Park cleanup shows signs of former grand estate

Posted 4 May 2015 at 12:00 am

Golden Hill is looking for original photos of residence

Photos by Cheryl Wertman – This photo shows a long section of the Drake estate wall facing west.

By Cheryl Wertman

BARKER – A camping visit to one of our state parks is always a fun occasion and sometimes provides a pleasant and interesting surprise, and that was certainly the case on Saturday.

This weekend while camping at Golden Hill State Park near Barker, we took part in the New York State Park’s “I Love My Park Day.”

Several projects were available to work on and the one we chose was to help clean up a section of the Drake House ruins.

This photo shows a corner of the wall with a fancy curve section. A portion of the wall has broke apart revealing how it was constructed.

We have camped at Golden Hill for many years but had not heard of the ruins of the former Drake estate which are located at the extreme east end of the state park property along County Line Road.

We did not know what to expect but were really surprised with what we found. While the house no longer exits large sections of the very elaborately decorated walls which surrounded a large section the property still exits as does a brick patio area, fish pond and large stone barbecue feature.

A view of the wall from the curved corner looking east.

The accompanying photos show sections of the wall that include colorful inlaid mosaic tiles as well as brick and stone design features including an anchor and a horseshoe.

According to a pamphlet published by Town of Somerset Historian Lorraine Wayner, the estate’s house was constructed in the 1850s by Aaron Drake. Interestingly, one of the later owners was Robert Newell of Medina who owned the Newell Shirt factory.

Historian Wayner notes that the Newells, who owned the property in the 1930s, “restored the house, built a tea room and the fish pond was an added attraction.” She adds that in the following years the property was owned for a time by a religious group, the Bethesda Gospel Tabernacle.

Here is a close up view of a section of the wall showing several of the colorful mosaic tiles and a cross detail made of brick.

Historian Wayner notes that the property was “very much run down when Dr. Harry Parker, from Buffalo bought the property. He restored it to a point but the family didn’t live there long. Finally in 1962 New York State acquired the land as part of the development of Golden Hill State Park. Historian Wayner notes that ‘the house was demolished.’ The only thing left was the crumbling walls.”

It is those historic and intricately decorated estate walks that park officials are now looking to try to make a more active part of the park for visitors to enjoy, possibly including a picnic area.

The park welcomes any historic photos that show the original building. For more information on Golden Hill State Park, click here.

A close up section of the wall appears showing the inlaid anchor detail in stone.

Here is a section of the wall showing a cross and horseshoe details in brick and stone.

Here is a view of the patio with a large section of the estate wall.

The large stone barbecue feature was part of the Drake Estate.

The property includes this fish pond.