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A History of Woodstock Lodge

In this Section

The Family Home
Augustus Levinus Clarkson (1802-1855), Thomas S. Clarkson’s uncle, came to Potsdam sometime in the 1820s and built Woodstock Lodge in 1827 at the age of 24. It is unknown today why the name “Woodstock” was chosen for the residence. Constructed of Potsdam sandstone using the slab and binder construction technique, the home would have been one of the earliest sandstone structures in Potsdam. An addition was completed sometime before 1853.

The building was used as a residence by Augustus, his wife, Frances Selina, and their two children. Both children died in infancy and Frances Selina passed away in 1829. Woodstock continued as a residence for Augustus after he remarried. His second wife, Emily McVicar, bore him a daughter, Frances, in 1853. Augustus died in Florida in 1855. Emily and Frances continued to live in Woodstock for a number of years, but no other members of the Clarkson family have lived in the home since 1888 (born in 1856, Annie Clarkson grew up in Holcroft House).

It was reported that underground passageways connected Woodstock with other buildings on the Clarkson estate, but these stories were discredited when later excavations for residence halls and the Science Center revealed no tunnels. Behind Woodstock itself were three barns, each of which had huge interconnecting cavernous cellars made of finely crafted interlocking and arching stonework. These resembled tunnels, leading to the myth that they were part of the nationwide “underground railway” which helped slaves escape during the Civil War. These barns sat on the crest of the hill in the center of the area now occupied by the Science Center.

At some later time during the late 1890s or early 1900s, Miss Lavinia, a sister of Thomas, had Woodstock refurbished for use as a playhouse for neighborhood children who were invited in regularly to enjoy the toys and a children’s library. At the time, a grand marble staircase in the center of the foyer led to many second floor rooms that were removed by later renovations.

Woodstock Lodge
An early postcard image of Woodstock Lodge

The “Woodstock Club”
After the Clarkson Homestead burned and the sisters moved to New York City in 1909, Woodstock stood vacant until 1935 when it was refurnished by Emily Clarkson Moore and reopened as a Cooperative Boarding House known as the “Woodstock Club.” From the September 25, 1935 issue of the Clarkson Integrator, “At present there are 25 men living in the house, 20 freshmen, three sophomores, one junior and one senior. All the work is being done by the residents of the house under the direction of Mrs. Rhoades [the house mother, and mother-in-law of Professor Bill Farrisee] and the supervision of a house committee composed of one member from each class.  The men staying in the house have a regular schedule of work. These schedules are so arranged that those that have nine o’clock classes do the breakfast work, those having classes at two o’clock or later do the lunch work, and those not having done work that day make and clean up the dinner. Each resident has approximately five duties to perform during the week. Besides the housework, the men are cutting their own wood from the Clarkson estate having received the authorized permission.” The 1937 Clarksonian stated about the Woodstock Club, “The same spirit of cooperation is expressed by the assistance given to those who have trouble getting certain school work by those who can do it well. As a result, the grades of the students of the Club are above the average of the School.” The Woodstock Club remained in existence until 1943, when the building was closed to residents and used for storage.

In 1954, John O’Brien, director of purchasing for Clarkson, received permission to move his family into Woodstock. The O’Briens lived there for 18 months. Tim O’Brien [later Services Supervisor] described the house as he remembered living in it as a small child. It had a large kitchen with baking ovens in the basement, and a rope-driven dumbwaiter leading up to the dining room on the first floor. Off the kitchen was a storeroom behind which was a root cellar.

Woodstock Lodge
Woodstock Lodge postcard, pre-1987

A Student and Alumni Space
In 1967 the building was remodeled for use as student meeting and activity space. The interior was removed, structural steel put in, and the walls and foundations strengthened. The basement was enlarged into a pub, known as the “Knight Spot.” This lower area was decorated in an “English Pub” atmosphere, with massive timbers, wooden tables and three fireplaces (a 12-ounce glass of beer was 20 cents). The main floor was divided into a game room with one billiard and three pool tables, and a lounge with comfortable furniture. The second floor was divided into meeting rooms of various sizes and also housed a museum containing articles relevant to the Clarkson family, the College and the area. The building was rededicated on October 12, 1968 during Parent’s Weekend.

On July 10, 1987 Woodstock was dedicated as Clarkson’s Alumni House. The flagpole in front was erected and dedicated to R. Thomas Willliamson, vice-president for Academic Affairs.

Woodstock Lodge
A post-1987 photo of Woodstock Lodge

The Woodstock Award
In 1986, the Alumni Association Board of Governors created the Woodstock Award, named after Woodstock Lodge. The Woodstock Award recognizes young alumni during their 5-20th reunion years. Award winners demonstrate a unique combination of career accomplishment, service to Clarkson, and service to their community. Current year recipient citations and photographs are displayed in the Alumni Gateway.

(Facts and paragraphs related to the history of Woodstock Lodge are taken from “A Clarkson Mosiac,” by Bradford Broughton, and a pamphlet, “Woodstock Lodge, Alumni House.”)

(rev. 2015)

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