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04-26-2016

Clarkson University Rescues Historic Gatehouse at Potsdam's Bayside Cemetery

At the beginning of the 20th century a new front wall, gateway and lodge (gatehouse) at Potsdam's Bayside Cemetery were completed through the generosity of the Clarkson family.

The gatehouse at Bayside Cemetery in Potsdam.The family, who had recently founded the Thomas S. Clarkson Memorial School of Technology (now Clarkson University) in memory of Thomas S. Clarkson, was also a prime founder and most significant supporter of the cemetery, which was established in 1865.

In recognition of this, the cemetery and gatehouse were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 for their design features and importance in regional history.

Now, history has come full circle, as Clarkson University has again stepped up to support Bayside Cemetery by leasing and restoring the lodge, which was designed by Edgar Josselyn, a rising young New York City architect who also designed Clarkson's Old Main building. The lodge is meant to look like a chateau, in a revival style popular at the time.

Financially unable to maintain the red Potsdam sandstone building for the past 15 years, the Bayside Cemetery Association has leased the structure to Clarkson for a period of 50 years, with an option to renew for another 50. The terms of the lease are very general and the cemetery board retains the right to approve any use planned by the University.

"Clarkson University has such a strong link with the Clarkson family, as does Bayside Cemetery," said Bayside Cemetery Association Board of Trustees President Robert Burns. "The University is willing to do this as a public service to assist the cemetery in maintaining this beautiful and historic sandstone structure. And the cemetery has a strong desire to honor the Clarkson family tradition in the North Country."

When the gatehouse was not occupied by a sexton, the cemetery board rented it out to tenants, as recently as 2000, to help defray costs. "We spent more on the gatehouse than we received in rent— which detracted from our primary concern of maintaining the grounds of this beautiful and historic cemetery for those interred here, and their families” said Burns.

“Because of the cemetery’s lack of funds for maintenance, our real fear was the gatehouse would deteriorate to the point that it would have to be demolished. We could not bear the thought of losing it on our watch," added incoming Cemetery Association President John Omohundro. "Clarkson is our savior. We've seen what they did in renovating Old Main and we have been assured that they'll do the same for the gatehouse."

"Clarkson is honored to be playing a role in preserving this historic structure, which has such close ties to the founders of our University," said Clarkson President Tony Collins. "The gatehouse is actually made of sandstone from the Clarkson family quarries. We look forward to bringing this wonderful edifice back to a condition that will make all of Potsdam proud."

In 1865 the Clarkson family donated a significant portion of the cemetery's property, which adjoined their estate (now the campus), and hired L.R. Briggs and H.T. Whitman to design the park-like rural cemetery. Eleven Clarkson family members are buried in a sandstone mausoleum, which dates to 1873. A bequest by Elizabeth Clarkson built the first gateway in 1884, later replaced by the impressive structures seen today.

Bayside Cemetery Association is a non-profit corporation, managed by 12 volunteer trustees and regulated by New York State.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: The gatehouse at Bayside Cemetery in Potsdam.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/bayside-gatehouse.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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