About John Napier
The Cattaraugus County Poor-House in Machias, New York is the last surviving building from a complex of four that from the mid-1800's was a residence, asylum and working farm to serve the County's poor and insane. In 1860, County Supervisors commissioned the Machias Stone House to be built to serve as the centerpiece on a self sufficient farm that cared for the poor and mentally insane of the County. The Stone House, as it is referred to today, is situated on New York State Route 16, in the village of Machias, NY. It is located on property owned by the County, where a nursing facility has been located since the first half of the 19th century.
Mr. John Napier, resident of the town of Machias, NY and a well known local stone cutter was hired in 1868 to build the County's new building. Prior to this project Mr. Napier had gained skill working on such national projects as the dam across the Merrimac River in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the aqueduct across the Genesee River at Portageville, the bridge spanning the Mississippi River at St. Paul, Minnesota, and the Old State Capital building at Springfield, Ill.
These projects brought fame and fortune to the Machias resident, who in 1868 turned his skill to building a home for the poor in Machias, NY. The stone for the building was cut from the family's quarry and carved to build a structure that originally stood four floors high with a pitched roof holding a cupola. The top floor, that was comprised of the pitched roof and cupola was removed in the 1950's because of roof problems. It was at this time that the building was discontinued in its use as a nursing facility and began to be used for a clinic and administration offices.
Mr. Napier during his career built other structures in the County namely, Ten Broeck Academy in Franklinville, and the Samuel Butler home in Machias. Both of these structures have now been demolished, leaving only the Machias Stone House to stand as a monument to the work of one man who for more than forty years was actively engaged in the design and superintending the construction of public works, many of which will remain a testament to his mechanical skill. The Harlem High Bridge, Harlem, NY and the Springfield Ill. Capitol building are such examples.
In the realm of Cattaraugus County historic structures the Machias Stone House stands alone, not only as the last remnant of the work of John Napier, but as one of the oldest standing structures in our County. Historically significant to Cattaraugus County history the Machias Stone House represents the talent and craft of John Napier, who became world famous for larger works, but brought his talents home to build a structure to serve the poor and less fortunate. The Machias Stone House remains substantially intact and represents an important aspect of the history of social welfare in Cattaraugus County and New York State.