"Ormonde", George R. Preston Summer House
Cazenovia, NY
1885

In 1885, Frank Furness designed “Ormonde” for his client, banker George R. Preston, for whom he had previously designed a city residence at 2135 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.


From the National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Ormonde, by Kathleen LaFrank and James Warren:

"Ormonde, the original George R. Preston estate, composed of a large Shingle and Colonial Revival style residence (1885) within an earlier nineteenth century farmhouse wing and a boathouse, is located on the west side of East Lake Road, approximately one and one-half miles north of the village of Cazenovia on the east shore of Cazenovia Lake. Cazenovia, in Madison County, New York, is located at the southeast end of Cazenovia Lake. Approximately twenty miles to the southeast of the city of Syracuse…”

"Ormonde and its boathouse occupy a 2.39-acre lakeside lot (two adjacent parcels), the central portion of an original 300-acre estate, enlarged in 1909 to 400 acres. In 1959 most sections of the estate were subdivided and developed; a large carriage house located north of the residence was demolished, as were a tool house and ice house, whose locations are unknown…"

"The main house at Ormonde is a two and one-half story, wood-frame dwelling erected on a dressed granite foundation and oriented north-south. The residence incorporates an early nineteenth century, two-story, gable-roofed, wood-frames farmhouse at the south end of the enlarged structure. The farmhouse block, which projects slightly from the facade of the estate residence, was joined to the newer mass at the farmhouse’s north facade. The farmhouse portion, five bays wide, rests on a stone foundation, is sheathed with wood shingles and features a cross gable over the principal east entry and diagonal Stick Style rafters under the eaves. On the east elevation there is a three-bay, Colonial Revival style, flat-roofed porch with Tuscan columns, pilasters and an entablature. The sash on the first floor is six-over-six and double-hung, while that on the second story is paired. The south elevation has a large, enclosed first-story porch and, on the second story, a hipped-roof open porch that covers a bay window. The west elevation features the continuation of the wrap-around porch seen on the south, and it has a shed-roofed sleeping porch that projects from the second story. The attached farmhouse is maintained as a separate dwelling unit. Its interior is less lavish than the main portion of the house, with oak floors, simple wood mouldings around doors and sash and an interior plan that has not been severely altered. However, the integrity of the original farmhouse has been compromised because it has been so significantly dwarfed by the main residential mass.

"The result of merging the farmhouse with the newer section (1885) is a large, thirty-five room, picturesque residence with horizontal massing. Its walls are sheathed with wooden, dark-stained shingles and it is covered by an asphalt shingle roof characterized by multiple planes. Pent roofs, cross gables and dormers intersect the roof at a variety of angles, and four tall chimneys - two of brick and two of coursed granite with brick caps - provide vertical contrast to the sprawling horizontal mass. The broadly projecting eaves are supported by exaggerated scroll brackets. On the east elevation, the newer section features an arched entrance portico supported by stone piers. The west elevation, which faces the lake, is characterized by a main entrance near the center (emphasized by paired Tuscan columns that support a shed roof) and a one-story open porch at the north west, defined by Tuscan columns and topped by an open deck with a finely tuned, sheath-of-wheat pattern balustrade. A large polygonal bay window projects onto the deck over the open porch. The fenestration is primarily single or multiple casement windows with large, diamond-shaped panes.

"The richly finished interior of the newer section retains a remarkably high degree of integrity. Most original room configurations survive and there is a profusion of decorative detailing, such as ornate mantelpieces, high paneled wainscoting, ornamental plasterwork, turned balustrades and original brass hardware. The most lavishly detailed room is the south parlor, which has an oak floor, walnut paneling on all four walls, English Gothic style plaster tracery with raised floral motifs on the ceiling, and a floor-to-ceiling Renaissance Revival style mantelpieces with a plaster fireplace insert. The front entry is distinguished by a ceramic tile floor and an elaborate staircase characterized by finely turned balusters and Eastlake style newel posts. To the north of the entry is a formal dining room, characterized by an oak floor, exposed wooden rafters on the ceiling and a painted wood mantelpieces with a marble insert. A pantry, back stairs, and kitchen are located north of the dining room on the first floor. Most living quarters are on the second story.

"Although there have been several alterations to the interior and exterior of the estate house, its integrity remains high. The only major alteration to the property was that associated with the merger of the farmhouse with the mainhouse in 1885. Ten years later, George Preston brought a team of plumbers from New York City to install steam heat and a gas lighting plant for the main residence. Between 1918 and 1920, under the direction of F. Burrall Hoffman, portions of the interior of the house were changed. A white, ceramic tile wainscoting was added to the main kitchen and a portion of the northwest porch was enclosed to create an additional room. Between the late 1940s and 1970 there were two changes made to the west elevation: a first-story, shed roofed dormer was inserted between the main entrance and the open porch to the north and a shed-roofed, enclosed sleeping porch was removed. This was located south of the main entrance, where an open deck is now visible. In 1970, a large, one-story shingled garage was added to the north facade. The most significant changes to the property occurred after 1959, when the carriage house, tool house and ice house were demolished."

"Ormonde is architecturally and historically significant as an outstanding early example of the type of large mansions constructed chiefly as summer residences by wealthy clients in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries near the shores of Cazenovia Lake, in the town of Cazenovia, Madison County, New York. Ormonde is significant as an eclectic example of residential design by the renowned Philadelphia-based architect Frank Furness (1839-1912). Furness’s trademark was a playful, artistic distortion of commonly employed architectural elements, an idiom used most notably at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia (1871-1876). The recent attribution of Ormonde to Furness is supported stylistically by the use of oversized scroll brackets on the main house and boathouse. Features such as these, of unexpected scale and placement, are hallmarks of Furness’s style. Ormonde is one of only a few of the Furness-designed buildings not located in the Philadelphia region, although the link to Philadelphia was clear by virtue of George Preston, the Philadelphia client who commissioned the work. Historically, Ormonde is significant in recalling an important period in the history of the area. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (c1880-c1930) in central New York, one of the dominant themes in local economic and development  history was the transition of many picturesque lakeshore communities from agricultural villages to resort communities. As Cazenovia became more accessible to larger cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh by virtue of expanding rail service in the 1870s, the town became popular as a resort area for the well-to-do. By the early 1880s many clients who live most of the year in urban settings began to hire architects to design large rural "cottages" using the fashionable Shingle Style or elements from the early American Colonial period. Such cottages allowed for open plans, formal entertainment spaces, separate servants’ quarters and a variety of porches and roof forms, all wrapped within a continuous surface of wood shingle. Ormonde exemplifies the adoption  of this tendency in a prospering, rural, central New York community. Designed in 1885 and completed in 1888, Ormonde was one of the first three large estates erected on the east shore of Cazenovia Lake, the other two being Cedar Grove (begun in 1884) and Notleymere (begun in 1885). Originally 300 acres, the estate was enlarged to over 400 acres in 1909, and between 1918 and 1920, extensive interior renovations were made to the main residence. These changes further indicate the importance of the estate during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although many mansions were erected in Cazenovia by 1928, the economic effects of the Depression then halted the construction of large-scale summer resorts in the area. Ormonde and its contributing boathouse reflect the emergence of Cazenovia as a popular summer resort community and illustrate the informal, eclectic estate architecture that developed in the town in the late nineteenth century. Although the extensive acreage of the original estate is no longer intact, the estate’s two surviving buildings retain a high level of integrity and well represent the late-nineteenth century estate architecture of Cazenovia.

"A complete history of Ormonde should probably begin with George R. Preston, who commissioned the estate’s construction. Preston, who began to summer in Cazenovia in the early 1880s, also maintained residences in Philadelphia and New Orleans. He had been president of the Hibernia National Bank of New Orleans, and he moved to Philadelphia during the early 1880s. In 1884 Preston commissioned the famous Philadelphia architect Frank Furness to design a Philadelphia residence for him at 2135 Walnut Street; this was completed in the summer of 1885 (now demolished). It is likely that during 1884 Preston and his wife began to consider building a summer retreat along the shores of Cazenovia Lake. The sister of Preston’s wife, Mrs. Joseph D. Peet, was one of the clients responsible for the first stately residence on Cazenovia Lake’s eastern shore, Cedar Cove, and it is possible that in 1884 Peet helped convince the Prestons to purchase 300 acres from the Chapel and Haight farms, located to the north of Cedar Cove.

"Frank Furness also figured significantly in the early history of Ormonde. In 1885, when Furness designed Ormonde and Preston’s Walnut Street residence, he had just completed a five year period of designing approximately 125 buildings for the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, many of them railroad stations. His architectural partner after 1881 was Allen Evans and it was largely de to Evan’s presence the the firm of Furness & Evans began to be accepted by Philadelphia’s corporate business community, one member of which was George Preston. After Preston Purchased the land for his “modern utopia,” he and Furness agreed to incorporate the early nineteenth century Haight farmhouse, located on a hilltop, into the design for the principal structure on the site. Furness was already famous for his unique, often bizarre adaptations of conventional architectural forms, such as his combination of disparate stylistic forms at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and his distortion of scale in Philadelphia commercial structures such as the Centennial National Bank (1876) and the Provident Life and Trust Company (1876-1879). At Ormonde, too, Furness demonstrated a tendency to exaggerate the familiar, such as the wooden scroll brackets of exaggerated size and shape under the second story eaves and supporting the pents of the third floor gables. Furness’s design resulted in a picturesque structure with horizontal massing, Shingle and Colonial Revival style detailing and unique architectural features. Some features of Ormonde’s boathouse, such as the curved brackets under the wrap-around porch, also suggest Furness’s involvement. The boathouse’s significance is enhances by the individual attention given to its design.

"Architecturally, Ormonde is a typical example of late-nineteenth century estate design. The main house and boathouse embody features of several popular late-nineteenth century stylistic idioms. With wood-shingle cladding, the two buildings reflect  the influence of the Shingle Style. Colonial Revival style motifs, such as porches supported by Tuscan columns, are also evident, and Queen Anne style casements with diamond-shaped panes reflect the popularity of this style. The residence’s interior is also eclectic, with wainscoting, paneling and plastered ceilings reminiscent of Queen Anne sensibilities in contrast to Colonial Revival mantelpieces and Eastlake style woodwork in the principal entry. Ormonde thus illustrates the brief period during which Queen Anne and Shingle Style designs were giving way to the revival of Colonial period architectural expressions.

"As the northernmost estate along the eastern shore of Cazenovia Lake, Ormonde helped set the architectural standard for similar Cazenovia estates erected subsequently to the south. For example, architects of the Hickories, York Lodge, Shore Acres and Weltevreden all followed Furness’s lead in blending the Colonial Revival style with the Shingle and Arts & Crafts styles for estate design. The construction of estates such as Ormonde also resulted in significant changes both to the property associated with the estate and, because of the employment provided for local craftsmen, to the local economy. In conjunction with Furness’s architectural adaptations at Ormonde, Preston also initiated extensive landscaping changes on the site, donated some of the property for a new public road but devoting most of it to the landscaping proper to a residence of its caliber. As reported by the Syracuse Standard on August 8, 1889, “Preston at once set 150 men at work grading the broad lawn where rough ploughed fields. Desiring seclusion from the passing gaze, Mr. Preston gave of his lands to the community and set the high road some rods back from its house, regrading its former course and laying out flower beds and shrubbery…From the house or lawn…not another habitation is visible. As far as the eye can reach, the covered closes and opengroves, the grassy stretches and the fields of waving grain, all belong to Mr. Preston’s broad demense.” To complete the main house and Ormonde’s outbuildings, Preston employed more than forty local “mechanics and laborers.” To the west of the main house, on the lakeshore, an elaborate house and coachman’s residence, together with a tool and ice house adjacent, have been constructed, thus completing the structures necessary for a very comfortable summer home.”

"The use of the Shingle Style detail at Ormonde in 1885 demonstrates an important architectural link between Cazenovia resort architecture and the more famous, contemporaneous, Shingle Style resort commissions throughout New England undertaken by firms such as McKim, Mead & White at sites such as the Casino (1879-1880) and the Isaac Bell house (1881-1883) in Newport, Rhode Island, the Henry de Forest house (1882-1883) in Montauk, New York, the William G. Low house (1886-1887) in Bristol, Rhode Island and Clayton Lodge (1880-1882) in Ridgefield Springs, New York. Many large-scale, Shingle Style “cottages” or “lodges” were characterized by asymetrical plans, horizontal massing, geometric formality, variegated roof forms, projecting porches and verandas and walls perceived as a thin skin shaped by the enclosed space. Ormonde’s main house embodies all these characteristics.”

"Ormonde is a representative example of a late-nineteenth century country estate in Cazenovia. Cazenovia was founded in the 1790s by John Lincklaen, a Dutch naval officer employed by a Dutch banker to work in Philadelphia for Theophilious de Cazenove, a Swiss agent of the Holland Land Company. In 1792, after de Cazenove purchased 55,00 acres of land containing the present towns of Cazenovia and Nelson, New York, he sent Lincklaen to explore the land. Lincklaen greatly impressed by the soil’s richness and waterpower possibilities, was given land at the southern end of Cazenovia Lake (then known as Lake Haugena, or Lake Owahgena) and was ordered by de Cazenove to lay out a town between the lakeshore on the west and Chittenango Creek on the east. At first the community prospered, especially immediately after the War of 1812, when new settlers from the east were seeking richer land in central New York. But by 1825, when the Erie Canal was completed, Cazenovia’s economic situation had worsened. This was because even cheaper land was then accessible further west and communities not situated on the canal, as Cazenovia was not, were often bypassed by emigrants on the move. Cazenovia’s economic future was brightened, however, when waterpower was exploited more effectively. For example, grist mills, oil mills, saw mills, carding mills, and a paper mill were among the commercial establishments that derived power form the community’s water resources. But it was not until after the Civil War that Cazenovia’s future became more secure, when rail lines finally linked Cazenovia more easily to larger, growing urban centers throughout the northeastern United States. The community’s pleasant scenery and sparkling lake waters offered ideal summer attractions to urban residents, who began to visit the community for prolonged periods beginning in the late 1870s. The Lakeview Hotel on Albany Street was constructed in 1879 and enlarged in 1882 to accommodate the growing clientele. Steamboats carried crowds from the village piers to picnic locations on the west and north shores of Cazenovia Lake.”

"After George Preston died in 1897, Ormonde continued to command attention. During summers, Preston’s widow lived in the house until hew death in 1906, when her daughter, Zelia Krumbhaar Preston Hoffman, assumed major control of the property. In 1909 Zelia Hoffman purchased the Glenwood Farm on the East Lake Road to the north and across the road from Ormonde, thereby making the estate over 400 acres. She then purchased her parents’ estate outright from her siblings in 1911. Between 1918 and 1920, she renovated the house extensively with the architectural assistance of her cousin, F. Burrall Hoffman of New York. These changes enhance rather than compromise the significance of the original eclectic design and reflect the prevailing tastes of the day as seen in the Jacobean, or English Renaissance detailing of the fireplace surround, paneling and plaster ceiling tracery of the parlor. After Zelia Hoffman died in 1929, several owners lived there until 1959, when much of the land was subdivided. Although the carriage house, tool house and ice house were subsequently demolished, the main house and boathouse were not significantly altered and they remain highly significant examples of Cazenovia’s estate architecture.”