Pickering Beach Historical Museum
501 West Main Street
The Pickering-Beach Historical Museum depicts life in Sackets Harbor in the mid-19th century. It consists of two buildings - the Pickering Cottage and the Pickering-Beach House. The Pickering Cottage is a small, one and a half story front-gable structure built circa 1809, typical of many of the houses built in Sackets Harbor at this time. It was originally thought that the Cottage was built by the Pickering family, but research shows that the Pickerings did not own land in Sackets Harbor until 1816. Local legend has it that the Cottage was used as a hospital during the "War of 1812" and its proximity to the battlefield makes this a possibility. Local legend also says that this was the first home of the Pickering family and that once the Pickering-Beach house was completed the cottage was used by the family servants. The Cottage is still awaiting restoration and will eventually house a gift shop and office.
The Pickering-Beach House was built circa 1817 by Joshua Pickering, a native of Massachusetts. Joshua died in 1822 and the House passed to his son, Captain Augustus A. Pickering. It was probably Captain Pickering who rebuilt the house in the 1830's or 1840's. A second story and the two-story porch were added at this time.
Captain Pickering, who was a Great Lakes captain, was the first person to sail a commercial vessel in to the port of Chicago. He left Sackets Harbor on May 12, 1834, on the schooner "Illinois," with a cargo of wagons and farm implements. He also carried a large number of north country men going out to settle in the Chicago area. The "Illinois" arrived at its destination a month later on June 14, 1834.
Ten years later, on June 5, 1844, Captain Pickering died in Upper Canada. He committed suicide because the "Ariadne," a ship he had built in Sackets Harbor, was one inch too wide to go through the locks of the Welland Canal. Pickering left a widow and five children - Clarrisa, Gustavus, Mariette, Caroline and Olivia - all minors. His widow Caroline, served as a trustee of the estate and was in control of the house until the children reached majority. The house eventually became property of Olivia Pickering.
Olivia married Allen C. Beach in 1862. Beach, a lawyer served as Lieutenant. Governor under Governor John T. Hoffman from 1868 to 1872 and as Secretary of State from 1878 to 1880. It is from Allen Beach, of course, that the house got the second half of its name.
The Beaches had one daughter, Amy, who married Colonel William V. Ewers. She inherited the Pickering-Beach House from her parents. When Mrs. Ewers died January 8, 1936, in Bermuda, she left the Pickering-Beach property in trust with instructions that within six months of her death it was to be turned over to some person or body for a museum. It was not until five years later on June 10, 1941, that the Pickering Cottage and Pickering-Beach House were deeded to the Village of Sackets Harbor.
An organization called the Sackets Harbor Civic Improvement League was created to run the museum, which it did until the mid-1980's. The League, made up of the ladies of Sackets Harbor's social elite, was headed by Mrs. G. Stanley Smith. In the end, she virtually ran the Museum by herself. When she died in the mid-1980's, there was no one to take over. In 1986, the Village Board appointed a Museum Committee, and it is this group that runs the Museum today.