OnCell Cellphone/Smartphone Tours - Site 58

58. Gerrit Smith Estate

Several period buildings (though not the Smith mansion, which burned in 1936) occupy the Gerrit Smith Estate in the village of Peterboro.

Gerrit Smith's father Peter Smith (for whom Peterboro was named) established his homestead here in 1804. Upon his father's death, the younger Smith inherited a fortune which he greatly expanded through shrewd business dealings. He erected various buildings, including a mansion. He also made his estate a regional center for reform agitation in such areas as abolition, temperance, and woman suffrage. From this homestead Gerrit Smith and his wife Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith over their lives donated an estimated eight million dollars (more than $250 million in current dollars) to a spectrum of reform causes.

Smith resided here when he invited some 600 delegates to Peterboro to complete the first meeting of the reconstituted New York State Antislavery Society at the village's Presbyterian Church. The site of that meeting now houses the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum. He also resided here when he was one of the "Secret Six" Northern philanthropists who bankrolled John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. So active was Smith in the abolition movement and the Underground Railroad that African American abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet wrote: “There are yet two places where slaveholders cannot come, Heaven and Peterboro.” Frederick Douglass published this comment on the front page of his Rochester-based abolition paper The North Star on December 8, 1848.

The site contains several buildings, though not the Smith mansion, which burned down in 1936. The Gerrit Smith Estate was named a National Historic Landmark in 2001. Self-guided tours of the grounds are permitted during daylight hours; an informative visitor's center is open Sundays from 1:00 to 5:00 p. m.

Additional information on the Gerrit Smith Estate is available here. Additional information on the Gerrit Smith Estate and other historical attractions in Peterboro is available here and here.

Note that Peterboro can be hard to find; most GPS systems and some online mapping services cannot find Peterboro street addresses. Google Maps can, including the map here. A traditional road atlas can, of course, also be of great help.