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George Westinghouse Jones House

Niskayuna Town, Schenectady County, NY

The George Westinghouse Jones House (1944 Union Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]


The George Westinghouse Jones House is located at 1944 Union Street in the town of Niskayuna, Schenectady County. The property consists of a 3-acre parcel situated on the south side of Union Street (NY 7). The house is set back on a sloping lawn with its principal elevation facing north. Landscaping consists of several large, mature shade trees and low foundation plantings. A non-contributing chain link fence surrounds the parcel. The main residence is the only historic built feature on the current parcel; a one-story, hip-roofed, tan brick church building constructed in 1964 (non-contributing) is located on the parcel immediately west of the historic residence. A separate, enclosed walkway (non-contributing) at the first-story level provides sheltered passage between the historic house and the church. The walkway is not physically connected to the house.

The historic residence is a rambling, 2 1/2-story, gable roofed, frame building erected ca.1900. The rectangular structure is built above a high stone foundation. The basement level consists of battered walls built of rusticated quarry stone laid random ashlar. The exterior walls of the house are sheathed in wood shingles. The east and west gable ends project above the second-story level, where they are supported by large console brackets. The gable ends are embellished with patterned shingle details. The principal entrance is located at the west gable end, sheltered within a hip-roofed vestibule enclosed by French doors and tall windows. The first story is dominated by a deep veranda that wraps around the west and north elevations. The veranda is characterized by shingled supporting posts and a plain wood balustrade. The broad sweep of the steeply pitched roof turns upward at the eaves above exposed rafter ends. A gallery or open promenade with low balustrade extends across the second story of the north elevation. A bracketed shed roof shelters the gallery. A series of hip-roofed dormers located on the north and south roof planes provide light to the uppermost half story. Five tall brick chimneys with corbeled caps rise above the north and south roof areas. Fenestration consists of single and grouped window openings containing movable wood sash in 8/1, 8/1 and diamond-pane configurations. Banded windows provide light to the east, south and west walls; tripartite windows light both projecting gable ends. A bay window supported on wood brackets is located on the east wall at the first story level.

The interior of the Jones House is organized with an informality that emphasizes open space and the seeming flow of one room into another. The entrance on the west gable end opens onto a hall flanked by a library and a drawing room. These flanking rooms incorporate fireplace hearths finished in glazed ceramic tile. The wide central staircase of dark varnished wood rises through two landings to the second floor. The central room of the first floor incorporates a freestanding fireplace and chimney that divide the space into two large living areas. The walls are lined with tall, varnished oak wainscoting surmounted by a continuous bookshelf. Window seats are located beneath the tall windows on the north, east and south walls. Ceilings of the first-floor rooms are plaster with exposed, varnished beams. Pocket doors separate the large central living room from a drawing room in the northwest portion of the first floor. The south side of the first floor incorporates a formal dining room connected to a kitchen and butler's pantry with beaded wainscoting and all original cabinets and fixtures.

The second floor plan consists of a large center hall and stair landing flanked by three bedroom-sitting rooms, each pair of rooms separated by a bathroom and internally connected by a short hall. Each bedroom suite contains a fireplace hearth, with an oak inglenook located in the south sitting room. Two of the bathrooms retain their original fixtures. The third floor attic story contained servants' quarters, consisting of three simply finished rooms served by a separate stairs leading to the first-floor kitchen. The Jones House retains many of its original mechanical systems, including post-and-tube electrical circuitry, a central call system to summon servants, speaking tubes, and the original, working steam boiler (built 1904).


The George Westinghouse Jones Residence, "Caermarthen," is significant as a distinguished and substantially intact example of Arts and Crafts/Shingle style residential design and construction in the town of Niskayuna. Designed by the prominent Pittsburgh architectural firm of Rutan & Russell, the 2 1/2-story, wood frame residence was built ca.1900 for George Westinghouse Jones, cousin of industrialist George Westinghouse and business administrator for the firm's Schenectady commercial interests until his death in 1925. Sited on a wooded knoll, the historic residence exhibits the finely crafted design and decorative features associated with the Shingle style and the emergence of the Arts and Crafts movement in the early twentieth century. The George Westinghouse Jones Residence is architecturally significant as a property associated with the early development of a "streetcar suburb" of nearby Schenectady during the city's most dynamic period of industrial and population growth. Owned and occupied by the First Baptist Church of Schenectady since 1955, the property retains a substantial integrity to the period of significance, and is a notable example of its type, period and method of construction.

Established by the Dutch in 1661, Schenectady became important as a center of Mohawk River commerce during the colonial period. Incorporated in 1798, Schenectady flowered during the nineteenth century with developments in transportation and manufacturing. The opening of the Erie Canal (1817-1825) and important early railroad development between 1831 and 1860 ushered in a boom period for Schenectady as a center for processing, bulk shipment and heavy industry. Schenectady's many advantages led machinist George Westinghouse, Sr. to re-locate and enlarge his manufacturing shops to the city from rural Central Bridge (Schoharie County) in 1856. As the "Schenectady Agricultural Works: G. Westinghouse & Co," the firm emerged as a leading manufacturer of farm machinery. At the death of George Westinghouse, Sr. in 1884, ownership of the greatly expanded firm passed to his three sons, among them George Westinghouse, Jr. During the post-Civil War decades, George Westinghouse, Jr. gained international fame and vast wealth from a series of engineering achievements, including the railroad air brake (1869), interlocking railroad signal system (1879) and commercial development of alternating electric current and long-distance power transmission. The Westinghouse Electric Company (established in Pittsburgh, 1886) became the direct competitor of the nascent Edison Electric Company, which Thomas Edison moved to Schenectady in 1887. The struggle for market supremacy between the rival interests was intense and personal; the presence of Westinghouse business interests in Schenectady further increased this tension.

George Westinghouse Jones arrived in Schenectady in 1887 from New York City to work at the Westinghouse Company as a bookkeeper. At that time, all but one of the company executives was a Westinghouse family member. George Westinghouse Jones was cousin to the three Westinghouse brothers and Spencer Moore, their brother-in-law. In the 1880's the Westinghouse Company was one of the largest manufacturers of threshing machines and steam engines in the U. S. Since brothers George Westinghouse, Jr. and Herman Westinghouse were situated in Pittsburgh with companies far larger to command, at least one more family member was needed in Schenectady. George Westinghouse Jones was named as secretary in this arrangement. Over a one-year period between September, 1889 and September, 1890, an unfortunate string of six Westinghouse family deaths left Jones as the only local surviving executive to conduct Westinghouse business in Schenectady.

As the city of Schenectady experienced rapid expansion in the new century, George W. Jones enhanced his business interests and speculated in real estate. He served as receiver, vice president and manager of the Schenectady Street Railway Company from 1895-1900. From 1898 until his death in 1925, Jones served as a trustee of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company of Pittsburgh. The fortunes of George W. Jones both rose and fell with those of George Westinghouse and his enterprises. Fierce competition with the Edison interests, changes in industry and general economic recession between 1893 and 1907 caused loss of family control in most Westinghouse enterprises. The Westinghouse Company in Schenectady remained, but the use of gasoline for power soon made the steam-operated farm machinery obsolete. George Westinghouse Jones was left with the job of shifting stocks from one company to another to save the Schenectady family's fortunes.

During this period George W. Jones established a hedge, perhaps unknowingly, against personal financial failure. Seeing the potential for expansion as Schenectady extended streetcar lines, by 1898 Jones had purchased over 100 acres along Troy Road east of the city; here he prepared to build a large residence. Jones engaged the Pittsburgh architectural firm of Rutan & Russell to design his house in the now "streetcar suburb" of Niskayuna.

Named "Caermarthen," the George W. Jones House of circa 1900 is a distinguished example of transitional Shingle style/Arts and Crafts residential architecture, evocative of the forms made popular in the "cottage" architectural designs developed by H. H. Richardson and McKim, Meade & White during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In its studied informality, freedom of design and massing, shingle sheathing, decorative gables, dormers and natural finishes, the Jones House reflects eclecticism and transition of architectural taste in the early development of suburban Schenectady. Frank E. Rutan joined the staff of Henry Hobson Richardson's Boston architectural firm in 1881 at age 18. Upon Richardson's death in 1886, Rutan became an associate of his brother's firm and Richardson's successors, Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge. Rutan supervised completion of Richardson's Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh (1888), where he remained. In 1896, Rutan entered into partnership with Frederick A. Russell, a former associate from the office of H. H. Richardson. Rutan & Russell became a well known, much-respected architectural firm whose commissions included many civic, commercial and residential buildings in the Pittsburgh area. The influence of the partners' Richardson years is reflected in their design for the Jones House in the massive, rusticated stone foundation, free-flowing interior organization and use of natural materials throughout. Rutan & Russell's design for "Caermarthen" also reflects the influence of the English Arts and Crafts movement popular at the turn of the century. The forms and finishes of the English Cottage and Tudor Revival styles appealed to architects and clients alike, achieving great popularity in residential design before the First World War. The George W. Jones House incorporates dark-stained oak moldings and wainscoting, banded and diamond-paned windows, tiled and exposed brick fireplaces, and inglenook and an informal open plan, features characteristic of Arts and Crafts design. The 26-room Jones residence is a distinguished, early example of the Arts and Crafts form in the Schenectady area and a rare example of its type, period and method of construction in the region.

Perhaps in reaction to what was happening in the financial world, especially to his mentor and employer, George Westinghouse, George W. Jones began sub-dividing and selling portions of his land in 1909. Shortly before his death in 1925, Jones sub-divided the remainder of his Niskayuna holdings, realizing substantial profit from sale of lots in this increasingly fashionable suburb. The wealth generated from his real estate ventures sustained Jones's second wife, who retained ownership of "Caermarthen" until her own death in 1942. Acquired by the First Baptist Church of Schenectady in 1955, the Jones House remains a prominent architectural landmark in use as the congregation's parish house.

  1. Smith, Raymond W., N.Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation & History, George Westinghouse Jones House, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.