A man of Sir William's position required a grand home to impress his many guests who arrived for political, financial, and diplomatic discussions. Commitments in the French and Indian War(1754-63), however, kept him from implementing a large construction project. In 1758, he erected two stone blockhouses to defend the site of his future residence. These blockhouses eventually served as offices, storehouses, and rooms for servants and slaves.
Construction of Sir William's new Georgian style mansion began in 1763. Johnson hired Samuel Fuller, a Boston-trained carpenter, to build his fourth Mohawk Valley home. By winter, the house was ready to be occupied and furnished. The house was constructed of "rusticated" wood to resemble stone blocks. Two large rooms on each side on the first floor and second floors flanked its broad hallways. The basement level contained the kitchen and the service rooms.
While the house was under construction, the carpenters also built barns, a summer house, a coach house, and later, an overseer's house. Mills. Shops for craftsmen, and a number of dwellings for servants and tenants followed. The carriage barns, Indian store, stone office, bakery, smokehouse, well houses, and other necessary buildings would have presented a fully working estate.
Bark houses were built for the chiefs of the Six Nations for special gatherings and councils.
Johnson Hall was the seat of Sir William's vast holdings. Visitors were impressed with his fine hospitality and were quite astonished at the first introduction to his manor house, often simply known as "the Hall." Guests were fascinated by Johnson's extensive Cabinet of Curiosities, one of the finest collections of native material in the colonies.
Johnson Hall was confiscated as a loyalist property by the State of New York in 1779 and sold at auction. The house remained a private residence until 1906, when New York acquired it as a state historic site. Visitors to the site today can tour "the Hall," which has been restored to its appearance during Sir William's occupancy.
The Landscape of Johnson Hall
Visitors to Johnson Hall in the 18th century frequently remarked on its beauty and amenities, including its gardens and neatly ordered fields. Johnson's correspondence contains many references to particular herbs, roots, vegetables, fruit, and trees that he acquired for his gardens. His gardens were planted with apple, plum, and pear trees.
His 2½ -acre garden produced some of the region's best-tasting fruits and vegetables. Although there are no descriptions of the design or layout of his gardens,
we know that he used picket fences and hedges to enclose some of his gardens and fields. We also know that his uncle encouraged him to lay his fields out in regular blocks and to protect them with hedgerows.