On January 22, 2014 the Geneva Historical Society sold Balmanno Cottage (583 South Main Street, Geneva) to Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Blanchard Bartlett Walker bequeathed her house and the vast majority of her household furnishings to the Historical Society upon her death in 1997. It was her intent to establish her late husband’s collection of 18th- and 19th-century American furniture and decorative arts as a memorial to him. These objects became the William Walker Memorial Collection. Since 1997, the collection and other household furnishings have been displayed at Balmanno Cottage, the couple’s former home.
To maintain the house and its contents, Mrs. Walker created a small trust. However, she understood that there might come a time when the Historical Society could no longer maintain the house. In that event, she stipulated the house could be sold, and the proceeds devoted to the display and maintenance of the Walker Collection at another location. Income from the trust would continue to be used to care for the Walker Collection.
Last year the Board of Trustees determined that the Historical Society did not have the physical and financial resources to maintain Balmanno Cottage. To better care for the Walker Collection and make it more accessible to the public, the Board decided to remove the collection from Balmanno Cottage and approved a resolution to sell the house. The Walker Collection has been temporarily moved to the Geneva History Museum at the Prouty-Chew House while plans are made for its permanent display. Portions of the collection have been incorporated into the museum’s existing period rooms, and the remainder has been placed in storage.
Mrs. Walker and her family had a long-standing relationship with Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She came to Geneva as a child in 1919, when her father, the Rev. Dr. Murray Bartlett, became president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a post he held until 1936. Her mother, Blanchard Howard Bartlett, founded and directed the Hobart Little Theatre (Bartlett Theatre is named in her honor). With her return to Geneva in the late 1950s, Mrs. Walker continued the family’s relationship with the colleges. Through her gifts to the Theatre and other programs, she became part of the Seneca Society (donors who gave a million dollars or more to the colleges). For many years she served as an honorary trustee, and in 1980 she received an honorary doctoral degree. Blanchard House is also named in her honor. Mrs. Walker said once of the Colleges “I’ve always felt attached to the Colleges. They have always felt like home.”
Historical Society’s Executive Director, Kerry Lippincott 315-789-5151