John Lincklaen arrived in the United States in 1790 carrying a letter of introduction from Dutch banker Peter Stadnitski to Theophilus de Cazenove at the Holland Land Company’s headquarters in Philadelphia. Stadnitski was a family friend, and his firm was a principal investor in the Holland Land Company.
When Lincklaen reached the shore of Cazenovia Lake in October 1792, he no doubt saw the site of his future in terms of high adventure. He wrote in his journal, “situation superb…fine land,” as he completed his survey of the Holland Land Company’s holdings. He returned the following spring as the Holland Land Company’s agent charged with selling the tract. Lincklaen envisioned a “great commercial city in the wilderness.”
By 1803 the prospering land agent began to envision a home situated on a low rise at the south end of the Cazenovia Lake with expansive, unobstructed views to the north. The plan for the mansion may have been developed by master builder, the eminent Albany architect, Philip Hooker. Building plans accelerated in March 1807 when Lincklaen’s house on the lakeshore caught fire and burned to the ground. Lorenzo’s masonry structure was begun with the spring thaw in 1807 and completed eighteen months later. Lincklaen strove to make his home fireproof by utilizing brick on both the interior partitions and exterior walls. Two-inch thick plaster ceilings complemented the brick walls and fireplaces lined with sheet-iron. Lincklaen and his family moved into the mansion on October 8, 1808.
In 1816, the post-war economy was booming, land values were high and the Holland Land Company decided it was time to get out of the retail land business. It offered to sell remaining unsold lands to Lincklaen or place them on the market, making the land agent’s share nearly worthless. Accepting what must have seemed the lesser evil, Lincklaen incurred a nearly quarter-million dollar debt, an overwhelming amount in early 19th century. Construction of the Erie Canal began the next year, worsening Lincklaen’s prospects. Most landholders held their property by land contracts, and so they had no equity in the lots on which they lived. The potential of the Erie Canal hastened the opening to markets of much cheaper land further west. Many contract holders picked up their belongings and headed west, abandoning their farms to Lincklaen. By 1820 Lincklaen had reclaimed thousands of acres but found few customers for the now overpriced land. Declining health and sinking fortunes compelled him to leave Lorenzo for the Cazenovia home of his brother-in-law during the last months of his life.
With Lincklaen’s death in the winter of 1822, Mrs. Lincklaen placed Lorenzo on the market. but there were no buyers. A year later she sold the mansion for $100 to her youngest brother, Jonathan Ledyard, who had just inherited the debt-ridden land business. Mrs. Lincklaen, together with Jonathan’s growing family, returned to the mansion, but the arrangement was short-lived. By 1826 Mrs. Lincklaen had prevailed upon her brother to sell back the mansion together with the western half of the farm, again for $100. Ledyard set out to build his own house, The Meadows, on the eastern half of the property. Mrs. Lincklaen, her niece Helen Ann Ledyard and her husband’s nephew, often away at school, stayed on at Lorenzo.
After several revisions of her will, Mrs. Lincklaen named her nephew, Lincklaen Ledyard, Jonathan’s eldest son, as her heir. A provision was made that he marry someone whom she approved, and young Ledyard won the hand of Helen Clarissa Seymour, his second cousin. At the same time he reversed his name to Ledyard Lincklaen to ensure continuation of the family surname. The younger Lincklaens moved into Lorenzo with Mrs. Lincklaen and the now-widowed Helen Ann Ledyard Krumbhaar, and set about refurbishing the mansion.
With Ledyard Lincklaen’s untimely death at age 44, in 1864, the nature of the mansion’s occupancy began to change. Plans for further household improvements, including installation of gas lighting, were abandoned. Helen Clarissa and her only child, Helen Krumbhaar Lincklaen, occupied the mansion until the younger Helen’s marriage to lawyer and politician Charles Stebbins Fairchild in 1871. After that time Lorenzo became primarily a summer residence. Helen Clarissa usually spent winters with her daughter’s household. In the late 1870s she spent two years in Europe with the Fairchilds, during which time distant cousins from Michigan rented the mansion in the summer months.
By the time Helen Clarissa died in 1894, the Fairchilds had begun another round of renovations to the mansion and outbuildings. The original carriage house was razed, and the matching stables were moved to the outer edge of the grounds. On the site of the old stables a new, grander structure — designed by Utica architect John Constable — was built in 1892. A companion building containing a potting shed and icehouse also was added. Constable also designed a Colonial Revival front stoop in 1895 to replace a Victorian Italianate version built by Ledyard Lincklaen thirty-six years earlier. A telephone was added in 1895. In 1899 “Church Cottage” was built for the estate manager, Gardner Church. The availability of Village water in 1905 prompted further kitchen renovations and installation of bathrooms. Early 20th-century improvements included electricity, a glass-enclosed porch, new wallpapers, drapes and carpets. Finally, a new paint scheme, a custard body with reddish-brown trim, replaced the timeworn gray-on-gray.
When Mrs. Fairchild died in 1931 the property was willed to her first cousin, Jane Ledyard Remington, who moved into Lorenzo with her husband, Eliphalet, a retired civil engineer. They continued improvements to the mechanical systems and added furnishings to the already well-furnished mansion. The Remingtons were strictly summer residents, wintering in North Carolina. After Eliphalet’s death in 1938, maintenance of the estate waned. In the early 1940s Jane’s brother, George Strawbridge Ledyard, Jr. and his wife, Annie Keast, retired to Cazenovia and assisted in the management of Lorenzo. Along with their bachelor son, John Denyse Ledyard, they lived in South Cottage on the estate.
Following Mrs. Remington death in 1953, a New York bank held the estate in trust while the nine heirs worked out a plan to divide the estate. It was agreed George Ledyard, one of the heirs, would be granted life residency at the mansion.
In the meantime, the condition of the house and outbuildings continued to decline. Heirs also had agreed to keep the estate intact, and in the mid 1960s an agreement was reached with the newly formed New York State Historic Trust that, upon George Ledyard’s death, Lorenzo would be purchased by the trust and the property’s contents would be donated. George Ledyard died on October 27, 1967, at the age of 92.
The New York State Historic Trust took title to Lorenzo and its property in March 1968 and began a new chapter in the preservation of a rare “find,” an architecturally significant building with an intact collection of furnishings and records. John Denyse had been granted lifetime residency at South Cottage; his death in 1970 ended five generations of Lincklaen/Ledyard occupancy of Lorenzo.