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Wright-Reis Homestead Offers Glimpse of Turn-of-the-Century Somers

SOMERS, N.Y. – The historic Wright-Reis Homestead, usually open by appointment only, was open to the public Dec. 4, in conjunction with the official beginning of the Somers Holiday Season.

Roughly 24 youngsters collected on the porch of the Greek Revival residence to string buttons onto wire for holiday wreaths while their parents roamed around the house. Megan Lovell of the Somers Historical Society, explained, “Mr. Reis was a button salesman. There were buttons all over the house."

On her way into the house, town resident Nancy Hannon said, “I’ve lived in Somers for 10 years and I’ve finally got a chance to see this place. My older son came here on a field trip, but then they closed the house to the general public.”

Many of those who wandered through the old homestead talked of being happy to “finally get to see it.” One attendee said that when opened, it’s “a real treat.” The smell of gingerbread and cookies baking in the oven filled the homestead. 

Hannon said, “It’s a pity to live in Somers and not know the history. It’s time to learn the history.” Her son Chris, 11, said, “I wish we had this kind of furniture in our house.

The late Caroline Reis had studied fashion at Pratt Institute. A sketchbook of her work was on display, along with some botanical watercolors and works by the Northern Westchester Watercolor Society.

On the second floor, a fully appointed Victorian dollhouse gave a miniaturized picture of life at the turn-of-the-century.  The artifact was donated to the Historical Society by local resident Melanie Darensod.

The story of the Somers’ Wright-Reis Homestead begins before the Revolutionary War, when Daniel Wright settled in on Primrose Street. Around 1845 a local merchant, William Marshall, built a Greek Revival style house on adjacent property and 25 years later, the house was sold to Samuel Purdy Wright. He and his wife, Madeline, had a daughter, Caroline, born there in 1880.

Caroline was orphaned at the age of 12, so the homestead was rented to tenant farmers and Caroline lived with various relatives and eventually attended Pratt Institute. In 1913 she married Walter Reis, the traveling button salesman, and moved back to Primrose Street. Reis ran the farm while her husband traveled. Since the couple had no children Reis bequeathed her home and 82 acres of adjoining property, now Reis Park, to the Town of Somers. The Somers Library also falls within the Reis bequest.

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