The Seward House
This beautiful estate is surrounded by two acres of lush garden and trees. The elegant interior has been restored to its original beauty and features an unmatched collection of political and travel souvenirs, decorative arts, and photographs that spans William Seward’s nearly forty-year political career.
The Seward House was built in 1816 on four acres on the outskirts of Auburn, NY as a ten-room townhouse for a wealthy Cayuga County Judge named Elijah Miller. Miller moved into the home in December 1817 with his two young daughters, mother, and sister. His younger daughter Frances was introduced to her future husband by her classmate Cornelia Seward. When William Henry Seward asked for Frances’ hand in marriage the Judge required the two to live with him in his home at 33 South Street. Seward moved into the house in October 1824 and oversaw an addition built onto the townhouse from 1846-1848, which included a new kitchen and dining room on the main floor and servants quarters. Judge Miller remained the owner of the home until his death in 1851.
Elijah Miller died in November 1851. He left his estate to his two daughters and named his son-in-law William Henry Seward as Executor. Despite Seward’s political career in Albany, NY and Washington DC, the house in Auburn remained the only residence ever owned by Lincoln’s Secretary of State. Frances Seward remained in Auburn with her children and grandchildren while her husband worked elsewhere. Following Frances’ death in 1865 Seward expanded the house once again. This addition included the southern wing of the current home, and added a drawing room, several bedrooms and expanded the main dining room. Following Seward’s retirement from the State Department the house once again became his permanent home until his death in October 1872.
The youngest son of William Henry Seward inherited the house after his father’s death. William Henry Seward II lived in Auburn with his wife and three children, and made several architectural changes including the grand staircase, northern carriage entrance, and back woodshed. William II also designed the current stone stable and carriage house. Land donated to the City of Auburn shrunk the home’s property to about 2.5 acres.
In April 1920 the house was passed to William Henry Seward III. Changes to the house were minimal and it continued as the family home of William III, his wife and son. Upon his death the house and family’s possessions were bequeathed to the Fred L. Emerson Foundation. William III intended for the home to open as a public museum honoring his father and grandfather.
In 1951 a recent RIT graduate was hired as the first director and curator of the Seward House Museum. Betty Lewis spent four years organizing and cataloging the belongings of four generations of the Miller and Seward family.
The Seward House Museum opened to the public in 1955. Visitors are able to tour rooms filled with original furnishings, artwork and personal belongings owned by the Seward family. The Museum has welcomed thousands of visitors including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton. The Museum offers many educational and seasonal programs in addition to guided house tours.