Historic Johnston House, Clayton NY

Situated across from the riverfront in Clayton NY is the historic Johnston House, (ca. 1880) built for a local shipbuilder and captain, Simon Johnston. Also referred to as the ‘Kemp House,’ The location is listed among the registry of Historic Locations, and represents a peak into the culture of late 19th century shipbuilding and commercialism. The construction of the home took place between 1880 and 1882, and was completed by architect Albert Kenyon. The house is located at 507 Riverside Drive, Clayton, NY 13624.

“The Johnston house is a 2 12-story frame Italianate style residence. The main facade features an engaged central tower extending one story above a low pitched hipped roof. The tower features a pagoda style roof.” (source)

DSC_0317 (1)The Johnston House has previously served as a bed and breakfast in its beautiful Clayton location, but is now for sale again, and intended to be used as office space.  Unfortunately, the Johnston House isn’t available for tours due to its current private ownership, but hopefully someday it will be renovated and open for tours! In terms of internal preservation efforts, the previous owners of the property replaced all of the  windows with what the  National Registry recognizes as preservation-appropriate historical windows. The Italianate facade has also been restored to it original appearance.


This photograph of the interior displays the historic hardwoods, as well as the super cool staircase! More photographs of the interior of the house can be viewed here.

As for the owner of the house, Captain Simon Johnston, the date of his death is recorded here in Clayton’s death records. He died on February 22, 1892. Another home once owned by Simon Johnston (also in the 1000 Islands) is now a bed and breakfast, which can be viewed here.

Check out the location of the Johnston House below:

“The railroad found its way to Clayton in 1873, which soon made it a popular escape from the major cities of the day. Hotels, restaurants, boat liverys, fishing guides and other tourism related services began to flourish. Wealthy summer residents built vacation homes on the numerous islands in the St. Lawrence River near Clayton. Many luxury hotels were built to accommodate the influx of vacationers. The Clayton Hotel is now O’Briens, a popular restaurant and bar. The Herald House is now the TI Inn. The other old hotels have either burned or were torn down.

DSC_0314 (1)

The large influx of people to this river community during the late 1800s created a burgeoning boating industry that supported many local entrepreneurs. Claytons strategic location on the St. Lawrence River along with its great supply of lumber attracted the shipbuilding industry to Clayton. Captain Simon Johnston owned one of several prosperous shipyards in the Village. The Town Hall is located on the site of this shipyard. Clayton figured prominently in the boating industry, and today is home to the Antique Boat Museum. A popular recreational and fishing guide boat of the late 1800s was the St. Lawrence Skiff, manufactured here starting around 1868.” (source)

Unfortunately there is not all that much information available about the Johnston House, or its significance to the 19th century Clayton community. It is, however, a beautiful location, and a vantage point into the 19th century shipping commercial culture in New York.

DSC_0319Further Reading:

– Johnston House Wiki Page
– Johnston House Property
 Johnston House on Go Historic
 Clayton Death Registry
 Simon Johnston Bed and Breakfast
– Clayton History


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