Emma Flower Taylor Residence 224 S Massey St Built After Divorce From J. B. Taylor
The Emma Flower Taylor residence located at 224 S Massey St. was erected in 1917-18, eight years after the divorce of Emma Flower Taylor and J. B. Taylor. Emma would take leave of the brownstone mansion on Clinton Street, built by her father as a wedding gift for the two, eventually returning to it from an extended stay in New York City with their two children, Frederick Halsey Taylor, then age 16, and Roswell Flower Taylor, 7. A third child, the first-born Roswell Flower Taylor, passed away in 1892 at the age of 7 months.
Emma would hire local architect Addison F. Lansing to draw up plans for what would become the new Emma Flower Taylor residence at 224 S Massey St. The Watertown Daily Times reported of the news on May 11, 1917–
Within a week it is expected that workmen will begin tearing down the old George Massey Residence at 224 S Massey Street, recently purchased by Mrs. Emma Flower Taylor, to make room for the new home which she is now expected that she will reside.
Architect Addison F. Lansing has been commissioned to draw the plans for the new residence and upon these he is now working. It is understood that several months will be required in the construction of the house, which will be of wood, of attractive design. While the house will be moderately large, it will not compare in size with the big brownstone residence in Clinton Street, now occupied by Mrs. Taylor, and which it is reported Mrs. Taylor will close.
The Massey site is one of the most beautiful in the city, having a frontage of about 150 feet and a depth of a several hundred foot, with rolling lawn and large elm trees.The ground affords an opportunity for a beautiful garden, which will be supplementary to the house.
During the process of tearing down the old Massey garage, workers made an unexpected discovery: a tombstone for Edward S. Massey‘s first wife, Nancy Kilborn Massey, who had died 65 years earlier. The four foot tall stone was inscribed with “Nancy L., wife of Edward S. Massey, and daughter of Allen and Rhoda Kilborn. Died April 17, 1952, aged 25 years.”
The former Massey caretaker shed light on the perplexing discovery, stating that the stone had been removed 18-20 years prior when new stones were purchased and replaced it.
In February of 1918, Lansing was directed by Emma Flower Taylor to purchase the residence at 237 S Massey St, home to supreme court stenographer John C. Uhlein who had listed for sale. Mrs. Taylor had no initial plans for the property which sat directly opposite of hers, but a church, now Mercy Point, now stands there today.
After moving into the 224 S Massey St residence upon its completion, Emma Flower Taylor would offer up the brownstone mansion on Clinton St. for use as a convalescent hospital for World War I soldiers. Though the United States government graciously declined due to logistics, the Canadian government would accept the offer for its use during the summer months.
The following year (1919) a pond, fountain and stream would be added to the landscape of the property. In the back corner was a “Diminutive house” known as the Band Box, where small parties are frequently held.
In 1920, Mrs. Emma Flower Taylor would purchase the residence of Miss Clara Massey, 236 South Massey Street, which adjoined her property. There was no immediate statement on what her plans for the property were.
In 1921, she would open up the gardens to the public every Thursday evening for about a month from near Memorial Day through June. An estimated 500 people ventured through the gardens the first night they were open, many of them from out of town. It was said that the only thing more joyful than the people strolling through the gardens was Emma herself watching them.
After Emma’s death in 1934, son Roswell F. Taylor and his first wife, Helen Baker Taylor, would move into the residence. Other son Frederick resided at the brownstone mansion on Clinton Street for a short period, but it would receive very little use in the following years. At one point, due to the costs and taxes, options were looked at for repurposing the mansion perhaps as an institute or school, but nothing prevailed.
Frederick Taylor gave seriously consideration to razing the structure before it was purchased by John B. Harris, Emma Flower Taylor’s former financial advisor and mayor of Watertown. Harris would then convert the mansion into a number of high-end apartments, as they remain to be to this day.
Sometime before 1954, Roswell F. Taylor, a well-known attorney, would put the former Emma Flower Taylor residence at 224 S Massey St property up for sale but there were no takers other than American Stores, Inc., aka Acme, a big grocery chain that was looking to spend nearly $1,000,000 on building a new store in a small shopping plaza. The only problem: it would require a zoning change. After a public hearing that saw the vast majority of speakers spoke against it, the project died as Mr. Taylor withdrew his application.
In late March of 1955, first wife Helen would pass away at the Heart Institute in Miami, Florida, after having been ill for several years. Roswell would remarry shortly afterward to Elisabeth Quincy Stebbins on October 7, 1955 (emphasis on shortly). During this time, the Acme grocery store sale would be revived as a three-prong real estate deal that would envision the grocery store at the site of the Herring Mansion on the corner of Washington and Clinton Streets and the American Legion moving into the former Emma Flower Taylor residence at 224 S Massey St.
Of course, that never came to fruition either due to another blocked zone change request. The Herring Mansion and American Legion would eventually became part of another three-property deal involving the former Watertown High School on Sterling Street instead.
Despite the zone changing being blocked twice, Acme would purchase the Flower Taylor property in 1955. They would retain ownership for a few years, putting it back on the market in 1958 and be sold to two city doctors, Dr. Battista and Dr. Ronson, in 1959.
In 1964, the property would be sold by Dr. Battista and Dr. Ronson to a joint venture between the YMCA and YWCA. Initially, it was believed that the existing property would be used with the addition of a swimming pool, gymnasium on the property, but the plan changed to razing the 224 S Massey St residence for a new complex altogether.
The former Emma Flower Taylor residence at 224 S Massey St. would be razed in December of 1967 to make way for the new YMCA/YWCA Swimming pool. A decade later, the pool would be given to the city after the Watertown Foundation offered $100,000 to each of the financially struggling Y’s under the condition they deeded the pool to the city and the city, in turn, agreed to accept and maintain the property. Six years later, the pool was closed and the city was looking for $30,000 just to reopen it for half of the year.
In 1991, the city would pay $1.3 million to convert the old swimming pool into the new Massey Street Fire Station. The station would be rededicated in 1999 as the “Emma Flower Taylor Fire Station,” a fitting tribute for the location as well as Mrs. Taylor’s own philanthropy having purchased a fire truck for the local fire department in the early 1900s – not to mention her Father’s close ties having been a volunteer firefighter and chairman of the 1890 NYS Firemen’s Convention and the posthumous recognition at the 1910 NYS Firemen’s Convention he received as well.