The 191 Alligators of Clyde

by Sarah Tichonuk

Did you know that there are 191 alligators in Clyde, NY? Well, just their skins.

As you’ve been reading in these entries, we often receive a community’s generosity in the form of hotel rooms, which allow our crew to step off the boat, shower, and just have a break. Our crew had two nights at the Erie Mansion here in Clyde, and it was – how to put it succinctly? – unforgettable.

The crew heading to the Erie Mansion
The crew heading to the Erie Mansion (photo: Tom Larsen)

Mark Wright explains about the history of the mansion to Sarah and Erick Tichonuk
Mark Wright explains about the history of the mansion to Sarah and Erick Tichonuk (photo: Tom Larsen)

Mark Wright is the proprietor of the Erie Mansion, a 12,000-square-foot B&B, which he describes quite adamantly as “not a frou-frou B&B.” It is, in fact, a gorgeous mansion built in 1858. It first housed Dr. Smith, and then the wealthy glass-making family of Ely.  In its 40 rooms, the mansion boasts 12 fireplaces, 23 chandeliers, and ornate carvings and ceiling decoration throughout.

But Mark has also added his own flair to the Erie Mansion. There are motorcycles in the front drawing room and foyer. There are two Penny-farthing bicycles in the hallway (Mark can ride them – I saw photos.) The billiard room contains swords, a WWII-era helmet, and a blow gun.

So the alligators. Mark has decorated four suites in the upstairs rooms of the mansion, each with its own unique theme. The room I stayed in was the Eerie Suite — I did spell that correctly – where the theme is dead things. He has wallpapered the rooms with 191 alligator skins (yes, I counted them – wouldn’t you?)  The nightstand has a box of tissues, a clock, and a giant alligator skull. The sitting room has a coffin coffee table; it’s the real deal (well, I had to open it, right?)

The mansion is also supposed to be haunted. The ghosts could be one of the early residents, rumored to have committed suicide. Or perhaps it was during the years when the mansion was used as an old folks home. Mark has a huge scrapbook with these stories – newspaper clippings, and even scribbled scraps of paper from former residents who lived there in more recent years.  The paranormal-sighters are crazy for the place, and make regular trips.

Oh, I could go on and on, but I really think you ought to check it out yourself next time you’re in Clyde, NY.  On second thought, make it a special trip.

Sarah Tichonuk
Nautical Archaeologist & Educator at LCMM