The Van Slyke House is saved by the Nichols Family

When Pauline and Peter Nichols secured the mortgage for Lot 43, they brought two young children to the homestead with them. Peter and Pauline had two more children raising their family of four at the Van Slyke House. Peter was a farmer and produced dairy like Lot 43’s inhabitants before him until at least 1940.

Just a year after securing Lot 43 and the Van Slyke House, Peter Nichols was faced with American Telephone and Telegraph’s (AT&T) easement grant where AT&T secured “the right, privilege and authority” to “construct, operate and maintain its lines of Telephone and Telegraph.” As the Mohawk Valley continued its expansion, Lot 43 land was again needed from Peter and Pauline Nichols, this time by Herkimer County in 1931 and again in 1948.

New York State contributes to the nation’s interstate auto travel

In the early 1950’s, the New York State Thruway authority was making progress on their plan for the state’s contribution to the national highway system. The portion of the thruway that would take travelers from Albany to Buffalo was planned to go through the Mohawk Valley. In the 1950s, this plan meant some big changes for the Nichols family and Lot 43 when portions of the parcel were appropriated by the county and state for highways.

The new highway was to cut through the middle of the Lot 43 parcel and where the Van Slyke House had been built in 1860. Peter and Pauline Nichols knew they had to do something to save their home. They decided to embark on the difficult job of moving their home out of the highway’s path. This was no small task. The Nichols had to decide on where to move the house to, how they would move it, and what to construct as a foundation.

Peter and Pauline Nichols in the 1950s after the Van Slyke has was moved to south of 5s.

The Nichols family moved their house out of the way of the NYS Thruway

They worked on a great location and setting for their home. Keeping it in the center of the east and west boundaries of the lot, Peter and Pauline moved it farther south, closer to the 1903 horse barn. The cinderblock foundation they constructed would fit the old house’s perimeter perfectly and was finished 1953 with the year carved into the foundation of the basement. This would always be a reminder of the herculean task they undertook to keep their home and live on Lot 43 with their family.

Peter lived in the house only three more years. His will left the property to his wife, Pauline until her death just two years later. When Pauline died, her will bequeathed Lot 43 and the 1860 Van Slyke home to her daughter, Helen.

Helen, along with her brothers, were known to have large gardens on Lot 43.

They grew vegetables to feed their households and had substantial potato yields that were stored in a small root cellar room in the basement. Family members recounted how the root cellar would be filled to the top with potatoes. Interestingly, not too long ago, a woman who grew up in one of the neighbouring houses told us that she would visit Aunt Helen to play with the other children. Before she left, she said that she had fond memories of Aunt Helen making the kids fresh potato pancakes. Helen was loved by many and lived at the Van Slyke House until her death in 1986.