History lesson: 19th century doc’s legacy lives on in Theresa

History lesson: The legacy of a 19th century doc
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 7:13 AM EDT
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THERESA, New York (WWNY) - If you’ve driven through Theresa, you’ve likely seen a stately manor. The man behind it was Dr. Frederick Santway.

He was born in St. Lawrence County but relocated to Theresa in 1879.

“He arrived with $10 in his pocket on a horse and buckboard and set up shop,” said Janet Gee, who owns The LightHouse in Theresa.

Dr. Santway was ready to start his medical practice. But not just any type of medicine, he studied homeopathic medicine.

“Which means he used homeopathic remedies, which are small, minute doses of whatever medicine it is,” Gee said. “It’s very hard to detect at that point.”

Other doctors in the area did not take him seriously, until a mining accident left him to care for all of the injured workers.

“What happened from then is that everyone found out how incredibly helpful he was to the rest of those men,” Gee said. “And so then his practice really picked up.”

But in 1890, fire ravaged the village.

“It looked bombed out,” Gee said. “The fire took the whole downtown, so everyone who built back built with stone, including Dr. Santway, who was fanatic about it.”

And so, the manor was built and is still being used for alternative approaches to wellness. It’s now The LightHouse in Theresa.

“Right now, we have massage therapists, reflexologists, and we have a salt cave, and then we also have an infrared sauna,” Gee said.

Why is it called the lighthouse? Because in addition to being a doctor, Santway was also a savvy businessman and owned the Old Red Mill for quite some time, supplying hydropower. When his mill was powered up, he’d light the top turret of his home.

He was also a philanthropist and donated the land that became Santway Park.

The legacy of his home and his healing continues in the village he rode into 144 years ago