Alice T. Miner and The Colonial Revival
by Mary Skulan-Toran, 2022 Joseph C Burke and Joan T. Burke Scholarship Recipient
Industrialization and The Colonial Revival
Alice E. Trainor was born in 1863 amid a changing world. Rapid industrialization raged throughout both Canada, Alice’s birthplace, and America. This industrialization, in part, would lead to the birth of The Colonial Revival movement, which started roughly in the 1880s and reached its zenith in the early 20th century.
The movement pushed for a re-embrace of “authentic American history,” through careful documentation and preservation of historical architecture and artifacts. It stove to offset the perceived degradation of American society and revive the nation’s colonial history.
Industrialization would lead to a drain on both people and resources in rural areas. Many rural youths were moving from the country to the city for work and opportunities, which most did not find. Add to this the rising rates of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe at the turn of the century, many of whom made their homes in the same urban centers as country youth. Fears that the future generation was being corrupted by “city-living,” and that America was losing its moral fabric swelled in the hearts of many.
The Colonial Revival wanted to ensure the longevity of an “authentic America,” the essence of which became tied to the New England Colonial village. In many rural areas, colonial architecture came back into vogue, and small towns strove to emulate their colonial past through architecture and city planning.
Though much of the thought process behind the Colonial Revival was unsavory and often prejudiced, the movement did some good. It emphasized the preservation of history, and many artifacts, which otherwise may have been lost or destroyed were instead collected and carefully preserved in museums and private collections.
The Origins of The Alice T. Miner Museum
Alice would become the curator of one such museum. After her parent’s death at a young age, Alice was raised by her nineteen-year-old sister Matilda. In 1887, Alice relocated to Chicago where she met her future husband William H. Miner. The pair were married by 1895. By all accounts, it was a happy and equal communion. Sadly, the couple lost their first and only son ten days after his birth in 1902. In 1903 Alice and William made themselves a summer home in Chazy after William Miner inherited the Miner family homestead, William’s childhood home.
Alice’s friends, worried that she may grow bored in this new country setting, encouraged her to take up a hobby. With the Colonial Revival in full swing, Alice began collecting various artifacts from all over the United States.
Alice procured the Old Stone Store in 1924 and commissioned the Miner’s favored architect, Frederick B. Townsend, to expand and restructure the building into a museum. The building would become the Alice T. Miner Museum, still standing and active in Chazy.
Each room is filled with a variety of different artifacts, from cannon balls to Cuneiform tablets, to a 13th-century breviary. The touch of the colonial revival is evident. There are portraits, commemorative plates, and other artifacts related to US presidents Abraham Lincoln and George Washington holding special providence. She even managed to collect what is allegedly Lincoln’s footbath, still on display in the Library.
Truly, it is a wondrous museum. You may need to take multiple trips to fully get a sense of the volume and a staggering variety of artifacts hidden within.
For more information please visit about Alice Miner and her museum, please visit The Alice T. Miner Museum website at: The Alice T. Miner Museum – A colonial revival museum in Chazy, New York
See below for more images of Alice and her museum.