The Hand-Hale Historic District is an important historic and architectural resource which represents the cultured, sophisticated lives of two prominent families of New York State jurists in the Adirondacks during the nineteenth century. The Hand-Hale Historic District in Elizabethtown was listed on the National Register in 1979. The district encompasses two adjoining homesteads and law offices.
The Hale House, which dates from 1818, is located on the North side of The Branch and was the residence of Judge Robert S. Hale. On the South side of River Street, Judge Augustus C. Hand built the brick Greek revival structure in 1849.
A. C. Hand came to Elizabethtown from Vermont in 1831 and quickly established his first law practice. He was elected to Congress in 1839 and to the State Senate in 1845. Appointed a justice of the New York Supreme Court in 1848, Hand built his impressive home a year later. Judge Hand’s legal career culminated in his appointment to the Court of Appeals, in 1855. A.C. Hand’s three sons all became prominent attorneys and his grandsons became notable jurists, giving the family a reputation as a prominent legal dynasty.
The life of the Hand family became intertwined with that of the Hales in 1844, when Robert Safford Hale began to read law in the office of A.C. Hand. Hale also achieved prominence in the legal profession. His career included a term as Essex County Judge and surrogate, he served as Presidential elector in 1860, he fulfilled Orlando Kellog’s Congressional term, and served in Congress from 1876-1881.
The Hand and Hale residences remain in good condition, although some changes have been made over the years. Hand’s son Richard made improvements in the 1880’s and 90’s, including an addition to the rear of the house, a conservatory, and porches. The Bruce L. Crary Foundation bought the Hand house in 1979 to use for its offices and meeting place for the community. Many of the original furnishings and art remain in place. The Hale house now belongs to the Social Center and remains unused.
I was recently able to go on an extensive tour of the Hand house and it is absolutely amazing. Mary Bell, the executive director of the Crary L. Foundation, gave the tour. She was a wealth of information about the Hand family and was also part of the restoration process. Mary Bell is open to visitors, but please call ahead.