Goodsell Museum
P. O. Box 513, Old Forge, NY 13420 ~ Phone/Fax: 315 369-3838
Museum Hours:  Tuesday through Saturday - 10am - 3pm  ~  or by appointment

A Tribute to George & Jennie Goodsell

Pioneer Settlers of the Old Forge, NY Region
On April 12, 2006, The George Goodsell Home, Ice House & Carriage Barn on Main St. in Old Forge, NY,
the location of the Town of Webb Historical Association since 1995, were listed on the National Register of Historic Places recognizing persons who made significant contributions to our historic past, and because of the  property's distinctive characteristics of a type, period, and method of construction, representing the work of a master craftsman with high artistic values.

The Goodsell Story follows taken from the report that was prepared for the State and National Register nominations by three Association Members, Ed Girtler, Reed Proper, and Town of Webb Historian Peg Masters.  

Narrative Description

George Goodsell was the builder of the Main St. residence known today as the Goodsell Memorial Home, owned by the Town of Webb Historical Association (TOWHA) since 1995. George acquired Lot #22 in 1899 for $200 from the Old Forge Company. The deed described the lot as having 60' frontage on what was then Harrison Avenue, and it extended 158' to the rear along the west side of Gilbert Street. The nominated property includes the family residence that was built on this property during 1899-1900, and two contributing buildings. In 1902, George acquired a second parcel from the Old Forge Company adjoining the rear of his residential property, identified as Lot #7 on the west side of Gilbert St. for $175. The lot was described as 60' in width and 175' deep. On this lot, George built a carriage barn ca. 1904. A small ice house between the residence and the carriage barn completes the three structures on the nearly one-half acre nominated property. The surrounding neighborhood generally consists of early 20th century residential properties similar in scale to the Goodsell Home, although some have been converted to commercial businesses and have experienced compromising alterations to their historic integrity.


Vintage GoodsellThe principal historic feature of the nominated property is the Goodsell residence, a two-story, gable-fronted Victorian vernacular frame dwelling with a gabled ell extension on the east side of the building. The house rests on a hand-dug rubble stone foundation and the steep roof, built to shed heavy snowfall, is presently covered by asphalt shingles installed during renovation in 1995-1996. The original wood shingles (still visible in the attic) were replaced by asphalt after an upper story fire in the building. A standing-seam metal roof covers the one-story front and side porches.

The owner/building contractor, George Goodsell, subsequently enlarged the home with a one-story dirt-floor "summer kitchen-woodshed" - a 22' x 14' extension on the back of the building. The interior of this room was converted to a research room in 2004 by TOWHA with SHPO approval (##04-PR-008-01) via a matching $20,000 Legislative Initiative Fund grant from NYS Senator James Seward. George Goodsell situated the residence 20 feet from the roadway (which it retains) in accordance with a setback restriction in the Old Forge Company's deed. The building also hugs the western edge of the property, allowing for a maximum south-facing exposure to sunlight during the long winter months. The setbacks give the property today an unusually large lawn space. All of the windows, including a bay window in the dining room, date to the George Goodsell period except for the Main Street picture window, replaced in 1995 with thermopane. Two giant oak trees shade the front lawn on Main Street and an impressive row of mature trees enhance the landscape on the Gilbert Street side of the property. The one-story open porch, with its decorative spindled railing, wraps completely around the Main Street fašade and partway along the Gilbert Street exposure.

The floor plan of the residence retains virtually complete integrity to its appearance in 1899. One senses an era of by-gone days walking up onto the Goodsell's front porch and stepping into the entry hall through a solid oak door. The focal point of the entry hall is an elegant oak staircase that arches upward to the second floor. Narrow bead-board wainscot and vintage lighting add to the historic feel of the building. The two parlor rooms on the left of the first floor, currently exhibit rooms, and the dining room decorated with Goodsell furniture, are entered by doorways framed with original oak moldings. The hardwood floors were refurbished during the renovations of 1995. The lathe and plaster walls were removed and replaced by sheetrock, simply painted off-white to enhance the vintage millwork. George Goodsell's small office has been converted to an office for the TOWHA Director, and the kitchen area renovated as additional space for a staff office. A small pantry off the kitchen was converted to a first floor bathroom for staff and museum visitors during the 1995 renovation. A built-in double-sided cabinet between the kitchen and the dining room remains.2005 Goodsell Home and Museum for TOWHA

George Goodsell's office desk, safe, portrait, and a quantity of Goodsell household furniture, memorabilia, photographs and personal correspondence are on display or in storage in the Historical's archives.

The integrity of the second floor floorplan remains intact. Three of the five rooms are used for exhibit space. Two back rooms, one a former bathroom, is used to store museum artifacts and other archival materials. A staircase with a pulley-weighted door leads to the unfinished attic space. Off the first floor dining room is the stairway to the basement. The George Goodsell family heated the house with a coal-burning furnace - the coal box remains in the basement. Wrought-iron heat registers throughout the house still served the modern oil-burning furnace.

The Goodsell home bears some similarity to the George Deis home on Main Street, designed by Deis's son and architect Levi Deis. No architectural plans for the nominated buildings have survived. The Goodsells bought quantities of millwork from the Deis & Son Mill two miles south of Old Forge. The Goodsell property was left to George's four children following his death in 1924. The property was conveyed to daughter Tena and son Robert Goodsell by their siblings, Thomas and Gerald in 1926, and from Tena to Robert Goodsell following her death in January of 1982. The pioneer Goodsell family was sole owner of the property for nearly 100 years until Robert's death August 6, 1994 when it was conveyed to the TOWHA in accordance to his last will and testament.

Historical Significance: Contributing Structure: The Ice House

The icehouse is a 12' x 12' square structure and 11' 7" high. It is sided with beveled-clapboard and has an asphalt-shingled hip roof. The building rests on the ground and has a dirt floor. The interior studs are covered with horizontal planks with an open- space below the roofline to pour in sawdust, which was used to insulate the walls to keep the ice blocks from melting. This is a typical period icehouse and is the only known one left in the hamlet of Old Forge. Ice-harvesting was an essential source of winter income for our founding fathers, not just for their own families, but for the region's seasonal hotels, camp owners, and the New York Central Railroad that purchased boxloads of local ice for the railroad and its customers downstate.

Historical Significance: Contributing Structure: The Carriage Barn

Rear of Goodsell Home-Carriage BarnThe two-story carriage barn is 24' wide, 36' deep and 26' high. It stands on a one and one-half foot thick rubble stone foundation. The structure is of balloon construction with 2" x 4" studs covered by ship-lapped siding on the exterior. The roof is a jerkin-head (hip on gable) with a hip on gable dormer on the south side only. The original sliding front doors were replaced at some point with a standard garage-type door. All of the wavy-glassed double-hung windows with diamond-shaped trim in the upper panes date to the 1904 period. The building was rewired in 2001 but knob and tube electrical wiring remains throughout the structure. Above the front entrance door is the top-hinged wooden doorway to the second floor hayloft. George Goodsell depended upon horse and wagon transportation to remote wilderness construction sites even as late as 1915-1916. A horse stall in the northwest corner of the carriage barn currently houses many of the tools used by George and Robert Goodsell in their construction business. The family owned a car by 1918, noted in a letter written by Robert from France during World War I, although his father had not mastered the art of driving it. The ice house and carriage barn are currently Town of Webb Historical works in progress and are primary used for storage.


    Narrative Statement of Significance

    The George Goodsell residence qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places under criteria B & C. George Goodsell earned his reputation as a trusted sportsmen's guide in the 1880s - 1890s by his pioneer exploration of the region and his expert woodland survival skills. With the formation of the Adirondack League Club (ALC) in 1890 and the coming of the Mohawk & Malone railroad in 1892, year-round employment spurred the development of the Old Forge region. George soon became one of the most sought out building contractors, especially for the great camp complexes in the Adirondack League Club. From 1902 to the 1920s, he was the principal building contractor for architect Augustus D. Shepard who designed most of the prestigious ALC lakeside retreats during this period. As a well-respected member of the fledgling community, George Goodsell served as the first mayor of the village of Old Forge, incorporated in 1903. His residence, the nominated property, is an understatement of the master craftsman skills he acquired, but it was a stately, prominent home for its time in the hamlet of Old Forge.

    Historical Significance: George Goodsell - Adirondack Guide & Pioneer


    George Goodsell was born in February 1859 on a farm in North Western near Rome, NY, the son of GermanGeorge Goodsell, 2nd from left backrow, guide for the Dodd Party immigrants. As a young man, before Dr. Wm. Seward Webb's railroad reached the Fulton Chain in 1892, George operated a stagecoach business from Boonville in neighboring Oneida County through the wilderness to the Old Forge region. In Boonville, he met and married Jennie Clark. Three of their four children were born in Oneida County between 1888 and 1894. During this time, George became an excellent Adirondack woodsman and became a guide for wealthy sportsmen. In 1892, he purchased a parcel of land between Third and Fourth Lakes in the Fulton Chain from the estate of A. G. Buel to use as a hunting camp to shelter clients. Guiding was a seasonal occupation. George, a skilled carpenter, supplemented his income in the 1890s by working as a building contractor in the off-season. According to the 1900 Federal Census, the family was living in their new home on Harrison Avenue (Main St.) in Old Forge. Their fourth child, Gerald, was born in the nominated residence in February of 1901.

    George was a charter member of the newly formed Brown's Tract Guide Association, a stalwart group of local men who organized to petition the NYS Legislature for stricter game laws and for greater protection of wildlife habit which was under constant threat of forest fires caused by the steam locomotives. George was elected the first mayor of the village of Old Forge in 1903 and built the hamlet's first fire station ca. 1908 with meeting rooms above for the village board.

    Historical Significance: George Goodsell - A Premier Building Contractor of Adirondack Retreats

    George Goodsell was an extraordinary craftsman and building contractor in the Old Forge region, and many of his exclusive projects have survived and are tucked away beyond public view in private woodland retreats.

    Fourth Lake House built by Geo. Goodsell ca. 1894Ca. 1894, he built the impressive four-story Fourth Lake House for Charles & Ella Holliday next to his own Fourth Lake property. In the 1890s, he built a camp on First Lake for a sportsman client Samuel Dodd. During the first two decades of the 20th Century, George worked steadily as the principal building contractor for Adirondack League Club (ALC) member and architect Augustus D. Shepard. The exclusive sportsmen's club formed in 1890 and remains one of the largest private preserves (53,000 acres) in the Adirondacks today. New York City based Shepard is described in the ALC's 100th Anniversary publication as an architect who embraced the Arts and Crafts Movement and who's designs "celebrated the nature of wood, as well as stone and iron."Architect Augustus Shepard

    Many of the artistic lakeside camps, rustic boathouses, bungalows, teahouses, and gazabos designed by Shepard and built by George Goodsell are documented in Shepard's book, "Camps in the Woods" published by Architectural Book Publishing Co., of New York in 1931. Among these were the John U. Fraley chateausque camp in 1902, the Edmund Hayes commodious log cottage in 1903, the Riker camp in 1916, and the Cowles Camp in 1917. The Fraley camp was described in a New York Times article as an elaborate cottage of sixteen rooms, rustic furniture from the forests, but equipped with a billiard room, baths, and gaslights. Further testimony to George Goodsell's reputation as one of the best building contractors in the region is the extant "Brown Gables" camp that he constructed in 1910 on Big Moose Lake. The cottage was built for Manhattanite Clarence Kelsey and designed by Max Weshoff of the noted Saranac Lake firm of Coulter and Westhoff.1917 Cowles-Allen Boathouse built by George Goodsell

    George's stately, yet conservative Victorian family residence in Old Forge served as a year-round place to meet with clients in the office he created for himself on the first floor. Tragedy struck the Goodsell family in April of 1908 with the death of George's thirty-eight year old wife Jennie. The grieving father was left to raise their four children and he never remarried.

    World War I brought an austere halt to the construction boom of early 20th Century in Old Forge and the other resort communities along the Fulton Chain. Two of the three lumber mills closed for lack of able-bodied workers who had gone off to the war. George's oldest son Thomas was drafted and spent time in a Washington, DC hospital recovering from the 1918 flu epidemic. Son Robert Goodsell enlisted in the service in 1917 and was shipped to France. From his correspondence to his father, we learn that George still worked steadily as a game warden, caretaker or building camps for the more affluent members of the Adirondack League Club.

    Robert Goodsell joined his father George in the construction business when he came home from the war and, like his father, guided sportsmen into the woods to hunt and fish. When George Goodsell died December 1st, 1924, Robert was at his bedside in the family home. Although a handsome and personable lad, popular with his classmates, Robert never married. He lived in the family's Main Street home, cared for his sister Tena until her death and survived all of his siblings. He spent many years working as a trusted caretaker for wealthy camp owners and gained notoriety in the 1940s piloting a popular movie actress in a guide boat up the Fulton Chain of Lakes to Saranac Lake. The story was featured in a Look Magazine article in June of 1942. He was an active member of the local American Legion and the Old Forge Fire Department, and reached his 100th birthday in January of 1994. Having personally witnessed his community's first one hundred years of existence, and proud of the Goodsell family's role in its development, Robert generously willed the family home to the Town of Webb Historical Association upon his death in August of 1994. In his will, he requested it be named the "Goodsell Memorial Home" in honor of his beloved father.

    The Goodsell Memorial Home is more than just a representative residence in the Old Forge hamlet that was built during the height of the late 19th Century growth of the community. It stands as a tribute to the rugged, pioneering spirit of the founding fathers, such as George Goodsell, who carved out a living in our harsh, often forbidding climate. Behind all the more famous stories of the Adirondack Great Camps of the industrial tycoons of the Gilded Age are the stories of the skilled local woodsmen, carpenters, and caretakers who built and maintain these elaborate mountain retreats. The George Goodsell residence, under the stewardship of the Town of Webb Historical Association, is a tangent symbol of this community's rich heritage and thus an important part of our own unique Adirondack story.

    1916 George Goodsell building the Riker Camp at ALC

    George Goodsell (center) building the Riker Camp at the Adirondack League Club

    9. Major Bibliographical References


    New York Times, "Rocky Point Happenings," July 20, 1902, p. 26

    Shepard, Augustus D. "Camps in the Woods," New York; Architectural Book Publishing, Inc. 1931.

    Grady, Joseph F. "The Adirondacks: Fulton Chain-Big Moose Region, The Story of a Wilderness" Little Falls, NY; 1933

    Look Magazine, "Jinx Falkenburg Takes A Canoe Trip," Vol. 6, No. 17, August 25, 1942

    The Adirondack League Club, 1890-1990," Brodock Press, Inc., Utica, NY, 1990; (1250 First Edition copies), Forward by Thad Collum, President of ALC in 1990.

    Barlow, Jane (Editor), "Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks," Big Moose Lake History Project/Syracuse University Press, published 2004, p. 165 (Soft Cover edition).

    Tax records for Town of Wilmurt/Webb; Goodsell property deeds; Federal Census records for Goodsell family; Goodsell Correspondence & photos, all on file at the Town of Webb Historical Association (TOWHA).

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Information provided is from the best knows sources and is subject to change. These records are provided for not-for-profit research purposes only. Permission to copy any or all of this document must be obtained in writing by contacting
 the Town of Webb Historical Association, P. O. Box 513, Old Forge, NY 13420

Please contact the Historical Association’s Director at 315-369-3838 or by Email to share additional information that can be added to our files.

Last Updated: March 7, 2015