Roland Sweet

Roland in Skaneateles

Of the authors who have lived in Skaneateles, Roland Sweet is perhaps the most prolific and eclectic. First with Chuck Shepard and then with John Kohut, Sweet co-authored News of the Weird; More News of the Weird; Beyond News of the Weird; Countdown to the Millennium; Law and Disorder; Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest; More Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest; News from the Fringe; Real Sex; and Strange Tails. A compilation, The Best of News of the Weird, has been published as an audio book, and described as “astounding, uproarious and absolutely factual.”

A lesser talent might be content to be the nation’s foremost curator of strange (but true) news items, but Sweet also serves as the editor-in-chief of Log Home Living magazine, which he helped launch in 1989. His most recent book, Log Home Secrets of Success, is credited with making countless dream homes a reality and rates a solid five stars on Amazon.com. An earlier title, 100 Best Log Home Floor Plans, was published in 2007.

Today Roland lives with his wife, artist Theodora Tilton, in Virginia, where he continues to compile news of human folly for a nationally syndicated column, “News Quirks.” An experienced pilot, Roland occasionally flies north to Skaneateles to enjoy the company of friends, a hotdog at Doug’s Fish Fry, Mexican cuisine at Boom Boom Mex Mex, and, on his most recent trip, perch at the Colonial Lodge in Bear Swamp.

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In the photo above, Roland Sweet points out the site of his former apartment on Jordan Street.

The House that Lottie Built

Glen Acres Large

This is the story of a cottage at the south end of the lake, and of the first three families who made it their summer home.

The story began in 1867, when William Hildreth Field of New York City married Charlotte “Lottie” Elizabeth Miller in Homer, N.Y. Lottie’s mother was Emily Randall; Emily was the daughter of one of the founders of Homer, the widow of Edward Miller and wife of Nathan Randall. Five years after William and Lottie were married, Mr. Randall died on a ship en route to Guatemala, where he was building a railroad. A former newspaper publisher and successful businessman, Mr. Randall left Emily comfortable, perhaps even wealthy, at her home in Homer.

Lottie and William were not doing too badly either. They lived in New York City, where William worked as an attorney, was a member of the Atlantic Yacht Club and owner of the yacht Kaiser.

William was also a devout Catholic, which influenced his career and his family. Descended from an old English Catholic family, he served as president of the Xavier Union, which, under his guidance, became the Catholic Club of the City of New York. He was also a board member of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylums, and was said to be “highly esteemed by the priests and prelates of that faith.”

In the summers, the Field family would leave New York to escape the heat, vacationing over the years on Fire Island or at Newport. And in 1878, the newspaper noted that the steam yacht Echo was taking an inaugural pleasure trip on Skaneateles lake, picking up guests at the Glen Haven dock. Among the passengers: Mrs. William Hildreth Field, who left the boat at Three Mile Point to help prepare a picnic luncheon.

Newspaper items about the family’s trips to Homer became more frequent in the 1880s. In 1887, Lottie spent the entire summer at the Randall house with her children: a son and two daughters (a second son having died in infancy). The next summer, Lottie and the children took a trip to Niagara Falls during their stay in Homer. In early 1889, Lottie Field traveled to Europe with her mother, her younger daughter, Pauline, and a nurse. Her passport application noted that she had blue eyes, fair complexion, brown hair, a high forehead and an aquiline nose.

The following summer, in 1890, William Miller Field, 18, the only surviving son of William and Lottie, died at the Hotel Ampersand, Saranac Lake, N.Y., probably of tuberculosis. William and Lottie now had just two children: daughters Frances Hildreth “Fanny” Field and Pauline Hildreth Field.

At this time, the family began to look at a more permanent situation on Skaneateles Lake. In May of 1892, Emily Randall sold land on the west side of Skaneateles Lake to her granddaughter, Pauline Field, for $100, and sold “2 pieces of land on west bank of Skaneateles lake” to her daughter, Lottie E. Field, for $500. (“Realty Transfers,” Auburn Argus, June 3, 1892)

You might ask why daughter Frances was not included in these real estate transactions. The answer appeared the following year: On December 17, 1893, the New York Herald commented on a miniature, a painting on ivory, by Miss Georgine Campbell.

Fanny Field Cameo

The subject was Miss Fanny Field, “who last year joined the order of Carmelite nuns, of Baltimore. Miss Field is only nineteen years old and a blonde of more than ordinary beauty.” And The Carmelite Review of 1893 noted, “Sister Macdalenk of the Cross, formerly known as Miss Fanny Field, received the Carmelite habit from Cardinal Gibbons at Baltimore, on Oct. 4th [1892].”

The Baltimore Carmelite community, based in a monastery at Caroline and Biddle Streets, was then rigidly cloistered; the nuns rarely spoke or left the monastery, and only talked with visitors through a grate. It would seem that Fanny was very much her devout father’s daughter, and was now removed from the secular world.

In May of 1893, Lottie was up from New York visiting Emily Randall in Homer, and then going on to Glen Haven to visit with friends. In August, the Homer Republican noted, “Mrs. Nathan Randall is still visiting her daughter, Mrs. Field, at the latter’s cottage on Skaneateles lake, where she has been for several weeks.”

This pretty much pinpoints the time of the construction of the cottage – the land purchased in May of 1892, and the cottage completed and occupied during the summer of 1893.

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Family lore holds that Stanford White was the architect of Glen Acres. Lottie Field did have money and lived in New York; she could have worked with a New York architect, and Stanford White was alive and working at McKim, Mead & White at this time. Glen Acres’ resemblance to the Isaac Bell House of Newport, R.I., which White designed 10 years previously, has been noted.

Isaac Bell House

The Isaac Bell House

However, there is no record of a Field family commission in the published or archived papers of Stanford White. In 1879, White did do interior design for the Frederick Roosevelt mansion (today’s Stella Maris), and the previous year, Charles Follin McKim had designed the Robbins’ annex (today’s Mingo Lodge) in Skaneateles. But there are no other structures on Skaneateles Lake attributed either to the firm or to White.

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Lottie and her family spent the summers of 1893 and ’94 at the cottage. In March of 1895, Lottie’s mother, Emily Randall, died at the age of 75. Emily’s son, Burnett Miller, was the executor of the estate. In July of 1895, Lottie and Pauline come to Homer to spend a few days with her brother, and then went to spend the rest of the summer at the cottage at Glen Haven.

In June of 1897, Lottie applied for a passport to travel to Europe with Pauline; she planned to return to the U.S. “within six months.” While she was gone, she rented the Glen Haven cottage to Mrs. E.T. Darby, who entertained guests there during the summer.

In 1898, Lottie and Pauline visited Homer on their way to their cottage, where they spent the summer. Because of the cottage’s proximity to the Glen Haven Hotel, Lottie was very much a part of the social life there. With Mrs. C.T. Redfield, Lottie planned a dance at Glen Haven, complete with a fiddler. In June of 1899, Lottie judged a cake walk at Glen Haven and then hosted a dance at the Field cottage. The newspapers reported:

“Mrs. W. H. Field has rejoiced hearts of the young people at the cottages and the Hotel de Mourin [Glen Haven] by inviting them to a fancy dress ball to be held at her beautiful cottage this evening. The affair promises to be a merry one and all who are favored with invitations are on tiptoe in anticipation of the coming delights.”

“The cottages along the lake contribute much to the social life of the place [Glen Haven]. One of the chief events of the season was a fancy dress party given by Mrs. W.H. Field of New York city, at her beautiful cottage a few days ago, and to which all the young people at the Glen hotel were invited.”

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Wm Hildreth FieldIn April of 1900, William Hildreth Field died of pneumonia at home in New York City; he was survived by Lottie, Frances and Pauline. The next year, Lottie moved to Lansdowne, a suburb of Philadelphia. While Lottie Field no longer lived in New York City, she did own parts of it; newspapers noted her buying and selling real estate and mortgages in Manhattan from 1902 to 1917.

Somewhat mysteriously, in the 1900 census, Frances, 27, was noted as living with Lottie and Pauline in New York City, along with a servant, Annie Rice, which suggests Frances had left the Carmelite order.

In June of 1901, Lottie had her cottage on Skaneateles Lake “put into shape for the season” for a tenant:

“’Oak Crest,’ one of the pretty and unique cottages situated on the lakeside, and owned by Mrs. W.H. Fields, has been leased by Joseph de Jenkin, Esq., the well-known Philadelphia lawyer and clubman, who will occupy it with this family during the entire season.” – Cortland Evening Standard, June 22, 1901

In 1902, Lottie and Pauline spent time in the resort village of Lenox in the Berkshires, and then sailed to Europe. In the years to come, they would spend less and less time at the cottage. Some time around 1914, Lottie moved to California, but she continued to deal in New York real estate.

In July of 1918, Pauline Field gave her residence as Los Angeles and applied for a passport to do Red Cross work in France. She was sent to the American convalescent hospital at Savenay, near St. Nazaire. The Red Cross played an important role there in making the lives of those at Savenay easier by providing books, games, clothing, and assisting in programs to teach the blind braille, and in other ways helping the wounded adjust to their new disabilities.

A few months after Pauline left for Europe, Frances died in New York City. And then, in March of 1919, Pauline died. Her death came in the middle of the Spanish influenza pandemic, 1918-1920, which was spread largely by the soldiers and sailors of the war, so it’s likely that it was flu that took her life. The death toll in France alone was 400,000.

Cemetery

Pauline was buried in Plot A, Row 32, Grave 24, of the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France. She is one of 16 women buried there, including three Red Cross workers, seven Army nurses, and three YWCA workers.

Lottie Field was now alone, having lost her husband, two sons and two daughters. (She would live until 1941, dying in Los Angeles at the age of 94.)

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In 1921, William D. Hannah’s summer residence in Rye Beach, New Hampshire, burned down, and almost took its owner with it. It was said to be a loss of $225,000. At this time, Hannah owned shoe factories in Brooklyn and Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. and in Newburyport, Massachusetts. One of his factories was producing 5,000 pairs of shoes each day. Not bad for a man who had begun as a shoe salesman in Auburn, N.Y.

Hannah Shoe

Hannah was now “summer homeless” and Lottie Field was in California, far away from Skaneateles Lake. In 1922, Lottie sold the cottage to Hannah. In 1923, the newspaper noted that extensive repairs and improvements were being made by Frank H. Kinney and several other carpenters on the cottage of W.D. Hannah “of Brooklyn, the well known shoe manufacturer.” The cottage was described as “formerly the Field Cottage, one of the finest properties on the lake shores.”

In 1926, while his wife and daughter were abroad, William spent the summer at the cottage with his son Richard. In early September, William went out to shoot woodchucks with a 12-gauge shotgun. He stumbled, fell and shot himself in the hand. Richard came to his aid and he was rushed to the hospital in Cortland, where his badly mangled hand was amputated above the wrist. He remained a patient in Cortland until he returned to Brooklyn in late September.

In 1930, W.D. Hannah retired. Three years later, he hung himself from a stairway bannister in the entrance hallway of his home in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He was found by his son Richard. William had been suffering from heart and nerve troubles. He left a note that read, “I am very tired,” with his name and the date, and a postscript, “Good-bye.”

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In 1934 or ’35, the family of John C. Bostelmann Jr. acquired the cottage. They were in every way a musical family: John played the violin, wife Sophie and daughter Sophie were pianists, and Clarissa and Adeline loved to sing. The new owner’s father, John C. Bostelmann Sr., had founded Bostelmann Conservatory of Music in Corning, N.Y. He was a violinist, violin maker, a lawyer and a judge. In addition to teaching his son the violin, he also taught all three of Mark Twain’s daughters to play. In the early 1930s, he retired to the Masonic Home in Utica, N.Y.

In July of 1935, Bostelmann Sr. had been ill, so his son brought him to the cottage for a visit and a rest. The elderly man fell out of bed, suffering a fractured hip and a cerebral hemorrhage; he was rushed back to Utica, where he died 10 days later. However, happier times were to follow.

The family was at the cottage in 1936, and entertained visiting friends. In 1937, the family arrived from New York City for summer at Glen Acres, with their dog “Buster,” and sat for a family portrait for a local newspaper.

Glen Acres 1 1937

In 1943, during World War II, Adeline, a recent graduate of Barnard College, became the second woman from the cottage to join the Red Cross.

Adeline in Red Cross Uniform

She was first sent to London, to a 3,000 bed “hotel” for servicemen on leave, where she worked for 18 months, and then on to Paris where she became director of the Red Cross Columbia Club across from the Élysée Palace. After the war, she remained in Europe and did field work at Red Cross clubs for the occupation forces in Germany and Austria. She returned to Skaneateles Lake in 1946.

Among her memories: meeting King George and Queen Elizabeth, and taking 100 soldiers and sailors to hear Sir Malcolm Sargent and five choral groups perform Handel’s “Messiah” with the London Symphony Orchestra. In a letter to her parents, she wrote:

“Full moons always bring air-raids, sirens and very noisy ack-ack. At first, I couldn’t tell which was ack-ack and which bombs, but after biting my nails through some 30 raids so far, I’m now able to distinguish them… I’ve seen some air corps men back from operations over France and Germany with their hands shaking. Several times we’ve had minor shell-shock cases at the club. At first I thought they were drunk, so peculiarly did they talk, but I soon learned, and tried my best to converse with them. They change the subject every few minutes and you have to be ever so patient. I just learned of the death of a lieutenant friend from Hawaii, whom I used to sing with on the ship coming over. And that’s how it goes. Here today, gone tomorrow.”

A 1944 news article noted that Clarissa was serving as a WAC in Georgia, and Sophie (Jr.) was a New York City concert pianist who had soloed with the Syracuse Symphony.

In 1946, the Bostelmann family hosted a musicale for the Skaneateles Musical Society at their “romantic cliff dwelling.” The entire family entertained, Sophie playing the piano, Mr. & Mrs. Bostelmann doing a violin and piano duet, and, “During the informalities which followed, Clarissa and Adeline sang two numbers straight out of WAC and Red Cross gatherings enjoyed during their wartime service.”

And in 1948, a wedding was held at Glen Acres: Dr. Edwin Francis Higgins of Cortland married Adeline Bostelmann.

Glen Acres eventually passed out of the Bostelmann family. In 1974, Sophie died in Auburn; she was noted as a famed piano teacher and “former summer resident at Glen Haven.” She was survived by her husband and three daughters. The following year, John C. Bostelmann died in Florida.

Glen Acres has hosted many more families in the last half century, and is still a lovely cottage.

An Idol on the Links

Frank Portrait

Frank Wilcox, “stockdom’s most popular idol,” was an actor and the head of the Frank Wilcox Players, a touring stock theater company that was a staple of Syracuse summers in the 1920s. His troupe appeared at the Wieting Opera House, known for “all the Broadway successes at popular prices.” Stock theater was an arduous occupation that involved presenting a fresh new play every week all summer long. Rest and recreation were rare, and on one occasion Wilcox made a choice that did not please his company:

“Frank Wilcox, of the Wilcox players at the Wieting, like any sensible golfer, foreswore a picnic with members of his stock company a day or so ago, to wander about the Skaneateles links in a threesome. His company, thus deprived of his delightful presence, sent him these good wishes: ‘We don’t wish you any hard luck, and we hope you have a great game. We hope you top, slice, hook, miss, duck your right shoulder, take your eye off the ball, grip the clubs too hard, ditto ditto ditto too loose, drive in the rough, likewise the traps, likewise all the bunkers, overshoot the short holes, lose your balls, MISS YOUR PUTTS AND BREAK ALL YOUR CLUBS!’ The worst of it is the curse came near being fulfilled.”

Syracuse Journal, September 1, 1925