Introduction to The Willard Mansion

The original footprint of the mansion was in a four parlor plan in the Greek Revival style. Greek Revival was the dominant style of architecture in the United States from 1820-1850 but was popularized earlier by Thomas Jefferson in the late 1700s.  Jefferson shunned the early American architecture that had been modeled on British styles, and instead found inspiration in the ancient Greek buildings that were being uncovered at the time. Jefferson believed that architecture was a form of visual education to be used “in support of democratic ideals.” He turned to ancient Greece as a symbol of democracy, and designed his home as well as the Virginia State Capital with Greek influences. 

Greek Revivalism spread across New York with the Erie Canal. The canal brought great wealth to the areas on its path and many canal towns boast impressive architecture, as the newly wealthy built their homes in the latest styles.

The Greek Revival style became so popular, pattern books were developed that contained plans and patterns for elements such as columns, cornices, porches, and windows. Architects were scarce and only the wealthiest families could afford to hire one, but pattern books allowed craftsmen to copy the style without hiring a professional.

In the original footprint, the large room to the left of the entrance hall would have been two sitting rooms or parlors. To the right was the library and the original dining room. The four rooms were not perfectly symmetrical in size. The dining room and back parlor were slightly smaller than the front rooms, to accommodate a servant’s stairway in between the library and dining room.

1850’s

Sylvester Willard undertook several reconstructions during his time in the house.  In 1850, he renovated the entrance hall and added a wing onto the east side of the house which contained his examining rooms and dispensary. 

1870’s-Today

In 1876, the two story north addition at the back of the house was completed, which held a new dining room spanning the width of the addition.

By the 1850’s, the formalism of the Greek Revival style was fading out of fashion. Dr. Willard’s 1850 and 1876 renovations were in the Italianate and Renaissance Revival styles. When Theodore Case moved into the mansion in 1916, he made changes of his own, simplifying trim work and removing many of the ornate Italianate features. While some of the original Greek Revival details remain, much of what is now here is from the Willard’s renovations and Theodore Case’s time in the house, as well as the years spent as a museum.