The Suggett House Museum

The home of the Cortland County Historical Society is the Suggett House Museum.  It features a well designed permanent display, “At Home:  Cortland County Interior Spaces, 1825-1900,”  a collection of vignettes which include basic elements of interior spaces typical of Cortland in the 19th century. 

This exhibit was conceived In 1987, when the New York State Council on the Arts funded a visit to the Cortland County Historical Society by Gail Casky, an expert on 19th century interior decoration.  Casky, impressed with the strengths of the Historical Society’s eclectic collection of outstanding furniture pieces, recommended the development of  “vignettes” to depict interior spaces from 1825 to the turn of the century.  Rather than an exact reproduction of one room from a single dwelling of the day, the vignettes suggest the general representations of those interior styles.  At the same time, throughout the vignettes, there are photographs of actual interiors of Cortland homes from those eras.  The result was a permanent exhibition created by the Historical Society that synthesizes key elements of furniture styles, historic interior design and cultural history in Cortland County during that era.  It is truly in keeping with the Historical Society’s mission to collect, preserve and interpret the history of the county to educate about the social and cultural collective past. 

Among the styles featured in the vignettes are High Style Grecian and Vernacular Grecian, the Rococo Revival and the Renaissance Revival, portrayed through the Historical Society’s rich collection of well-preserved local furnishings and decorative objects in those styles.  Rather than an exact reproduction of one room from a single dwelling of the day, the vignettes suggest the general representations of those interior styles.  At the same time, throughout the vignettes, there are photographs of actual interiors of Cortland homes from those eras.

 The exhibition also demonstrates the transition from an agrarian mercantile society to an industrial one, with early innovations such as an 1880s ice box, gas lights and other household items on display from the era of the 1880s and ‘90s.  It is used extensively as a teaching module for regional school districts.

Additionally, the museum houses an extensive collection of other materials, including:

19th and 20th Century coverlets and quilts
● Samplers
● 19th & 20th Century bridal gowns
● 19th & 20th Century men’s, women’s and children’s clothing including beaded dresses
● Military artifacts, particularly from the Civil War
● Medical implements
● Woodworking tools
● Milk glass
● 19th and 20th Century toys
● Doll houses
● Kitchen ware
● Postcards
● Smith Corona typewriters
● Lighting instruments
● County souvenir glassware and silver spoons
● Paintings by Jere Wickwire, Francis Bicknell Carpenter, Hugh Maxwell, Eugene Powers among others
● Fans
● World War II posters

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