The Wickwire Family
ARDELL WICKWIRE (1845-1915)
Ardell Rouse married Chester Wickwire on October 2, 1866. They moved into her mother’s house at 17 Tompkins Street, where she gave birth to their first son, Raymond, who died of scarlet fever at age 5. She also gave birth to Charles and Frederic while living in her mother’s house.
The Wickwires moved into their new mansion in 1890. As the lady of the house, Ardell Wickwire supervised the servants and ran the day-to-day operations of the house, while her husband was off supervising the factory. At the start of each day, Ardell met with servants in the Morning Room to go over daily assignments.
Ardell also hosted an “at home” day once a week, where she entertained a group of ladies over tea in the Morning Room. They may have discussed the numerous local causes they were involved in. Ardell served on the Finance and Entertainment Committees of the Cortland Library Association, and the Social Committee and Women’s Auxiliary of the YMCA. She also promoted the construction of the Cortland Memorial Hospital, and the Wickwires donated $80,000 for its construction.
CHARLES WICKWIRE (1879-1956)
Charles, the oldest son of Chester and Ardell, was eleven years old when the family moved into the house in 1890.
As a boy, Charles played with Mabel Fitzgerald, the girl next door, and they married in 1902. See the entry on Mabel Fitzgerald for more information. Chester took Charles and Frederic on many cultural trips to places like New York City, Saratoga Springs, the West Coast, as well as the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
Charles played several musical instruments, including the banjo, the autoharp, and the xylophone. Charles was a member of the local Banjo Club, and his club certificate sits on the bed in the Boys’ Bedroom. Charles took banjo lessons from a local teacher, Professor Leonard, and French lessons from Professor Henrique. He and Frederic attended a weekly French club, where students were required to speak only in French.
Charles attended the Cortland Normal School, and as a high school student, he attended Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts. He later attended Yale University, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree.
Upon his marriage to Mabel, Charles built the red mansion to the left of the 1890 House (when viewed from outside). This mansion is now the SUNY Cortland Alumni House.
After college, Charles became Vice President of the Wickwire Brothers factory. Upon his father’s death, he became the President, and managed the company during its peak production period of the 1920s-1940s.
FREDERIC WICKWIRE (1883-1929)
Frederic Wickwire was seven years old when his family moved into the Wickwire mansion. As a boy, Frederic took banjo and French lessons and attended Cortland Normal School.
Young Frederic often accompanied his mother on trips to Ithaca and New York. At some point, Frederic signed his name, “Fred”, on the inside of a trapdoor in the library pantry.
Frederic owned a menagerie of pets, including his parrot, Jac. Jac had free reign over the house — he could fly anywhere. Frederic also owned a basset hound and a pony.
As a high school student, Frederic Wickwire attended Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts like his brother, Charles. Frederic then attended Yale, where he earned a Bachelor of Philosophy in 1905. After college, Frederic joined the Wickwire Brothers factory, as a General Superintendent and later Secretary of the Board of Trustees.
In 1923, at age 40, Frederic moved into the vacant Wickwire mansion with his new family: his wife, Marion, and his four children, Chester, Cynthia, Lyman, and Winthrop. Frederic and Marion made extensive renovations to the house, including the addition of the Fernery, the addition of lincrusta wallpaper on the second and third floors, and the removal of the mantles over the house’s fireplaces. Frederic died of a long term, undisclosed illness in 1929.
MARION GOODRICH WICKWIRE (1888-1973)
Marion Goodrich married Frederic Wickwire on June 1, 1912. Together they had four children: Chester Frederic (born 1913), Cynthia Margaret (born 1915), Lyman Goodrich (born 1919), and Winthrop Rouse (born 1923).
Marion and her family moved into Chester’s mansion in 1923. She and Frederic quickly made updates to the house to better accommodate the tastes and styles of the 1920s. When they added the Fernery, Marion ordered the colorful, cherub-filled chandelier. Her love of cherubs is seen throughout the second floor, where several are carved into the lincrusta wallpaper.
After Frederic’s death in 1929, Marion spent two years as a widow. In 1931, she married local judge C. Leonard O’Connor, who moved into the Wickwire mansion. Marion and Leonard made further updates to the house, modernizing the kitchen and bathrooms. Marion outlived her second husband as well, who died in 1971.
Marion enjoyed planning garden parties, as well as writing poetry. Some of her poetry is on display on her desk in the Morning Room.
When Marion got too old and infirm to walk up the grand staircase, an electric wheelchair was added to the stairway. Marion died in 1973 at age 85, the last resident of the Wickwire House.
Support Cortland's Landmark Building
The impressive collection found throughout the 1890 House Museum offer visitors the opportunity to step back in time to 19th century Cortland. The unique history within our walls tells the stories of the Wickwire family, their servants, and the factory workers who toiled in Wickwire Wire Mills Factory.
We strive to educate and inspire every visitor through diverse programming and exhibitions. With your help, we will preserve this Cortland County landmark for present and future generations.