This stately home was built in the early 1860s to be the home of Dexter Ray Jerauld and his wife, Angeline Parkhurst Jerauld. From 1901 to 1996, it was the headquarters of the Niagara Club. The home still stands today at 24 Buffalo Ave., and is being renovated in preparation for use as a banquet hall.
Angeline Parkhurst Whitney, the first mistress of the house, was a daughter of Gen. Parkhurst Whitney of the pioneer Falls family. Angeline, the middle daughter, was one of the three after whom the Three Sisters Islands off Goat Island were named. She was born in 1812, and in 1836 married Dexter Ray Jerauld, who built this home for his wife.
In a 1939 newspaper article titled "Peep into the Past," the author, "Old Timer," wrote that Dexter Ray Jerauld carefully selected the lumber for this house. "In those days forests were comparatively in a state of virginity, and the homestead was built for endurance," he wrote.
"The timber selected for the construction of the Jerauld homestead, which was flanked by a tract of beautiful property extending from what is now Buffalo Avenue to Jefferson Avenue, was carefully picked out in London, Ont., by Mr. Jerauld himself," and included "black walnut, butternut and chestnut trees, which today are almost priceless," as well as solid oak timbers.
"Whole chapters of the history of local families may be traced by inspecting the lumber of which the . . . building is made. There is hardly a piece of material that helps make up the antique pile that does not recall some name closely identified with Niagara," wrote Old Timer.
"The architectural and carpenter work was done by Phillips and Wright, both honored names in this vicinity. Robert Young, one of the best known contractors of his day, had charge of the masonry work. William Shepard had a part in the construction, as also did Charles J. Elderfield's father . . . an artist who had charge of the decorations, which at that time were considered the acme of perfection.
"Papering was then unknown," so "the interior was finished by frescoes and similar ornamentation."
When the house was finished, Old Timer wrote, "an offhand offer of $50,000 was made to Mr. Jerauld for the home, a price that was practically unheard of in those days."
After the family moved in, the grand house became a gathering place for high society, with the Jeraulds hosting Pierpont Morgan, "members of the Vanderbilt family, including the old commodore himself," the Astors, and Robert Bonner, a millionaire horseman who negotiated the purchase of a famous pacer named Dexter for the astronomical sum of $33,000 while on a visit to the Dexter Ray Jerauld home.
"With the passing of time, however, family changes brought about a division in the property," Old Timer wrote, and on Jan. 1, 1902, the Niagara Club, which had incorporated less than a month before, took possession of the house. The private men's club, originally limited to 150 members but later increased to 175 due to its popularity, bought the house in 1905 and erected an addition in 1906.
The Niagara Club occupied the building for 95 years, eventually adding a modern front of stone to the Jerauld house.
In 1995, the club sold the building to developer Frank Amendola, then leased it back from him, using the money from the sale as operating funds. After briefly opening the dining room to non-members in an attempt to bring in enough revenue, the club filed for bankruptcy and closed in 1996, and the building has stood vacant since then.
Last month, cleanup and renovations both inside and outside the building were under way in preparation for its reopening as a banquet hall. Amendola said he hopes to have the first floor open to the public in time for the holidays.