“It was built in 1872 to 1874, and combines three different, very popular styles of architecture,” said Richard Brewer, lead docent at the manor.
The 9000-square foot Victorian Gothic structure was built for Judge Joseph Potter of Washington County and his wife, Catherine. Back then, this massive home cost $25,000. Today, buying it would be a prettier penny, but you can come look at it for free.
“We are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from mid-April to mid-December, and you can come to get a great lunch, you can tour the building,” Brewer said. We came on a wednesday so we missed out on the light fare, but could still enjoy the beautiful dining room.
“The ceiling is the most exuberantly decorated in the house, with paint and gilding, and the wonderful plaster moldings all around,” Brewer described. Most of the furnishings are donations to the manor because the Potters took everything with them when they left. However, the replacement pieces make it pretty easy to imagine what it was like staying there.
The first and second floors are dedicated to preserving what the home was to the potters. But on the third, you can learn a little more about Whitehall’s history at the time it was built. On a diorama of the town, you can see Skene Manor peeking through the trees, and some other familiar landmarks.
The manor has seen its fair share of change over the years. It changed hands several times after the Potters, operating as a restaurant for several decades. It eventually fell into disrepair, and faced a similar fate as other local historic structures.
“Two houses were both in Whitehall on the other side of town, and were both lost to the village by abandonment, and then eventually being bulldozed down and other uses made for the land,” Brewer explained.
But in the mid 1990s, Skene Manor Preservation Inc. was formed, and the building was saved. The community driven preservation of the landmark is what drew Brewer to come volunteer, and he recommends locals consider doing the same.
They’re actively looking for more help, but coming to check it out and maybe buying a souvenir from the gift shop helps keep the history alive, too.