Constructed between 1816-1817 by Frederick White (reputedly the wealthiest man in Jefferson County, and once President of the Jefferson County Bank, when it was located in Adams) to take advantage of the post-War hotel trade, the Union Hotel was by far the most splendid of the many stone buildings erected at Sackets Harbor in the early days. Its well-crafted masonrywork, featuring smooth stone quoins, lintelcourses above the windows, and an elliptical arch above the entrance, may have been executed by Scottish stonemasons who migrated to the area from Canada after the War. The building once also featured stepped gables and a lunette window in the peak—by masking a sloping roof, stepped gables were felt to create a more urbane, less "domestic" sppearance. The well-preserved interiors are counted among the finest of any Federal-era building in New York.

        From its earliest days, the Union Hotel was associated with the Masonic Order—the Athol Lodge formed there in 1818 and met in a room in the attic story. By 1864 the building's hotel days had passed; when purchased by the Masons the following year, it was being used as a warehouse. It has been said that Morgan, who published an exposé of Masonry, was brought to this lodge room soon after his mysterious disappearance. In 1897, the Order rebuilt the roof and installed a new meeting room on the third floor, with a stained glass window still visible on the facade (top photo, upper right).

        In 1972 New York State acquired the building and rehabilitated it for use as the Visitor Center for the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site. In July 2000, an addition (above, right) was built and the Union Hotel was converted to serve as the Seaway Trail Discovery Center.

        The first organization of a Masonic order in Jefferson County was what was then known as Ontario Lodge, of which the first recorded meeting was held at Sackets Harbor on 4 April 1805. At that time the officers were as follows: Augustus Sacket, W.M.; J. Seaman, S. W.; "Brother" Pike, J. W. ; B. Allen, Treasurer; Isaiah Massey, Secretary; Hart Massey, J.D.; A. Bassinger, Tyler. The lodge had in its membership many of the pioneers of the village and other parts of the county, among them Jacob Brown (afterwards Major-General), initiated as an "entered apprenctice," on 2 January 1806; B. DeWitt, Wm. Warring, E. G. Merrick, Giles Hamlin, Gershom Tuttle, Abram Lippett, Squire Read, J. Simmons, C. Mills, Joseph Perry, Daniel Potter and others. The lodge was suspended during the War of 1812-1815, owing to the prevalent excitement.

        Athol Lodge No. 308, F. & A. M., was instituted in 1818, with Hiram Steele as Master. The records of this lodge cannot be found in the village; consequently what is here given will be from the recollection of old members, of whom there were [in 1894] four residing in Sackets Harbor, viz.: Capt. Daniel Read, Leonard Denison, John Walling and David Millington. Among other members of this lodge were Alvah Kinney, Judge Elijah Field and others; it was continued until 1827.

        Sackets Harbor Chapter No. 68, R. A. M., was formed 7 February 1820, upon the application of Commodore Melancthon T. Woolsey, U.S.N., John Clitz, captain, U.S.A., and William King. Its first meeting was held on 3 March 1820, with the following officers, viz.: High Priest, Commodore Melancthon T. Woolsey, U.S.N.; King, William King; Scribe, John Clitz, captain, U.S.A.; Treasurer, Leonard Denison; Secretary, Henry Smith; C. of H., Asahel Smith; P. S., George W. Jenks; R. A. C., Alvah Kinney; M 3rd V., Captain William Vaughn, U.S.N.; M 2nd V., Zeno Allen; M 1st V., Hunter Crane.

        The chapter was allowed to run down, but after an interval of many years, it was revived in December 1849, with Thomas S. Hall, H. P.; Jason Phelps, K.; and Samuel Whittlesey, S.

        Sackets Harbor Lodge No. 135, F. & A. M., held its first meeting 12 May 1828, with the following officers: Samuel Lyon, W. M.; John S. Hall, S. W.; Chester C. Symonds, J. W.; Elijah Field, treasurer; Isaac Van Vleck, Secretary. Owing to some difficulty, the charter was surrended in the fall of 1858, and nothing further was done until March 1860. From the 2d of that month until the following June, the lodge was worked under a dispensation from the Grand Master, and during the latter month received a charter under the name of "Houndsfield Lodge, No. 495," and was known as such until June 1861, when, through a petition, the old name of "Sackets Harbor Lodge No. 135," was again granted them, and that name it has sinced retained. At the orgainzation in 1860, there were 20 charter members. The membership was about 100 in 1894, at which time the lodge occupied its old rooms in the Union Hotel.

© Mark A. Wentling, 2000-2001


Haddock, John A. "Growth of a Century: An Illustrated History of Jefferson County, 1793-1894." Phila.: Sherman & Co., 1894. p. 589, 594.

"Harbor Walk: A Guide to the History & Architecture of Sackets Harbor, a New York State Heritage Area Community." Prepared by Michael D. Sullivan and used here with permission from the Sackets Harbor Historical Society.