FULTON, NY – One of Fulton’s main sources of history preservation has kicked off the summer with members and guests enjoying music, fun and plenty of food at the annual Pratt House Porch Party.
Friends of History, a fully volunteer run organization that formed more than 35 years ago has worked tirelessly to maintain and preserve the history of Fulton in one of the city’s original homes located at 177 S. First St.
The home, now known as the John Wells Pratt House, was owned by the Burger King corporation with the intent to destroy the house for more parking space roughly 36 years ago.
The mayor at the time, Percy Patrick along with a group of concerned citizens, decided one of Fulton’s original homes on the street needed to be saved and preserved, and thus began the creation of the group Friends of History and more so, the fight to keep the Pratt House alive.
The city officially purchased back the home and the newly formed organization vowed to keep it open to the public to showcase Fulton’s rich history as an ever evolving museum.
The house was patiently and ambitiously built by John Wells Pratt in 1861, including a full-length basement that was entirely dug by hand, and for this hard work and dedication the group thought the only logical name for the museum would be after the house’s creator.
And so stands, an original piece of the history of Fulton filled with the most diverse collection of the city’s history known to this day as the John Wells Pratt House Museum, as listed on the National and NYS Register of Historic Sites.
Each year, the Friends of History organizes multiple events for members of the group as well as for the public that run throughout the course of the year, and each year it all kicks off with the annual Porch Party in June.
“We run on donations only, so for events like the Porch Party we charge a certain amount of money, and for that price members and guests of members can come eat, drink and be merry,” said Sue Lane, Pratt House Director, and this year they were fortunate to have the musical styling of Sounds of Brass who volunteered to play for the event.
Guests are also able to see the newly designed theme rooms throughout the house and almost always find something they didn’t know about the city’s rich history.
Each year, the upstairs section of the home remains relatively the same with one room dedicated to the L.C. Smith/Hunter Arms gun company, one room dedicated to Nestles, both examples of companies that thrived throughout Fulton’s industrial past, among many other historical themes.
However, each year the floor level of the home displays rooms of new themes that are fully thought out, organized and decorated by Alex Seymour.
This year, one room boasted of Fulton’s athletic history while the other displayed Fulton businesses advertising throughout the years.
The sports room, in fitting with the Porch Party tailgate theme brought to light some interesting stories involving the city of Fulton.
The entire room highlighted notable individual athletes that performed in professional leagues such as Honey Barne and Ted Wilks, as well as Fulton teams of every sport throughout the years.
More so, sometimes an interesting story can be found as one guest, Dave Falanga pointed out an article being displayed that portrayed what is believed to be the origin of the curve ball.
Interestingly enough, one of baseball’s most used pitches, the curve ball, is believed to have been first pitched in the city of Fulton.
The article explained that William Arthur “Candy” Cummings was working on a curve ball pitch while at his Fulton Boarding School in 1864 after he was throwing clam shells and noticed the natural curve in the throw and began trying to duplicate it with a baseball. It is believed that the first official curve ball pitch was later thrown by Cummings in Vorhees Park.
Cummings went on to play in the Major Leagues and was even inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Falanga confirmed that he had found this same reported story when visiting the Hall of Fame, giving Fulton a moment of history that is still relevant today.
Likewise, the room displaying Fulton’s advertising history brought forth one of a kind pieces of history including a bar stool from one of Fulton’s once thriving diners and original advertisement from a Fulton jeweler in 1926 in which the owner used his daughter and her friends to model the necklaces and earrings at his store as well as advertisements from Mirabitos Grocery, Montgomery Wards and even numerous historical newspaper clips.
As members and guests wandered the house, they conversed on day’s past and things they were learning for the first time about their very own city.
Members, Ed and Carol Farfaglia enjoy and continue being members of the Pratt House for this very reason.
“We really enjoy seeing the history of Fulton, having grown up here and gone to school here. It’s nice to reminisce on what we once knew and they really do such a nice job here at the Pratt House,” said Carol Farfaglia.
Her husband agreed, “Their events are always wonderful and do a great job at bringing up the past for us to look back on or learn something new. Fulton is quite the city,” he said.
And while the Pratt House and Friends of History brings forth the fun for those who have grown up in Fulton and are able to reminisce on the city’s prosperous past, the group focuses on the youth of the city as well through children friendly events like the Parade of Trees each holiday season and the annual scholarship fund they provide.
This year, the organization was able to give their third scholarship to a G. Ray Bodley High School senior for academic excellence and aptitude toward history. The most recent $300 Friends of History Scholarship winner went to Daniel Richards, to attend Cayuga Community College before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on international business.
All of these events and opportunities are made available with the overall goal of continuing to preserve and showcase the rich history of the city of Fulton through the John Wells Pratt House Museum.
The annual Porch Party helped to shed a light on this city’s lively past while providing a fun atmosphere for those who attended.
If your are interested in visiting the Pratt House or becoming a member, stop by during the museum’s open hours on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday from 9 a.m – 3 p.m. and starting in July and continuing through August with Saturday hours, noon – 3 p.m. or by appointment.
The Friends of History can be reached in order to schedule appointments for the Pratt House, make a donation or membership inquiry or for any other question or concern at (315) 598-4616 or by email at [email protected]