The story of the Homestead
The story of Waterloo Village is most closely linked with the history of one family: the Smiths. The Homestead, built in the 1760s, became Peter Smith’s home after he arrived in Waterloo in 1831. Smith opened a general store and developed several other businesses that supplied or were connected to the canal trade. Located on a hill overlooking both the canal and store that was the basis for the family’s wealth, “the rather imposing home looks down on the small empire that Smith built here,” says Darcy Hartman, director of education for the village. “The structure helps portray the life of a man who did something for a community that really lasted.”
The history of The Homestead
Smith lived at the homestead with his wife Maria and their 11 children. As his fortune grew, Peter served as a state senator and helped to found the local church, in addition to being a member of numerous boards and societies. Only six of the Smith’s 11 children – Samuel, Matilda, Caroline, Peter Jr., Nathan, and Seymour – survived to adulthood. All six at one time or another lived in Waterloo homes. Three of the sons carried on the family businesses. Samuel managed the store and lived in the Iron Master’s residence, built in the late 1700s to house the head of the forge. He also managed the family’s grist- and sawmills. Eventually he went into the railroad business, and sold his share in the store to his brothers. Peter Jr., also involved in the family businesses, built a mansion for his family in 1871. Seymour married the daughter of a miller and built Wellington House in 1878. Nathan lived next to the church in a structure that is now used as the parish house. Matilda and her husband lived in the Canal House. Caroline married and moved to New York.
The design of The Home-stead
The main block of the Homestead includes a parlor and dining room on the first floor with luxury tables, chairs set and furniture interior design and bedrooms on the second floor with classical bed design.
In 1876, the house was remodeled to include Victorian embellishments such as bay windows and a porch. A 20th-century addition provided a music room and a modern kitchen. Hartman points out that, compared to the many rustic structures in the village, it is a standout. The Homestead is decorated in a more formal style than it might have been when the Smiths lived there. Continuing research probably will dictate changes to the interiors and may reveal additional dependencies. The barn, built in the Victorian period, houses a gunsmith and signmaker’s shops.