Charles De Berard / Harriet May Mills House
Social reformers Charles De Berard Mills and his wife Harriet Smith Mills built this house in 1857. The house became an important location at which reformers for numerous causes gathered and held discussions. Visitors and house guests of national stature included Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, Carrie Chapman Catt, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Bronson Alcott, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Later the house became the principal residence of Charles Mills’s daughter, Harriet May Mills, whose fame eclipsed her father’s.
C. D. B. Mills was an active freethinker; among other things, he was an officer of the New York State Freethinkers Association, which held national conferences in Watkins Glen, Hornellsville, Rochester, and Syracuse.
As noted, the Millses’ daughter, Harriet May Mills, became a prominent suffrage leader, and it is her name that historically conscious locals usually associate with this house today. In 1897, while a committee head of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association (NYSWSA), she recruited Geneva-based suffrage activist Elizabeth Smith Miller to organize a statewide conference held at the Smith Opera House, Collins Music Hall, and the Nester Hotel in that city. Early in the twentieth century, her home became the headquarters of NYSWSA. By 1920, she would campaign for election as Attorney General of the State of New York, the first female to seek major state-wide office as a candidate of a major political party. When the Dresden, New York birthplace of agnostic orator Robert Green Ingersoll was first restored in 1921, Harriet May Mills was one of many prominent local people who served on an organizing committee whose members included Thomas Edison and poet Edgar Lee Masters.
Harriet May Mills died in 1936. The house was sold to a Syracuse hardware company that used the building as its headquarters. That firm ceased operation in 2000. By that time, the house had deteriorated severely. It was restored in 2004 to serve as a residential facility for women recovering from addiction, and is now operated by Syracuse Behavioral Health.
See this site for more information on the Mills family and their Syracuse home.