top of page
  • Diane Janowski

We had a Millionaire in my Neighborhood

By©Diane Janowski, all rights reserved

 

 

You know that I love mystery photos.

 

I recently acquired this one marked “J.H. Clark” with a beautiful, opulent house. Of course, I needed to know if it still exists. It does not look familiar. So, where or what happened to the house?


Judson H. Clark home
Former Clark home at 811 Maple Avenue on the Southside, now the site of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Photo dated 1890. Courtesy of Diane Janowski

Who was J. H. Clark? He was easy to find, although I’d never heard of him. He was a millionaire capitalist who lived on Elmira’s Southside. Judson H. Clark was born in Altay, NY in 1839. His wife, Sadie, was a physician.In 1868, he founded the Genesee Valley Stock Farm in Scio, Allegany County, with 225 acres. They moved to Elmira in 1885 and purchased the land of Samuel W. Forman at 705 Maple Avenue (old numbering system), where he built a magnificent residence. It had thirty rooms, steam heat, electricity, gas, five bathrooms, a five-car garage, and plate glass windows, with the best material and workmanship.  

 

Towner’s History of Chemung County books says Judson Clark and his family came to town around 1885. “[He] was a man of intelligence and wealth.” He was “interested in horses of fine breeds.”

 

They had three children, two girls and one boy. Their daughter, Maude, was listed as a violinist in the 1890 census. In 1893, at 11 years old, she performed the difficult Wieniawski Mazurka in A Minor at Elmira College. In 1895, she played on her Stradivarius violin worth $5,000 ($184,000 today) at Elmira’s Opera House on Lake Street.

 

On June 4, 1891, the Elmira Gazette wrote that he was designing a “kite-shaped” mile racetrack adjoining the Inter-State Fair Grounds (also called Maple Avenue Driving Park) on Luce Street. It would be the first place in the U.S. to have one. Yet, I don’t see it on old maps, so I don’t know if it was built.

 

The family went to Kentucky frequently to buy and sell horses. Mr. Clark owned “the celebrated stallion ‘General Wellington” worth $50,000. In 1892, he kept another horse, “Washington,” worth $75,000 at the stables on Luce Street. Other horses were “Bell Boy,” “St. Hontas,” and “Altie Bell.” In 1889, Clark offered $100,000 to buy “Arion” in California – with the inflation calculator today that would be $3.7 million. Mr. Clark lost the bidding to J. Malcolm Forbes, who paid $125,000 for the horse.

 

On May 16, 1892, the Elmira Gazette reported a fire at the Driving Park that killed five horses, including one owned by Judson Clark.

 

On August 11, 1895, the Elmira Gazette reported that a fire burned Clark’s barns just south of the Driving Park, and he lost many horses. Someone pulled Alarm Box #58 at the corner of Spaulding and Caldwell, and the fire department quickly responded. “The large stable contained twelve horses, hay, grain, and tools, and it was a seething mass of flames when the firemen arrived. They turned their attention to saving adjoining buildings. The fire completely consumed the stable and its contents, including twelve horses. The cause remains a mystery.”

 

Mr. Clark became interested in the oil fields near Latta Brook Road in 1897. Also, in 1897, the Clark family had a home in Wellsville, New York, to be closer to his oil fields there.

In May 1897, Clark’s well in Wellsville struck mineral water. Clark found the water had peculiar medicinal properties and should be utilized. He bottled and sold “Minneway Mineral Water.”

 

He must have grown tired of Elmira because, in 1897, he offered his house for $35,000 and all his land for sale in the Daily Gazette. The land was split into 270 lots for $350 each, and Phoenix and Schuyler Avenues were created on the east side of Maple Avenue to the river. On June 26, 1897, his ad said, “Each lot had enough room for a garden to produce vegetables enough to pay interest, taxes, and a good profit. No stones, swamps, or hills.” This enterprise was called the Maple Avenue Improvement Company. Six houses were already there. I found one of the original houses – still there at 411 Phoenix Avenue but with many changes.

 

On December 18, 1901, the Elmira Gazette reported that a fire had destroyed the stock barn behind the house.

 

In 1904, Mr. Clark became ill and needed an operation at the Arnot Ogden Hospital. The procedure did not go well, and he died on June 11, 1904. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. His wife died two years later.

 

On December 18, 1919, the Star-Gazette listed his house as “ideal for a clubhouse, hospital, or apartment hotel.” It was rented as a five-family home for many years.

 

On October 24, 1921, another fire of “unknown origin” burned the remaining State Fair barns on Luce Street.

 

The Clark house came down in the 1950s after 30 years of neglect and decay. It never regained the opulence of its early days.

 

The property was sold to the Seventh Day Adventists for a new church that opened in 1959.

 

 

 

 

Sources

 

Star-Gazette Mon, Aug 27, 1906 ·Page 5Star-Gazette Wed, Oct 26, 1932 ·Page 18

Star-Gazette Tue, Sep 01, 1891 ·Page 7

Star-Gazette Fri, Aug 12, 1892 ·Page 5

Star-Gazette Tue, Aug 20, 1895 ·Page 8

Star-Gazette Sat, Jun 10, 1893 ·Page 5

Star-Gazette Thu, Jan 14, 1897 ·Page 3

Star-Gazette Sat, Feb 20, 1897 ·Page 8Star-Gazette Wed, May 12, 1897 ·Page 6

Star-Gazette Wed, Mar 25, 1959 ·Page 15

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page