The Story of Warwick Village Around Forester Square Told Delightfully by Miss Hylah Hasbrouck in Her Paper Before the Fortnightly Club, has been transcribed by Amy Feldner Lawlor & reprinted from the Warwick Valley Dispatch March 1, 1933; Vol. XLVIII, No. 32
When the Village of Warwick NY was started, its center was at the fork of the King’s Highway, one branch going east just as it does today to Chester, Newburgh and the Hudson, the other to Goshen, Ulster Co. and Kingston. There was no Main St. as it is now until after the railroad was built. It was at the fork in the road just outside of these windows that arriving guests were welcomed and departing folk given God speed. It was here that men met and decided to join the rebel force in Revolutionary time. Supplies and prisoners passed through as the war continued. Who knows? When word was brought by a horseback rider that peace had been declared there may have been a celebration, torch light parade and a jolly time.
In 1862, when Warwick sent its quota of men to the 124th regiment, they started from the old Wawayanda Hotel. On the day of departure, they lined up in front, Capt. Benedict at their head and were given flags which a group of ladies including Mrs. Clara Edsall and Mrs. Grinnell Burt had raised the money for and bought. One of these flags is in Washington’s headquarters in Newburgh and the other is in the capitol at Albany. The men went from here to a camp in Goshen and were there sometime before called to actual service. When they returned they came in small groups and Miss Fanny Benedict does not recall hearing of any special home coming welcome.
Everything Started Around the Fountain
In our day, it was around the fountain that the home guard composed of the older men marched and drilled when the younger men left for the World War. It was at the fountain that the Armistice Day parade started on its joyous march around town.
The music played here, however, has not been altogether fife and drum marshalling men to war. The plot of grass has been covered by a band stand twice to my knowledge. The first one was low and had the appearance of a summerhouse. Happy were the neighbors when it was removed. Twenty years after another one was erected, a higher one this time with several steps leading to the platform, an ideal spot for children to play every day of the year, any hour of the day except the short time on twelve or fifteen evenings that the band was using it, an ideal place, also, for tramps to rest, loiterers to loaf, papers and rubbage to collect. Again were the neighbors happy when the Historical Society wanted the place cleared for the Forester Tablet. Mr. Harvey McPeek said he could move the stand and he did, pushing it down Main St. on rollers. It is now the garage for the Methodist parsonage.
The fountain was placed by the children of Mr. George Sanford. He had said that would be just the spot for a watering place for horses. In his day, such a basin was a great convenience but, unfortunately, the transportation motor of today needs a pump instead of a bowl.
The grass plot with its boulder, cedar tree, hydrant, electric light pole, and flower-bed has been as it is for several years but as it has changed in the past, it will probably change in the future. It is more decorative, now, than an ordinary traffic light and should be left to mark the center of the road.
Two special celebrations have been staged in this part of town that I have seen. One was last summer when Washington revisited Baird’s Tavern and met several contemporaries. It was a page of history that became very much alive for a short time. The other was Forester Day when Frank Forester came dashing up to the Wawayanda Hotel and was welcomed by Thomas Ward under the old tamarack tree that had to be cut down when the lawn was graded.
Exciting and jolly as these occasions were, how do you suppose they compared to the barbecues which were held in older days on the land now occupied by the homes of Dr. Gould and Bert Hulse? Great pits were dug in which an ox could be roasted whole and all the things cooked that went with it. Knowing how Warwick folk travel to clambakes, can you not picture horses and wagons coming from all directions to these feasts? With the Wawayanda Hotel running wide open there must have been something “doing” before the horses, weary with standing, were turned homeward.
‘Try to Rebuild this Square as it Was’
Let us use our imaginations and sweeping everything away, try to rebuild this square as it was. The green of the Old School Baptist Church came down to the road – a wide sweep of grass around the church standing so majestically on its hill. The Shingle House, home of the historical Society, was on its little knoll, no road passed its door but a lane called Burt’s Lane, led out to the King’s Highway. The Wawayanda Hotel and Baird’s Tavern (Mr. W.B. Sayer’s stone house) can be placed easily. On the corner lot in the fork and facing south was a long low house built by John Smith before 1800. James Bradner took this house down and in 1830 built the house that stood there when the land was purchased by the Standard Oil Co. and was torn down by them. It was a splendid location for a hotel and was so used, being called the United States Hotel.
Of stores there were a-plenty. We will begin at the corner of Church St. and Main. That house is still called the “Barker House” by the oldest residents because it belonged to three persons by that name. It was built by Judge Nathaniel Jones and was considered perfectly proportioned. It stood back from the road and had a front porch. The roof extended over this porch and was supported by four fluted columns similar to those which the old Reformed Church had. In this building was the first post office and with it a store run by John McKee and later by Milton and Thomas McKewen.
The house was built in 1847 by Joseph Roe, then owned respectively by John McKee, Wm. McGochlin, George Morehous, Jerry Morehous, and now by Mrs. Frank Decker.
The Square was the Hub for Businesses
The Dr. Wm. Bradner house was built by John McKee who was a hatter and used it as a hat shop and store. James R. Christie ran a private school upstairs. Lansing Hate had a furniture store downstairs. Lucius A. Waters had a tin shop in the rear. Later Joseph Roe ran a grocery store in it. It was owned successively by Jeffrey Wisner and James Bradner, Daniel Welling, Dr. Wm. B. Bradner, Fred C. Cary and now by Ferris Mead, a building having many owners. It has been predicted that when this square is again the “Hub” of business Warwick that house will be one of the first to have its front changed into a store again.
The Fred C. Cary now owned by Mrs. Burgess, was built in 1825 by Samuel Youmans. A store building stood on the vacant lot between house and library and Samuel Youmans kept a harness maker’s shop there. In 1857 Joseph Roe used it for a general country store, then James Roe had it and William Dolson used it as a harness shop, again.
You will remember the two small houses that stood on the site of the Wisner Memorial Library. The first of the two was made quaint and pretty by Mr. Cary when he built the sloping roof over the porch with two dormer windows. The house was very old, supposed to have been built before 1776. It was owned by Jacob Roe, Sawyer Zuerroy, Miss Ruth Holly, Wm. Wood, Sally A.F. Servin, John Lawrence, Frank and Fred Cary. Ruth Holly kept a millinery shop and living with her was Hyle Ann Bertholf. Miss Bertholf was known to all as Aunt Hyle Ann. It is thought that the public bakery which was known to have been in this vicinity was in the house because, when it was torn down, an oven, well bricked, was found that was larger than the usual family oven.
The other small house was built by Peter D. Demarest and used as a shoe maker’s shop by his son, J. Gillion Demarest. Philetus Demarest kept a tailor shop there. Later a Palmer ran a shoe store. Then it was owned by Azuba Raymond and Fred C. Cary.
About 1830 John Smith ran a general country store at the corner of the highway and Burt’s Lane that is where the lawn of the hospital is now. Later in the same building John L. Servin printed the Warwick Advertiser. When the Advertiser was moved down town this building was torn down.
We will cross the street now to the Wawayanda Hotel. Daniel Burt built part of it before 1776. From 1785 to 1815 Thomas Gerahity owned it and ran a hotel and store. In 1830 Thomas Ward owned it and it became the hostlery that you have read about and know.
Between the Wawayanda Hotel and United States Hotel was another store. This building became eventually a three family tenant house with many objectionable features. Thanks to Mr. Joel H. Crissey, who had built a desirable home on an adjoining lot, this house was bought and the lot cleared. A clause was put in the deed that no building was ever to be built on that open space and it has been an improvement to the neighborhood ever since.
The United States Hotel
The building known as the United States Hotel was owned by Dan and Olmstead James Chevee, William Welling called William Pie to distinguish him from Stage (each William), John P. Pierson, Grinnell Burt, Mrs. Grinnell Burt, Miss Edna Sayer and Benjamin Zelikowitz, who sold it to the Standard Oil Company and made a profit by the deal.
When the Piersons lived there a post fence enclosed the yard running close to the house on this side. Mrs. Pierson liked to lean out of the window and look up and down the street. Sometimes her cap would fall off and no one could get it for her except Fanny Cowdrey, who was then a house girl. Her hands were the only ones small enough to reach between the pickets and get the cap.
Mr. Grinnell Burt tried to turn the house around and move it back but when turned about ten feet it creaked and groaned tremendously – the men dared to go no further and it was left with one corner on the street. When the house was torn down the city fathers became busy and retrieved the lost ground, making the corner a rounded one instead of the sharp one of many years.
The Bridal Couple was Given a Skimmelton
When James Chevee ran the hotel his daughter married William H. Roberston, the first dude to come to Warwick, the first man to wear a white collar…The boss disliked him of course and decided to give the bridal couple a skimmelton not after their return from the honeymoon but during the ceremony. They rigged up a “horse fiddle” which was a cog wheel hung as a grind stone is hung. Then a hand saw was bent at right angles to the cogwheel so that it would scrape against the cogs when the handle was turned.
When the wedding ceremony was started the “horse fiddle” was started which with the beating on pans, the blowing of horns and shooting of guns made such a racket not a word spoken by the minister could be heard.
A dance was given, whether it was in connection with this wedding I do not know. But there was a dance and the young men very generously offered to take care of the babies which had been brought so that their mothers could enjoy some dancing. When it came time to go home, the young women, flushed with exercise and pleasure, gathered up their respective infants without too close a look – outside wraps were enough for identification. The next morning consternation was wide spread and the United States Hotel was the rendezvous for distracted mothers. What had those mischievous boys done? Yes, you have guessed, they had changed the clothes of their helpless charges.
‘There was No Wheeler Ave.’
Now for this side of the street, Mr. Compton’s house was built by Benjamin Barney about 1803 and later owned by Judge Nathaniel Jones. There was no Wheeler Ave. but a steep hill on the south side of the house and in front. A store on the south had a long flight of stairs leading up to it.
The house now owned by Miss Annie Hulse was built by James B. Wheeler and was one of the finest mansions in town. His daughter, Annie Wheeler White, arranged the house as it is now, built the stone wall terrace and opened the street which she called Wheeler Ave. She acquired the house now owned by Mr. Compton and remodeled it. Her fine artistic taste in arranging open spaces and using wood furnishings made it very attractive.
Coming north, there was a general country store where Miss Hulse’s driveway is, run by James B. Wheeler, Joseph Roe and later James Roe. This building was afterwards moved back and use as a barn.
Francis Baird’s Stone Tavern
It has taken some time to go the rounds and reach the real center of this circle, for all the stores, shops and houses were built where they were because the stone tavern was where it was. In 1766 Francis Baird built the stone house now owned by W.B. Sayer. It is supposed that Francis Baird purchased this land, about one hundred and ninety-seven acres of Judge Wm. Wickham, who settled the Benjamin Aske estate of Henry Wisner, this deed of purchase was not recorded. On July 15, 1799 it was deeded by Francis Baird to John Baird; May 18, 1804 to Nathan Reed; April 15, 1808 to Lewis F. Randolph; May 1, 1831 Sarah Randolph, administratrix to Gilbert and James B. Wheeler; April 1, 1847 to Mary White; May 1, 1858 to Wm. E. Sayer; March 26, 1889 by the will of Wm. E. Sayer to W.B. Sayer.
The house is built of native stone quarried on the farm and the wood cut from the trees. The lime used was burned in the old lime kiln which is on the south side of Poplar St. There was a frame addition one and a half stones high on south side of house used as a kitchen. In the frame wing north of house was a shop or store. John Mabee had a tailors hop in it. Gilbert Wood a tailor shop, a Carr a tin shop, Wallace White a harness shop, John Conklin a harness shop. There was a photographer’s gallery in the second story at one time. Lansing Hate had a cabinet maker’s shop in the store house between 1838 and 1840. John Baird ran a tan yard near the spring brook west of the house.
The street level has been a various heights. In front of the tavern, it used to be higher. Once as a wager, a man rode his horse through the front door up to the bar, enjoyed his drink sitting in the saddle and rode out again.
Miss Frances Cowdrey’s land belonged to the stone house until 1808 when Lewis Randolph sold the plot to Thomas Sprowell. There was a frame building on it just north of the tavern used as a general country store by Edmund Reynolds in 1805. Dr. John I. Wheeler 1832-1836, later by John Cowdrey, then a partnership firm of Wm. E. Sayer and Wm. Hynard and by John Cowdrey again, who in 1859 built the house that is there now and in 1865 tore down the old store building. When Randolph sold the property to Thos. Sprowell he wrote in the deed that the wall of the store could be built no higher and that he be allowed to reserve the right to use the well.
Mr. John Cowdrey, the father of Miss Fanny, set out the maple trees and the beautiful box wood which we all admire. It is the old English box wood that is impossible to buy now. The same kind is to be found in the garden at Mt. Vernon. He and Mrs. Cowdrey laid out the yard in flower beds and borders and it was the joy of Mrs. Cowdrey to have these beds filled with flowers. Miss Fanny carries on the custom as well as she is able and has never considered parting with a single box wood plant although she has had many tempting offers.
With stores and shops within a stone throw, with three taverns in sight and therefore company a plenty, it is not strange that in 1808 James Hoyt should look upon this spot with a favorable eye and buy thirty acres of Nathan Reed, the owner of the stone house. The land extended north to what is now Grand St. and west, including the farm of the late Thomas Burt. A shoe shop stood in the corner just north of our driveway and this was moved up to the house and made the front room of the small part.
I know nothing of this James Hoyt who built the house in 1808 but I believe that what he did, he did well. The beams are of oak, cut by hand and as hard as iron. A cellar was dug for every inch of the house, a cellar deep and tight. The chimneys are wide and full of flues, every room can be warmed with a fireplace. The front room of the Lewis side was the kitchen and that fireplace was the usual generous size. A dutch oven was at the side and Mr. Van Saun used to say he never expected to eat any bread as good as that which was baked there. It was from this fireplace that people on their way to service in the Dutch Reformed Church would replenish their foot warmers with hot coals.
Having thirty acres and like everyone else the privilege of pasturing cows along the public highway, it was not strange that James Hoyt was a farmer. He and his successors had a cow barn, horse stable, wagon house, corn crib, poultry house and a shed. All have been removed except the wagon house which is used as a garage.
Hoyt Forestalled the Plan to Build a Road
As the village grew and farms outside were established, it was desired to have a road leading west to Edenville and the natural place for it was to extend the Chester road across the square. James Hoyt forestalled the plan. Hearing the rumors he set out an apple orchard. It was three years old and growing nicely when preparations for the road building were made and according to law, an apple orchard could not be disturbed.
Therefore the road was put where it is now along the north edge of his land. If it had gone where it should have, it would have followed an old Indian trail that connected the creek and Mt. Eve, a trail that wound between the hills and took the grade very gradually. The builder of Mr. Henry Demarest’s house expected the road to be built there and placed his house facing that way. But thanks to James Hoyt and his apple orchard, horses have had to pull up the steep hill and now autos struggle along or go smoothly according to their age.
Mother bought this place of Mr. Sam Van Saun who had inherited it from his father, Samuel S. Van Saun. She sold the land where Mr. Bellew now lives to Mr. J.C. Wilson who built that house. That land was considerably lower than the street and had been used as a garden with a fine well in the center. There was another well on the premises and five large cisterns, two of which were filtered.
Mr. Van Saun, Sr. was a carpenter by trade and he renovated this house sometime in the 60s. The door and window casements and the alcoves on each side of chimney are his work; also, the marble mantles in place of the original wooden ones which we should have liked so much better. He had the woodwork grained a dark brown walnut. This was done beautifully by a man who was an expert and when you know there was a paneled door at every opening, large double doors between these rooms. It was no small task. Stairways were Mr. Van Saun’s specialty. Associated with him was John R. Voorhis, the grand old Sachem of Tammany Hall. The two men were cousins and Mr. Voorhis often visited here when a young man. Mr. Van Saun and Mr. Voorhis built stairways in New York City homes as we learned from an old account book found in the attic.
Miss Fanny Cowdrey and Mr. Sam Van Saun, Jr. were about the same age and great friends. There was a row of black cherry trees along the street. When Mr. Van Saun, Sr. wanted the ripest and largest cherries, which of course were at the top of the trees, he sent little Fanny after them. She could pick all around the slow moving Sam. These trees were cut down and maples were set out in a perfect square around the house. Wind and the ax have broken the line.
Mr. Van Saun and Mr. Cowdrey always kept fine teams of horses. One day Mr. Van Saun drove down his lane with Fanny and Sam and had them race to see which could unharness and put in the barn a horse. Miss Fanny says hers was tied and blanketed before Sam had his loose from the wagon.
Of housewives, there have been a variety. There was one whose cleanliness you should know about. Every week the wash tubs were taken in the back yard and the hoops scrubbed and scoured until they shone. This clean lady had a son who brought home a bride – a dainty young lady who had never been required to do very hard work. The usual consequences followed. The last straw was laid when mother-in-law demanded the dirt to be removed from the cracks in the garret floor with a hair pin. The young madam packed up and went home. Her father interviewed the young husband and the wife returned but a change in households followed. The dust? As far as I know it is in the attic floor at this very minute.
The material for this paper was given to me by Mr. W.B. Sayer who wrote out all the historical data. Miss Francis Cowdrey, Miss Julia Demarest, Mrs. George N. Van Duzer, and Miss Fanny Benedict – I am grateful to them. It reduced my research work to nil and gave me pleasure in weaving together the various bits into a complete story.