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Satisfying a Passion

By Rachel Dutil  • Photos by Jessica McCafferty








Clinton Community College’s Alumni Cottage holds a rich history as one of 11 cottages rented to guests of the famed Hotel Champlain in the late 1890s and early 1900s.


Steven Frederick, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at the college,

has a passion for both history and the college and was overjoyed to show me around his unique and fascinating space. 


The Alumni Cottage sits just below the Stafford Arts and Science Building on campus. It houses the College Foundation, the Alumni Association, and College Relations. Frederick has been with Clinton for 20 years, although he stepped away for a similar fundraising role at Paul Smith’s College for three years before returning to Clinton in 2023.


In 2002 when Frederick first kicked the cottage door open, he was shocked at what he saw. Although the place was in disrepair, the intricate woodwork wowed him. He asked the college president if he could have the building which was slated to be torn down. The president laughed and told him if he could find the money to fix it up, it was his. He made the deal.


The Community’s Cottage 

“Six years later, after many volunteer hours, donated materials, and the college finally chipping in when they saw I was making good progress, we opened the doors in 2008,” Frederick recalled.

The cottage, built in 1890, pre-dating sheetrock. The vertical two-by-four construction had strips of wood about an inch wide nailed horizontally with plaster painted over the top to create walls. Tearing that out involved smashing out the plaster and then the slats.


In the 1990s, inmates were brought into the cottage. They blasted out the plaster and slats, so the dirty work was done when Frederick took over in 2002. “The plaster was gone, but what was left was two nails that held each one of those slats,” he said. The nails lined every stud in every room on all three floors of the cottage. “I was not going to ask volunteers to come in here and pull nails, so I did it. I spent two years just pulling nails.”


The cottage renovation project was a true outpouring of community support. Frederick secured donations from individuals and businesses and dozens of volunteers helped with different aspects of the project. His aim was to keep the renovated cottage as close to the original as possible.


The exterior had split cedar shake siding and Frederick found a vinyl product that looked like real cedar. He priced it at a local home improvement store and learned it would cost $10,000, which he didn’t have. He realized the product was made by Georgia Pacific, so he contacted the local plant manager Kirk Stallsmith who served on Clinton Community College’s Foundation Board. The two returned to the store and the retailer agreed to sell the siding for the project at a reduced price of $3,000.


Frederick then priced out windows that added up to $19,000, but he was offered a discounted price of $7,000. To move ahead he needed to find $10,000. The Georgia Pacific Foundation wrote a check to cover the full cost and then provided a team of volunteers to install them. “It was their community project that year,” Frederick said.


History on Display 

Frederick admits to being a “scrounge” and the unique collection of historical artifacts, photographs and artwork that fill the cottage attest to that.


The cottage dining room features a large wooden table that seats 12. The chairs are original deck chairs from the Chateauguay steamer launched in 1888 on Lake Champlain to transport guests to the Hotel Champlain. A photograph of the steamer hangs on the dining room wall. “Nobody knows how we got them here,” Frederick said of the chairs which all have a number on the bottom which indicates the boat deck there they were located.


The steamer landing was at the bottom of the hill from the hotel and fancy carriages would transport passengers up to the hotel Frederick noted. The Chateauguay has been re-purposed several times and is now used as the Mount Washington II tour boat on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. “I went out on it a couple of years ago. I wanted to touch the hull,” Frederick said, adding that the hull was made from iron ore mined in Lyon Mountain.


A beautiful antique piano is in the cottage sitting room. The piano was a gift from local artist Ita Bullard. “It’s an 1890 Hazelton Brothers piano,” Frederick explained. “Because of its age those are real ivory keys. It felt great when Ita wanted it to be donated here. It goes with the theme and the age of the house.” Bullard also donated several pieces of her artwork.


A stained-glass artwork hangs on the wall to the left of the sitting room fireplace. Frederick admits the story surrounding the piece has been challenging to uncover, but it is his “favorite story.”


A Cadyville resident named Dawn May called and told Frederick that she had a stained glass that she acquired in 1958. She thought it originally hung in the Hotel Champlain. Frederick questioned this likelihood, since the original hotel burned down in 1910. The artwork had no name or identifiable markings, no date, and the artist was unknown. It had been dated to the late 1890s based on the width of the lead cane that holds the glass together.


At the bottom of the stained glass is a depiction of Henry Hudson and a Native American. Hudson’s trademark Half Moon ship is also part of the piece. It is clearly the logo for the City of Albany. 

“Over the years it kept bothering me,” Frederick said of the origins of the piece. “I visited the New York State Museum in Albany and went through their archives and started doing some research. I am 90% sure she was off by only a half a mile. It didn’t hang at the Hotel Champlain, it hung at the Catholic Summer School, which is now Cliff Haven.” 


The Catholic Summer School was a high-end summer retreat. The campus had a cottage onsite known as the “Albany Cottage” where President William Taft visited in 1909. “I wanted to prove it hung in the Albany Cottage, so I found information and read about Taft’s visit,” Frederick said. “The main clue I have is the year they tore down the Albany Cottage was 1958. That’s the year Dawn said she received it from a Mr. Liberty.”


Uncertain Future 

With the impending move of Clinton Community College to the Plattsburgh State campus, Frederick is not sure what will become of the Alumni Cottage or the collection of artifacts and artwork housed within.


An art auction to raise money to support the college’s emergency scholarship fund is a possibility. The scholarships aid students experiencing financial hardship. “I’ve got 20 years of donated artwork,” Frederick said. “I probably have 25 or 30 really good pieces.”


The photographs and postcards framed and hung throughout the cottage help to give a sense of place and take you back to a much different era. Frederick has worked tirelessly to keep the history of the property and the cottage alive. “I like to think I’ve left my mark on the place,” he concluded.


Alumni Cottage 

Clinton Community College 

136 Clinton Point Drive

Plattsburgh, NY 12901

518 562-4161


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