The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (AHI) resides in a venerable mansion. Built in the Federal style of architecture and completed in 1832, it has a rich and varied history. The building has served as a private residence, housing lawyers, educators, and financiers, during most of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. It turned into a seat of high-end dining for most of the post-World War II era before its transformation by AHI into an edifice of scholarly excellence in 2007.
Dick Williams, for forty years the driving force of the Clinton Historical Society, recounted bits and pieces of the building’s past to AHI charter fellow James Bradfield and his wife Alice. They and Robert Hamill, an AHI board member, investigated, gathered important information, and set to work to bring an encapsulated version of this buildings’ history with a display of a historical marker. Hamill commissioned Sewah Studios of Marietta, Ohio, one of the finest makers of historical signage in the world, to encapsulate the history for the viewing public. On June 6, 2022, a delay of two years because of the Covid pandemic, John Nester Contractors brought this project to fruition in front of the hedge row and parallel to the main door of AHI.
Yale graduate Othniel Williams (1787-1832), a practicing lawyer and Trustee of Hamilton College, constructed the building, which took him several years to complete. His son, Othniel Samuel Williams (1813-1880), lawyer, judge, and entrepreneur, was a Hamilton College alumnus and treasurer, in the latter capacity for thirty years. In 1871, the College acknowledged his service and largesse to Hamilton College by awarding him an honorary degree. He along with Samuel Eells and several others established in 1832 the Alpha Delta Phi literary society, one the oldest fraternal organizations in the United States. Robert Hamill, board director Howard Morgan, charter fellow James Bradfield, and AHI president Robert Paquette are all members of Alpha Delta Phi. The sign in white and emerald green represents the colors of ADP.
According to Dick Williams, “[e]xtensive gardens once surrounded the property, and it remained within the Williams family for more than a century until it was sold to William H. Newton, a lawyer from Utica, in 1938.” The Williams Mansion is located at 21 West Park Row in the village square of Clinton, New York, about one mile from the Hamilton College campus and about twenty miles from Colgate University.