By Matthew Shoen
I’m going to apologize immediately for two things. First, when spotlighting an architect I should probably have a picture of the architect, which I haven’t been able to find. Second for all the research I’ve done on Samuel D. P. Williams I still have no clue what D.P. are initials for. Those apologies aside I thought it would be good to take some time and spotlight an architect from my part of the world and share some pictures of his better creations, buildings which provide an interesting window into life in Upstate New York and St. Lawrence County.
Samuel D.P. Williams was born on May 26th 1866 in Malone, New York and grew to become one of the North Country’s greatest architects. Williams’s projects are well represented on the National Register of Historic Places and reveal him to be an oddball. His buildings veer wildly, encompassing styles such as Classical Revival, on display in the Russell Town Hall, and Arts and Crafts, which he used in the Young Memorial Church in Brier Hill.
|The Young Memorial Church from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form|
|The Russell Town Hall. Photo from russellny.org|
Samuel Williams didn't only build civic and religious buildings, in fact he built quite a few residences the most notable being this house on Cherry Island in the St. Lawrence River.
|Ingleside from the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form|
The final building I wanted to highlight is very close to my heart. In 1917 Samuel Williams received the contract to design the Hepburn Library in my hometown. As a little background, in 1912 a wealthy banker named A. Barton Hepburn from the Town of Colton began endowing libraries in St. Lawrence County, building them in towns which had once been part of his jurisdiction as the Superintendent of Schools. Six of the libraries were designed by the architect E.K. Rossiter the seventh library in Lisbon was Williams's project.
|The Lisbon Hepburn Library|
I think that's what I like about Samuel D.P. Williams. He's a local man whose buildings have their own style and feel. He was effectively a chameleon changing out his designs to best suit the client he worked for. Further, he is one of the few local architects to earn esteem and success in the North Country. With buildings like Boldt Castle contracted out to prestigious firms, and much of the local building stock consisting of timber homes erected by their occupants, Samuel Williams and his firm stood a little bit out to sea. Still, the firm succeeded and erected many of the most recognizable buildings in St. Lawrence County, permanently tying Williams and the County together and providing me an excuse to provide a few quick snapshots of life in the North Country as depicted through the architecture of Samuel D. P. Williams.