Isaac Gale Perry, an architect best known for completing the monumental New York State Capitol in Albany, also played an important role in the early development of Gabriels Sanatorium. The first years of Perry’s career (1832-1854) were spent in Keeseville, New York, learning and practicing carpentry and trying his hand as a designer. After leaving school at age 10, he worked with his father, Seneca Perry, building many homes in the Keeseville area. Their signature feature was the spiral staircase, a specialty that required exceptional skill in layout and execution.
In 1852 Perry relocated to New York City to apprentice in the office of architect Thomas R. Jackson. Perry rose to the position of junior partner by 1856 and the next year won for himself the commission to design the New York State Inebriate Asylum, the first institution in the world for the treatment of alcoholism. This large project marked a turning point in Perry’s career. Supervising its construction occupied most of his time until 1866.
Perry moved his practice to Binghamton in 1872 and designed and built many prominent ecclesiastical, commercial and residential structures there and in the southern tier of New York and in adjacent Pennsylvania. His successful experience in public buildings was a decisive factor in his appointment in 1883 to become the Commissioner of the new Capitol in Albany, responsible for completing the building. This appointment placed him in charge of one of the largest and most controversial public works in 19th Century United States. The Capitol, begun in 1867, was then years behind schedule and greatly over budget. The first two architects had been fired and Perry was charged with completing his predecessors unfinished designs.
During the next 16 years he supervised construction of the Capitol’s Senate Staircase, and extensively reworked studies for the State Library and the Great Western Staircase. He developed new designs for the exterior entrance from the east including a monumental exterior granite staircase.
Because work on the Capitol was frequently interrupted for want of legislative appropriations between 1886-1899, Perry, as the state’s only paid architect, was called upon to design other public buildings, such as the remodeling of the Executive Mansion, the Matteawan Asylum for Insane Criminals, the St. Lawrence Asylum for the Insane in Ogdensburg, and over 40 armories. When the Capitol was finally completed in 1899, Perry retired and returned to Binghamton.
Between 1895 and 1897, without charging a fee, Perry designed and supervised the construction of three of the first buildings at Gabriels Sanatorium: the Administration Building, Rest-a-While Cottage and Kerin Cottage. Today (2002) only Kerin Cottage remains. It is also possible that he designed the chapel, planned from the beginning but not begun until 1904, the year Perry died. Two factors made his work convenient for Perry: first, the work at Gabriels took place at the same time he was overseeing construction at the St. Lawrence Asylum in Ogdensburg and there was good rail travel from Gabriels to Malone and then to Ogdensburg. Second, Perry is thought to have had a camp on Jones Pond, adjacent to the Sanatorium property. Mother Mary Kieran attempted to change the name of Jones Pond to Lake Lucretia in honor of Perry’s wife, but the new name did not “take” and the lake is still known as “Jones Pond” today.
- Haynes, Wesley. “Isaac Perry, Craftsman-Architect.” Adirondack Architectural Heritage Newsletter, Vol.9, No. 1, Summer 2000.
- Hotaling, Mary. “Isaac Perry’s ‘Lost Project.’” Adirondack Architectural Heritage Newsletter, Vol. 9, No. 1, Summer 2000.
Original Text by Pat and Tom Willis
External links: Wikipedia: Isaac Gale Perry