Magee House History

John Magee became a very wealthy man.  He established the Bank of Steuben County in Bath, which was located in the building on Pulteney Park which became home to the Masonic Temple until recently, and had a bank in New York City. He and William McCay were the main officers of the Steuben County Bank. Magee had been with Constant Cook in his bank for a while; then later they became rivals, finally each trying to outdo the other in the churches they would build in Bath and Watkins Glen.

In the political struggle of New York City bankers to wrest control away from Philadelphia bankers, Magee sided with Andrew Jackson against Nicholas Biddle and his bank in Philadelphia. At this time Magee was running for elective office in Bath and was known to support Jackson. Just a few days before the election, a political poster appeared in Bath disclaiming this position, signed by “John Magee.” His opponenets had printed this bill and found another John Magee to sign it. Magee didn’t have time to expose their ruse before the voting, and he was defeated. Whether this ploy confused his supporters isn’t known. John Magee soon moved from Bath to Watkins Glen where he built a church to rival Cook’s St. Thomas Episcopal in Bath.

Ambrose Spencer Howell bought the house in Bath from Magee in 1863. The Howell family lived there until 1885. The Howells were merchants, and built the cast-iron front building on Liberty Street where the Sports Station is now. When Magee sold the house, he reserved the iron picket fence, two hitching posts, two iron dogs, and two large chandeliers in the parlor of the house. The story is that he never took them. He died in 1868, five years after leaving Bath, leaving an estate of eleven million dollars.