscaping and lots of flowers. Two impressive iron, life-sized wolf statues stand on the side lawn.
Emigrating to America
Living with the Sandler-Cooper couple in the house was Viorica Dram Dinu, Raluca’s mother, a retired pharmacist. For several years, Mrs. Dinu had a little pastry shop, “Lily’s Place,” in The Pillars complex on Main Street. She was a fabulous cook and pastry chef.
“Lily” was born in Bacau, Romania and became a pharmacist. She and her husband, Dr. Llie Dinu came to the U.S. in 1987 to be close to their daughter and in 1990 they moved to Warrensburgh permanently. They became citizens of the U.S. in 1993 and Dr. Dinu passed away in 1997 after 46 years of marriage.
Lily was a lovely woman who, like her daughter Raluca, loved flowers and was devoted to her family, friends (whom she also called “The Golden Girls,”) and her beloved husky, “Zabar.” She has a son, Eng. Zaharia Dinu, who lives with his wife, Monica in Lake George. They have a daughter, Aileen Dinu. There is a street bearing the Dinu name near Echo Lake. Viorica “Lily” Dinu died Nov. 27, 2012 and is buried in the Warrensburgh Cemetery.
Ghost-hunter visits Smith house
David Pitkin was a well-known retired teacher, having taught for 36 years. He was born in 1939 in Corinth and lived most recently in Chestertown. He was a writer, historian and ghost researcher who published eight books on the topic of haunted houses. Pitkin enjoyed tales about ghosts, and he told me he believed in them.
He told me he had in recent years been at the grand house at 46 Hudson, and he experienced a vision of a woman “perhaps smiling wanly,” peering at him from the round-top window at attic level. He wrote, “She seemed to deliberately pull a wide-brimmed hat down onto her head, as if to make a fashion statement of some kind.” He said she wore “trendy World War I style clothes.” David Pitkin died Feb. 13 in Chestertown.
Old-time Chestertown writer and poet, Jeanne Robert Foster wrote in her poem, The Dancing Man, ”You take a chance up here in the mountains moving into an old house — Sometimes folks who lived there don’t want to leave it even though they aren’t on earth anymore.”
Readers are welcome to contact Adirondack Journal correspondent Jean Hadden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-2210.