November 27, 2021

Author to discuss historic homes featured in book

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Gina Prentiss, right, gives a tour Saturday of the Southworth Homestead to a visitor from New Jersey. Author Chuck D’Imperio will come to Dryden this week to discuss the home, and the 1890 House of Cortland, which were among 35 historic upstate New York homes he researched.

DRYDEN — They were the homes at the center of — and built with — the fortunes of two greater Cortland area entrepreneurs. And they’re part of a book on 35 upstate New York homes and the topic of a presentation Thursday in Dryden.

Author Chuck D’Imperio will visit the Dryden Town Hall to talk about the 1890 House in Cortland and the Southworth Homestead in Dryden. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the event, but capacity is limited to 50 people because of COVID-19 safety precautions.

“Each of the sites Chuck D’Imperio features in his book fit the three ‘standard’ criteria of history museums and historic preservation: age, historical integrity, and significance,” wrote Bob Beatty in the book’s foreword. “They take on additional significance when we consider them as actual homes. It is then that they fulfill a different function, one nearly as important as the first: they matter deeply to us as people.”

D’Imperio’s presentation will take place less than a mile from the Southworth Homestead, a house built in 1836 by John Southworth, who spent 40 years in the house accruing his fortune, much of it in real estate deals and as a mercantiler.

The details

What: Presentation on historic upstate homes
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Dryden Town Hall, Dryden
Featuring: Chuck D’Imperio, author of “Open House: 35 Historic Upstate NY Homes.”

The house remained in the Southworth family following his death, until 2012, when the Dryden Town Historical Society inherited the building from the last Southworth, Sara Rebecca “Becky” Southworth Simpson, after she died at age 92.

“The house, which is owned by the Dryden Town Historical Society, is a showplace of nostalgia,” D’Imperio wrote. “From the early 1800s and the original owners right up to Becky, the last family member to live here, you will see glimpses of the past around every corner.”

Since 2012, the organization has worked to renovate the building without sacrificing too many of its historical elements. Volunteers have learned the Southworth family’s history as well as the village of Dryden’s history, offering guided tours through the house on the first Saturday of each month.

“He called up, and said he was going to be doing this book and it was going to be about historic houses that are lesser known in the Upstate area that are open to the public,” said Gina Prentiss, a tour guide and head of the exhibit committee, who helped D’Imperio with his research. “Then, he just stopped in.”

The volunteers took him on a tour of the house, and followed up with weeks of emails and details.

D’Imperio’s book was published in 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to all open houses and presentations until now.

The historical society reopened to the public earlier this month.

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

The Southworth Homestead, built in 1836, is now home to the Dryden Historical Society.

“We always say to people, it’s just making a date and we’re willing to come in any time and do a tour for you and your family,” Prentiss said. “We all live within a very short space, down the street and within walking distance, so we’re able to just pick it up on a dime.”

The 1890 House, also part of D’Imperio’s book, has a similar history to the Southworth Homestead. Completed in 1889 for $75,000, the 15,000-square foot house was the home of Chester Wickwire, a hardware store owner-turned-industrialist who founded Wickwire Brothers wire works, which by the time of his death in 1910, was the largest employer in Cortland.