Merrillsville Cure Cottage

Address: County Route 99 and Old State Route 3

Other names:

Year built: c. 1900

The Merrillsville Cure Cottage was built c. 1900 as a component of a tuberculosis curing facility owned and operated by Elmer and Margaret Merrill, members of the hamlet's most prominent family, who boasted a long history of settlement and occupation in Merrillsville. The facility originally included a large main lodge, which accommodated administrative, communal and dining functions. Because the cure cottage was constructed as part of this larger facility, kitchen and other domestic functions were not needed. Thus, the small building functioned only in the specific context of patient housing and was specifically designed to meet those needs most efficiently. The Merrillsville cure facility was operated until 1920, when it changed hands and became a guest house. At this time, the cure cottage was sold to the town of Franklin for use as a town hall and moved approximately 750 feet south to its current location at the Merrillsville crossroads. The main lodge was destroyed by lightning c. 1924. The Merrillsville Cure Cottage retains an exceptional level of integrity, having been preserved virtually unchanged throughout its long period of use as a town hall. Although one of the four patient rooms/sleeping porches has been enclosed, this alteration was undertaken without removing any of the original materials or features.

The town of Franklin was formed from the town of Belmont in 1836. The hamlet of Merrillsville (within Franklin) appears on a map by the early 1830s and is shown on David Burr's 1839 map of Franklin County. The settlement's name was derived from the family name of Merrill. Three generations of Merrills came to this area from Vermont before the Port Kent and Hopkinton Turnpike was finished (1829-32). It was along this route that the Merrill families settled, as well as the Gates, Lemsons, Loverins and Smiths. These names appear on the map of Township No. 10, Old Military tract, in the John Richards Survey of 1813.

The area was sparsely settled and land was cheap, which enabled the Merrill families to acquire hundreds of acres. Among the properties developed by the family was an inn that served as a stagecoach stop on the turnpike. This inn also served as the first post office in the town of Franklin, with John R. Merrill appointed postmaster in 1837. Members of the Merrill family were well educated and served in many areas of town government. The minutes of the town of Franklin board meetings between 1836 and 1907 reveal the many offices in which they served.

In 1854, one of the Merrill brothers, Eben Wesley Merrill, is listed on the town tax assessment rolls as owning forty-three acres of land in lot 146. It was on this lot that Eben Merrill built a home. Local tradition holds that this home was built in the shape of a cross, with a barn as its base; however, the exact appearance or functional history of the house cannot be determined from existing information.

Lot 146 remained in the Merrill family for the rest of the nineteenth century and in 1896 Elmer M. Merrill, a nephew of Eben Wesley Merrill, acquired the property. Water rights were provided for in the deed, as the water pipe crossed other property. Elmer Merrill and his wife, Margaret, operated the home first as a tourist bordering house and soon thereafter, by 1900, as a tuberculosis curing facility.

In 1888, Jed Scott Merrill, Elmer's brother, had died of tuberculosis after a brilliant athletic career at the University of Vermont. It is possible that this event influenced Elmer Merrill's decision to establish a curing facility on his property. In addition, Merrillsville was located only twenty miles from Saranac Lake, location of one of the largest and most successful tuberculosis sanatoriums and a village that was completely dominated by facilities for serving patients, health care providers and others involved in the cure industry.

Margaret Merrill, a registered nurse, operated the facility. The main building housed rooms, as well as dining and housekeeping facilities. It is not known whether the old Merrill home was altered to serve as a health care facility; however, a historic view of the main house suggests that changes were made, as the building pictured is similar to other buildings that served the tuberculosis cure industry in the period. This early twentieth century view shows a large building with shingle cladding and steep gabled dormers. The house also featured a large wrap-around enclosed porch with sliding glass panels, a feature clearly related to providing care for tuberculosis patients. Apparently, tent platforms were built for patients. Platform tents were screened platforms with additional shelter from the elements. The nominated cure cottage was built in c. 1920 to provide patient housing and is believed to be the only cottage built on the property.

The Merrillsville curing facility operated between c. 1900 and l920. In 1900, Margaret Merrill experienced difficulties with the water rights. The agreement called for rams to be installed and maintained summer and winter with continuous water flow at her own expense for her use as well as for the other land owner. This financial burden may or may not have contributed to the resulting bankruptcy and subsequent closing of the facility.

Henry C. Ricketson and Norma W. Ricketson, his wife, held the mortgage on the Merrill property, recorded on 27 August 1900. As of 21 August 1911, the mortgage was foreclosed. In 1920, Margaret Merrill was declared bankrupt and she closed the facility. At that time, she moved to Saranac Lake, where she purchased and operated the Whitman Cottage until 1921. The Ricketsons held and operated the Merrill property as a guest house, renting it out to private families.

Now that the Merrill property was no longer operated as a cure facility, a cure cottage on the property was no longer needed. Meanwhile, the town of Franklin had been looking for a piece of property on which to build or buy a building to be used as a town hall in District No. 1, in which Merrillsville is located. In 1920, money was appropriated to buy the cure cottage and one acre of land. The cottage was moved about 75 feet south on the former Port Kent and Hopkinton Turnpike (Rte. 99) to its new location at the corner of Old State Route 3. The cottage has served as the town hall since that time.

Source: National Register of Historic Places Registration Form

Malone Farmer, July 30, 1918

Mrs. Margaret Merrill, of Loon Lake, has brought suit against Edward J. White, of the same place, for $10,000 for interfering with the water supply of her home sanitarium last summer, necessitating its close for the season. The place has been reopened this summer.

Plattsburgh Sentinel, June 16, 1922


Property Owned By H. C. Ricketson, of This City, Loss Estimated At $10,000.

Fire of unknown origin completely destroyed the main building on the property known as the "old Merrill farm" at Loon Lake owned by H.C. Ricketson, of this city, shortly after 5 o'clock Monday evening. The property was formerly operated by Mrs. Margaret Merrill as a sanatorium under the name of the Loon Lake Sanatorium, 1 and is three miles distant from the Loon Lake Hotel. The loss is estimated at $10,000.

The fire was discovered by Frank Howe of the Loon Lake Hotel as he was driving along the road which passes the property. He sent at once to the Loon Lake Hotel for fire extinguishers, but these arrived too late to allow of the saving of the main building. A strong wind was blowing from the northwest, and within two hours the structure had burned to the ground.

The out-buildings of the property were saved by the work of the neighbors. When they arrived the ice house had caught fire from sparks from the main building, but this was kept under control.

The building destroyed was remodelled by Mrs. Merrill at the time she turned the farm into a sanatorium. The property was at one time used as the summer home of Miss Marion Manola, an actress who was famous 15 or 20 years ago. It passed into the hands of Mr. Ricketson when he foreclosed a mortgage on the place about three years ago. Since then it has been occupied only during the summer when it was rented as a camp.