Californian Debra Kolsrud recently purchased the two-story, white woodframe home at 9 S. William St. and wants to restore it and move there.
She said it is an “exciting” venture for the Colonial City.
The plans by Kolsrud to create an Educational Center for the Study of Suffrage and the Advancement of Women are noteworthy in 2008 because this year is the 250th anniversary of the city.
“I’m very excited to move to this community,” said Kolsrud, an English teacher at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland for the past 22 years. “I am moving to Johnstown permanently as of July 1.”
Kolsrud’s move to the area was spurred by her principal — Oakland school educator and former Johnstown resident Joseph Salamack.
“Joe Salamack is my principal,” Kolsrud said. “I heard about this house from his wife in November.”
On April 18, she purchased the historic South William Street site from Michael Hojohn, who had lived there for about 20 years. City Assessor Leamon Steele said the home is assessed at $146,000.
The home is where Anthony collaborated in the summer of 1884 on a famous document, “The History of Women’s Suffrage,” with city native Elizabeth Cady Station.
Kolsrud plans to live there, and the plan is to transform it into a place where current women’s groups can meet and make it into a museum.
To that end, Kolsrud said she and Salamack’s wife, Laurie, and Nancy Baird Brown incorporated a new foundation — the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Foundation — to better use the old home. Also instrumental in helping the foundation are members Sandy Maceyka and Helen Martin.
Kolsrud said she is looking for women to help with the foundation, which has a Web site — www.elizabethcadystantonhometown.org.
The foundation is already looking at fundraising events, including its inaugural fundraising event, a Sunflower Garden Tour July 26.
A sign in front of the home at 9 S. William St. put up by the Johnstown Historical Society notes that both Johnstown native Elizabeth Cady
Stanton (1815-1902) and Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) were outstanding 19th-century leaders for the campaign for women’s rights.
In 1884, both women lived in Johnstown to collaborate on Volume III of “The History of Women’s Suffrage.”
Stanton lived with her sister in an old family home about a block away, while Anthony lived at 9 S. William St.
“She [Anthony] was in Mrs. Harris’ boarding house and stayed there for one summer,” said City Historian Noel Levee.
He said he’s excited about Kolsrud’s plans for the old structure.
“She’s sinking money into it to get it fixed up,” Levee said. “Anybody that can spruce up local history at their expense is great.”
Mayor Sarah J. Slingerland said she met the enthusiastic Kolsrud at the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Symposium March 15 at Fulton-Montgomery Community College. She said various local women’s groups in the area such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, Coterie Club and the American Association of University Women have been interested in women’s rights and history for decades.
“I think [Kolsrud’s] working with several groups of women in the city,” Slingerland said. “I think the Elizabeth Cady Stanton name is going to put Johnstown on the map even more because of her national recognition,” the mayor said.
Slingerland said state Sen. Hugh T. Farley, R-Niskayuna, is sponsoring a Women’s Rights History Trail of Suffrage program, in which Johnstown is named.
“Certainly, that will bring tourists to the area,” the mayor said.
Kolsrud added, “Johnstown has been designated one of the sites because of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. My house will be one of those locations.”
Kolsrud said she is hiring a historical preservation firm from Albany — Acumen Architects — to help evaluate what can be done next with the old home.
She said she’s always been interested in women’s suffrage, and the home can become a real legacy to Stanton.
“We wanted to put together a foundation,” Kolsrud said.
She said the restoration will involve the two front rooms of the house. Eventually, part of the home will have museum rooms. She said the historical society and DAR have offered items. She also has met with Connecticut resident Coline Jenkins — Stanton’s great-great granddaughter.
Kolsrud said the 9 S. William St. structure is the only connection left in the city to Stanton.
She said she hopes to move in and have her project running by Stanton’s Nov. 12 birthday and in time for Women’s History Month next March.
Michael Anich covers Fulton County and Johnstown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich
The home at 9 S. William St. in Johnstown, above, was where Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony collaborated. It may be turned into a museum and meeting place.