Rosslyn, the second oldest home on Essex, New York’s Merchant Row, is located just south of The Dower House. This historic home (also known as the W.D. Ross Mansion, Hyde Gate, and The Sherwood Inn) was built by William D. Ross for his bride Mary Ann Gould (c. 1826-8) (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 30).
Primarily Georgian in style, Rosslyn also exhibits elements of Federal and Greek Revival architecture. The central entryway of the five-bay facade is flanked by sidelight windows placed symmetrically on both sides of the doorway and an elegant fanlight above the doorway.
“The structure is noteworthy for its exceptional Doric cornice following a design from a pattern book by Boston architect Asher Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (1826).” (“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” 30)
Rosslyn faces Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains beyond. Expansive lawns, locally quarried stone walls, an early 19th century inspired fence and the alignment (and spacing) of Rosslyn’s outbuildings contribute to the classical proportions of this stately property. Rosslyn’s whimsical boathouse, still visible wharves and a painstakingly restored waterfront recollect the Ross family’s shipping merchant heritage and The Sherwood Inn’s decades as a popular vacation destination.
Like many of the homes in Historic Essex, NY, Rosslyn has experienced many cycles of renovation, neglect, alteration and restoration. As the second oldest home on Merchant Row (and one of the oldest residences in Essex village) it is difficult to ascertain the property’s precise historic lineage. While construction of the original brick and stone structure most likely began in 1820, there are indications that it either replaced (or augmented) and already constructed wood frame house. Rosslyn Redux explores theories about the property’s evolution and showcases many relevant artifacts if you’re curious.
A significant rear wing was added to Rosslyn in the early 19th century for domestic services (kitchen, pantry, etc.) and servants quarters. It was once common for wealthy families to hire and house live-in servants (cleaning staff, cooks, gardeners, nannies, etc.), however shifting social norms and economics diminished the practice in the United States making servant quarters increasingly rare.
Early in the 20th century Rosslyn was converted into the Sherwood Inn, and the service wing was renovated to accommodate guest lodging, restaurant and tavern. When the Sherwood Inn ceased operation in the late 1950s or early 1960s the rear wing was mostly removed and the remaining addition was adapted to residential use.
“It’s worth noting that the house was constructed out of brick (with stone foundations) and not wood. But this detail — like the soft math when recollecting the number and function of servants — matters little and reveals the patina-ing power of time’s passage. The other notable difference between Hyde Gate as Lesh describes it and Rosslyn as she stands today is that the veranda has been removed, revealing an older — and most likely original — stone stairway and entrance. The owner from whom we purchased the property undertook this alteration in a nod to historic authenticity. He too felt obliged to leave his imprint on the front facade of the house and erected a Greek Revival columned entrance roof which incorporates subtle Georgian detailing…” (Rosslyn Redux)
The Rosslyn property once consisted of many outbuildings including an ice house, a carriage house, several barns, a granary, and a privy (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain. 119). The ice house was the best way to store and preserve food in the past before electricity and refrigeration. The house’s location next to the lake would have been advantageous because in the winter ice could be cut from the frozen lake and brought to the ice house to store for summer.
A note discovered at Rosslyn identifies June 13, 1908 as the date that the home was first hooked up to electricity by Guy H. Mason (Images of America: Essex on Lake Champlain. 87). With the increasing ease of indoor plumbing, electricity, and other conveniences many of Rosslyn’s outbuildings became obsolete and were eventually removed. Today the ice house, carriage house and a boathouse (dock house) which was likely constructed in the late 1800s remain and have been renovated.
Rosslyn’s current owners share the story of the property’s history and ongoing renovation at Rosslyn Redux, offering “a vicarious plunge into the idiosyncrasies (and absurdities)” of their adventure since August 2006 when they purchased Rosslyn.
Exit Manhattan. Enter Adirondacks. Renovate a home. Grow a garden. Live happily ever after. Or not… (Rosslyn Redux)
Read more at, Rosslyn Redux: Reawakening a home, a dream and ourselves.
Additional Resources for Rosslyn
This map (with satellite image overlay) will help you locate Rosslyn and see how its location relates to other historic buildings in the historic district.
View Discover Essex on Lake Champlain in a larger map
Rosslyn Redux: Reawakening a home, a dream and ourselves The ups and downs of renovating Rosslyn! This unconventional memoir leverages multiple platforms (live performance, video, audio, scrapbooking, blogging, social media and print/digital books) to explore the strengths and limits of modern storytelling while embracing author-audience collaboration.
Rosslyn Gallery: The following images capture diverse chapters of Rosslyn’s history. If you would like to contribute an image, please use the submission form. Thank you.
References for Rosslyn
“Essex: An Architectural Guide.” Essex Community Heritage Organization, 1986.
“Essex Village Historic District.” Living Places. Ed. Julia Gombach. The Gombach Group, 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. .
Everest, Allan Seymour. Our North Country Heritage; Architecture Worth Saving in Clinton and Essex Counties. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra, 1972. Print.
Hislop, David C., Jr. Essex on Lake Champlain. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2009. Print. Images of America.
“Historic Essex.” Historic Essex. Essex Community Heritage Organization. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://www.essexny.org/>.
McNulty, George F., and Margaret Scheinin. Essex; the Architectural Heritage. Burlington, VT: Queen City Printers, 1971. Print.
Rosslyn Redux. George Davis. Web. 4 Feb. 2013. <http://www.rosslynredux.com/>.
Smith, H. P. History of Essex County: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Syracuse, N. Y.: D. Mason &, 1885. Print.