The Mission

“The Oswego County Historical Society (OCHS) is a non-profit corporation organized with a mission to discover, to collect, to preserve and to interpret materials and objects germane to the history of Oswego County, to sponsor writings, publications, and to promote public interest in Oswego County’s historical resources.”

Fort Ontario Postcard caption

The Oswego County Historical Society was founded in 1896 and officially incorporated through an act of the New York State Legislature. It is subject to the guidelines of the New York State Board of Regents under the New York State Education Law. A board of trustees manages every operation through countless hours of time and person
al commitment.The first founding board of trustees originally organized a celebration to recognize the 100th anniversary of the evacuation of the British from Fort Ontario and Oswego in 1796. This was a momentous event in local history. After the success of the centennial extravaganza, prominent citizens in Oswego decided to establish a permanent organization focused on local history.

Since that time the society has preserved and promoted the history of the greater Oswego community for over a century. It has collected and maintained thousands of artifacts, photographs and manuscript collections that document the county’s rich history. In 1946, the historical society received the generous gift of a historic 19th century Tuscan Villa style residence to serve as a permanent headquarters and public museum. Since that time the society has owned and operated the magnificent Richardson-Bates House Museum, a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum is located at 135 East Third Street in the Washington Square Historic District in the city of Oswego. This distinctive residence offers a unique glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of a prominent Oswego family. It also serves as a museum dedicated to interpreting the vast history of the people, places and events of Oswego County through exhibits and educational programs.


About the House and Family


Harriet Max Naomi Lawrence captionThe Richardson-Bates House was built in two stages as a private residence for Maxwell B. Richardson, a local attorney, real estate broker and civic leader. In 1867, Max commissioned Rochester architect Andrew Jackson Warner to design the Tuscan Villa style residence for him and his family. The house was actually an addition to the Richardson family homestead built in the 1840s that once stood on the property. A lifelong bachelor, Max lived here with his widowed mother Naomi Richardson, his divorced sister Harriet Richardson Bates and her son Norman Bates. In 1887, the homestead was demolished to make way for a new south wing completed in 1889. The opulent interior decor reflects the 19th century Victorian fascination with art, culture, education and history.

Norman Bates was the sole heir to the Richardson family and inherited the house in 1910. He lived here with his wife Florence and their four children, Betty, Norman Jr., Sally and Max. After the death of Norman’s widow Florence in 1945, her three surviving children donated the house and 90 percent of the original furnishing and contents to the Oswego County Historical for use as a public museum in memory of their family.

Today the Richardson-Bates House remains one of the most intact house museums in New York State, which also features an extensive archival collection and exhibit space documenting the history of Oswego County. Visit to learn more about of the life and times of a fascinating Oswego family and the history of the place where they lived.