Skene Manor is located on Skene Mountain in Whitehall, New York. Explore our website to find out about visiting Skene Manor, holding your event there, donating or volunteering, and much more. You may also check out our photo gallery; browse/sign our guestbook; and read current and past issues of our newsletter, The Castle Cryer. We even have a Facebook page.
In addition, read below to learn about Skene Manor's history and architectural design.
In 1867, New York State Supreme Court Judge Joseph H. Potter (1821-1902) purchased, from Melancton Wheeler, the property on which Skene Manor stands. This land had previously been owned by Philip Skene, founder of Whitehall (formerly Skenesborough). Judge Potter built a Victorian Gothic-style mansion, which he called "Mountain Terrace," on the property. The mansion was designed by Philadelphia architect, Isaac H. Hobbs, and constructed by local contractor, A. C. Hopson. Construction took place from 1872 to 1874 at a cost of approximately $25,000. The building was constructed of gray sandstone quarried from Skene Mountain by stone cutters from Italy.
In 1906, Potter's widow, Catharine, sold Mountain Terrace to Edgar Lowenstein, who had come to Whitehall in 1892 to manage his brother-in-law's Champlain Silk Mill. Mr. Lowenstein changed the mansion's name to "Lowen's Castle" and added a carriage house to the property. In addition, he installed gas fixtures and a heating system.
In 1917, Mr. Lowenstein's daughter-in-law sold the mansion to Dr. Theodore H. Sachs (1876-1939), an optometrist, jeweler, and clock expert from Prattsville, NY. Dr. Sachs had moved to Whitehall in 1913, and he specialized in checking watches for railroad men. A tall man, Dr. Sachs had been seeking a home in which he could move about without bumping his head.
For many years, a wooden clock had been in the tower of the Presbyterian church. The clock was given to Dr. Sachs in 1920, who installed it in the manor tower in 1922. The clock had two 100-lb. weights that extended to the cellar, and a railroad bell served as the chimes. Each week, Dr. Sachs' two oldest daughters had the job of winding the clock.
After Dr. Sachs' death in 1939, the manor was left vacant for several years. In 1942, with patriotism running high, the lead from the tower clock and the copper from the attic cistern were removed and given to the World War II effort. As a result, the tower clock was rendered inoperable.
In 1946, the manor was purchased by Clayton Scheer, a retired state trooper from Schenectady, NY, and his wife, Pauline, a beautician. They renamed the mansion "Skene Manor" in honor of Whitehall's founder, Philip Skene. The Scheers transformed the first floor into a bar/restaurant and lived upstairs. To attract customers, the Scheers created the legend that the body of Katharine Skene, wife of Philip, had been found in the cellar of Skene Manor after being interred there for 100 years. Mr. Scheer placed an imitation grotto of garnet stone in the corner of the bar, and a lady's hand rose out of the grotto. Mr. Scheer told patrons that this was the hand of Katharine Skene. He claimed to have carried Mrs. Skene's coffin from the basement and used it as a base for a stone waterfall in the corner of the taproom. Although this story wasn't true, it did make for interesting conversation and is part of Skene Manor's history.
The Manor was sold again in 1951 to Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Reynolds, who continued the restaurant business. The business grew over the next 17 years until the death of the general manager, Richard Reynolds, the son of the owners. Ownership again changed hands to Leo Mulholland, who lived in the manor and ran the restaurant along with his nine children.
In 1983, Mr. Joel Murphy purchased the manor from Mr. Mulholland and continued the restaurant business. After Mr. Murphy retired, the building changed hands several more times, but subsequent owners were unsuccessful at maintaining the restaurant business and allowed the building to fall into disrepair.
In the early- to mid-1990s, an out-of-state party wished to buy the manor and move it to his state, removing forever one of Whitehall's most famous landmarks. In 1995, a group of Whitehall residents formed the non-profit organization, Whitehall Skene Manor Preservation, Inc. (often referred to as SOS or Save Our Skene). In a short time, the group was able to raise a down payment to purchase the property on October 26, 1995, for the people of Whitehall. With this purchase, Skene Manor was protected from the out-of-state move, and from the fate of two other Whitehall castles: Myer's Castle and The Hall Mansion.
Whitehall Skene Manor Preservation, Inc., is dedicated to historically restoring Skene Manor, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, to its former beauty. Restoration is ongoing and made possible through donations and the efforts of volunteers. If you are interested in donating or volunteering, please contact us (make sure to check the volunteer box on the contact form if you would like to volunteer).
Joseph Potter was born in Easton, Washington County, New York in 1821. He studied law and graduated from Union College. He moved to Whitehall in 1845 to enter a partnership with William Parker; he married Catharine Eights Boies the same year. Mr. Potter was elected Washington County judge in 1863, and New York State Supreme Court judge in 1871. He served 14 years in the latter position.
Judge Potter and his wife had three sons. J. Sanford Potter practiced law in the village and built a stone home just south of Mountain Terrace. Henry Potter became an engineer and moved to Mexico. Rear Admiral William P. Potter served in the Spanish-American War; served on the USS Maine Court of Inquiry; and sailed with the Great White Fleet, a fleet of 16 new battleships sent around the world by President Theodore Roosevelt from December 16, 1907, to February 22, 1909.
The manor's slate roof has six dormers and decorative pediments in the peak of the main tower. Decorative wrought iron, 18 inches in height, outlines the ridge of each roof. There are five chimneys constructed of native stone. The cornices have decorative wooden brackets. The porte-cochere, which was recently restored, is no longer in use due to the 1960s addition of a kitchen which blocks the roadway. A wide porch extends to the front of the porte-cochere, and a small northwest porch has been dismantled for repairs and restoration.
The interior reflects the original Victorian style, although some alterations were made in the 1960s. There are three stories, each 3000 square feet in area, ten bedrooms, and three dining rooms. Seven of the original eight fireplaces (one marble and six slate) remain in the home. One was removed during the addition of the kitchen. The stair rail and banister are made of mahogany, walnut, oak, and birch. Stained-glass windows are located on the stair landing and over the front door. The main foyer has an original three-foot wall mural depicting a medieval hunt scene, and the rooms are enhanced with deep ceiling moldings.