The Renovation of 1911
With the current renovation and restoration of PMH wrapping up I thought it might be interesting to consider an earlier project of similar scope that took place over a hundred years ago in the spring of 1911.
When it became clear that PMH could no longer be a suitable location for Yonkers City Hall, Eva Smith Cochrane agreed to donate the sum of $50,000 to the City of Yonkers effectively purchasing the house. Her plan involved turning control of the house over to New York State in 1908, which in turn appointed The American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society to serve as the site custodian. As a part of Mrs. Cochrane’s agreement the house was to undergo a renovation and restoration for which her estate contributed an additional $5,000. Her son Alexander Smith Cochrane also donated $11,500 to the effort which was estimated to cost between $14,000 and $15,000 in total.
By the spring of 1911, the work on the exterior portion of the restoration began and in June the departure of the Yonkers City Clerk from the house meant that the interior work could also begin. Mr. G. Howard Chamberlain who was retained as the project architect was given these instructions, “Prepare plans for the restoration of the building as nearly practicable to its appearance in Colonial times.” A special request emphasized the need to minimize the risk of fires. And in consideration of this concern it was decided that the house coal fired heating apparatus would be located in an adjacent yet to be built caretaker's cottage, which in turn was intended to aesthetically “harmonize with the house”. One year and an additional $2,750 from NYS later-and the work was completed. The house reopened in 1912 as a museum and remained open with some help along the way from dear Friends for most of the next 110 years.
Then as now a great amount of energy and resources were spent to protect and guarantee our history, along with a willingness to utilize state of the art technology in assisting that effort. And while the business of preservation seems always to involve trade offs, the final result will invariably reflect the commitment of those most willing to expend themselves in conserving the past.