Guy Park

Guy Park

Guy Park has undergone many changes since it was built over two hundred years ago. Its first owner, Guy Johnson (c. 1740-1788), came to America from Ireland in 1756. Commissioned a colonel of the local militia and important in the ' judicial affairs of Tryon County. In 1763 guy married his cousin Mary ("Polly"), Sir William's daughter. As a wedding present, Sir William gave them a square mile of property along the flatlands of the Mohawk River. The first Guy Park was struck by lightning and destroyed in the spring of 1773. It was soon replaced by a new house of block limestone. Upon Sir William's death in 1774 he assumed the duties of Superintendent of Indian Affairs.

Guy Johnson sided with the British at the outset of the Revolutionary War. This brought immediate reaction from local patriots, including threats of imprisonment to keep him from arousing the Iroquois against them. The situation became so explosive that in 1775 Johnson gathered together his Mohawk allies, his fellow loyalists, and his family and fled to Canada. He had lived in his new home less than a year.

Because Johnson had been declared a traitor by New York State in 1779, his properties were confiscated and offered at public auction after the war. Guy Park was purchased by John Tayler, a future Lieutenant Governor of New York. In 1790, a period when a flood of New England immigrants was pouring into the fertile lands of western New York, Guy Park was again sold. During the early years of the nineteenth century it became a tavern, for its location on the Mohawk turnpike made Guy Park a convenient stopping place for travelers west.

Efforts to improve travel and transportation along the Mohawk River-a natural highway west-began with the earliest settlers. By 1792, a crude canal system had been built on the north bank of the Mohawk along the flatiands near Guy Park. This pioneering attempt to make the Mohawk navigable proved how useful a canal connecting the Hudson to Lake Erie could be. When the Erie Canal was opened in 1825, easy and inexpensive transportation to the west became a reality. In 1836 the Utica and Schenectady Railroad bought a section of Guy Park property on which to build its tracks. The enterprise was immediately successful, quickly replacing the use of the canal for passenger transportation, and the railroad ushered in a prosperous new economic era.

James Stewart, who bought Guy Park in 1846 and shortly after added the two stone wings to the house, rose to local prominence as a government contractor. His skills as a stone cutter were in great demand in that age of expansion and construction of canal locks, aqueducts, and railroad bridges. It is ironic that he made his fortune by transportation technology and also lost his life by it: he was struck by an express train as he crossed the tracks in front of his fashionably remodelled home in 1860.

New York State purchased Guy Park in 1907 when land was being acquired for the construction of the New York State Barge Canal. In 1917, with the opening of Lock No. I 1 only a few feet from Guy Park's doorstep, the property once again was linked with New York State's canal history. Since the house was not needed for the operation of the lock or canal, it was developed as a historic site. Guy Park's history is closely interwoven with the development of roads, canals and railroads. Their impact on the Mohawk Valley is interpreted at Guy Park, together with the story of Guy Johnson and his eventful life.

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