An image of history: SUNY Broome alumnus donates painting of historic home

SUNY Broome alumnus Arthur Grace, Donna Rehak from the Liberal Arts Division, and the painting Grace donated to SUNY Broome.

SUNY Broome alumnus Arthur Grace, Donna Rehak from the Liberal Arts Division, and the painting Grace donated to SUNY Broome.

Built in the Greek Revival style, the pale wood-frame house on Chenango Street reflects another time.

In 1790, Thomas Bevier built three homes for each of his sons. The original part of the current structure – now located at the rear of the house — once belonged to his son Abraham. By 1850, descendent Cornelius Bevier moved the old house and then added the two-story wing that sits in front.

The family was wealthy at the start, recounted Arthur Grace, a neighbor of the Bevier-Wright House. By 1870, they were working in the local cigar factory.

“It’s the only structure in the Town of Dickinson on the national and New York historic registers because of its association with the Chenango Canal,” said Grace, a SUNY Broome alumnus who applied for the house’s historic designation.

The Bevier-Wright House, as painted by Jean Rosenthal

The Bevier-Wright House, as painted by Jean Rosenthal

In 1982, he also celebrated the house’s history by commissioning a painting by the Jean Rosenthal, a local artist who taught in SUNY Broome’s Continuing Education program. On Dec. 19, he donated the painting to SUNY Broome, where it will hang in the library’s reference area.

“You know we’re the community’s college. What makes more sense?” said Andrea Roma, Director of Development with the Broome Community College Foundation.

The Bevier-Wright House’s historic designation comes by way of its connection to the Chenango Canal, Grace explained. The canal was located less than the length of a football field away from the property line, and the canal horses often overnighted in the barn.

A 91-year-old collage once made in honor of Ken Wright

A 91-year-old collage once made in honor of Ken Wright

The house passed into the hands of the Wright family in 1889, when Civil War veteran William Edward Wright purchased it for $3,000. Eventually it passed into the hands of Kenneth Klee Wright, a nephew of Binghamton insurance magnate Conrad Klee, and his wife Isabel.

Grace grew up in the shadow of the stately old house, although Ken Wright – who, like his uncle, made his living in insurance – passed away when he was 7 years old. He became friends with Wright’s widow Isabel nee Montgomery, a model for Lord & Taylor Department Stores in Manhattan and a silent movie star in her younger years.

Isabel kept up on the house and had a great impact on her young neighbor’s life. With only an eighth grade education, she pushed to earn her GED and read several newspapers a day. She tasked Grace with reading several articles a day as well, supplying him with a dictionary; the practice helped him overcome dyslexia, he said.

Arthur Grace discusses the 91-year-old collage.

Arthur Grace discusses the 91-year-old collage.

Isabel Wright, who passed away in 2012, audited courses at SUNY Broome and was an avid participant in the college’s Continuing Education classes.

“She was fun and she was very interested in furthering her education,” remembered Grace, who graduated from SUNY Broome with a Liberal Arts degree in May 2017.

He brought another framed piece of artwork with him to the Gallery @ SUNY Broome: a framed collage dating all the way back to 1926, when Conrad Klee – the founder of the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation – was the boss of his insurance firm and Ken Wright a young agent.

Arthur Grace discusses the painting he donated to the college.

Arthur Grace discusses the painting he donated to the college.

With images and lettering cut from magazines of the day, members of the C.C. Klee Agency put the collage together as a farewell gift for Wright, who was heading to New York City for training.

It reads:

Dear Ken

Just a little advice 4 U in the big (city).

Don’t 4get us (back home).

Don’t forget the (cars). They go (faster) than a (horse and buggy) and U want 2 (impress) them.

Don’t get lost and have 2 ask the (policeman) where the (Traveler’s Insurance) is.

Don’t work 2 hard and 4get your (meals).

Don’t 4get to wear your (hat) for they miTe Tink U R from the (country) and they R (liable to give you) a (dirty look). Hide your (money) under your (bustle).

We ALL NV U your (spare time at ball games, concerts, Broadway shows and beaches).

We wish U the best success. Don’t (smoke cigarettes). (To be continued.)