Over the next four months, the Historical Association of Lewiston and Lewiston Bicentennial Committee will team with Niagara Frontier Publications to highlight news, events and features commemorating Lewiston’s first 200 years. These exclusive pieces will count down to a grand celebration, scheduled to take place July 1-4, 2022.
810 Center St.: Griffon House/ Clarkson House
Today we look into another “bicentennial structure,” this one a well-known and appreciated dining establishment on the north side of Center Street, as you enter into the business district. As a lead-up to our upcoming celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Town and Village of Lewiston, everyone should be aware of these longstanding and interesting structures.
The building on 810 Center St. was originally a private home, but since then has housed iconic restaurants in Lewiston – but there is more to this building than good food. Not many years back, it housed the long-popular Clarkson House; and currently the Griffon, home to an eclectic and delicious menu.
The original building was the home of Jacob Townsend, a businessman born in Connecticut. He found Lewiston after taking a frontier exploration for shipping routes that the British wouldn’t likely disrupt. Lewiston was a perfect place to set up a shipping company, because it allowed him to control business on the Great Lakes. With his partner in Oswego and in concert with Porter Barton forwarding company, he was able to control virtually all trade on the Great Lakes until the Erie Canal was built in 1825 and Lewiston’s shipping importance declined.
This would signal the retirement of Jacob Townsend, but his continuing influence in Lewiston is still notable: He held positions as overseer of the poor, supervisor of the town, and helped establish and support the Lewiston Academy. Townsend also owned a farm at the top of the ridge, which encompassed the land currently occupied by the Niagara Falls Country Club.
Townsends would continue to own the house at 810 Center until 1865, when various business owners would take over the building.
The age of the building is exposed through the techniques used to construct it. The frame of the building is mortised and pinned: a very old construction technique, which connected two pieces of wood through joints. This allowed for the construction of the building without many nails. In fact, in the original construction of the house, there were almost no nails; the few that were found were square and handmade. Other than that, the posts and beams are original, all hand-hewn oak and chestnut, which have thousands of minute marks that denote original construction process and its age. Also, the chimney is unlike modern ones, because it has handmade bricks that are arranged in a rambling manner. This historic home has a great history one can admire while enjoying the businesses that occupy it.
We are now only four months from the big weekend celebration!
We encourage all Lewistonians to reach out to the friends and family they know who now live away and encourage them to make immediate plans to be here for the Fourth of July. There will be concerts, games, dedications, historic tours, food, drink and fun all weekend long. And the closing fireworks you will not want to miss.
Fundraisers continue, including a Chiavetta’s chicken barbecue sale at Lewiston Town Hall. Tickets are now available – reach out to a committee member. If you are not sure who they are, you may call Ken Slaugenhoupt at 716-870-0081. Cost is $13 until April 23, and everyone who buys a ticket by then is placed into a drawing for a basket of wines. After then, the cost moves to $15.
Please consider becoming a sponsor for the celebration. There are sponsorships at many levels for individuals, families and businesses. We need your help to make this a huge success.
To learn more about the bicentennial, see who is involved and to learn about sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.Lewiston200.org.
July 1-4, 2022. Lewiston, New York. Be there!
Thanks to Ken Slaugenhoupt, Tom Collister and Austin Heinz for the article.