:: A Chronology ::
This Skaneateles residence has seen much history:
1795 — Revolutionary War soldier Jacobus Annis, a.k.a. James Ennis, comes to Skaneateles from Orange County, N.Y., and settles on 220 acres of land. He keeps a tavern on the property.
1810 — Daniel Ludlow purchases the estate from Jacobus Annis. Born in New York City in 1750, Ludlow was a merchant, and with his brothers was a Loyalist during the American Revolution. His brothers fled to England, and were eventually rewarded with land in Canada. Daniel remained and prospered with an importing business on Wall Street. He traveled extensively; he was in Paris during the French Revolution; in 1793, he was an eyewitness to the executions of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. In New York, he was president of the Bank of the Manhattan Company.
When his importing house is forced to declare bankruptcy in 1808, he retires to Skaneateles. He holds his $5,800 mortgage for a time with his cousin, Richard Harrison. The land is re-mortgaged by Robert C. Ludlow Jr. and Ferdinand Ludlow in 1812, and by Robert C. Ludlow Jr. and Edward G. Ludlow that same year.
1814-1822 — Daniel Ludlow dies in 1814. The property is sold to Ben Miller in 1815 for $7,500, then to George Thorpe of Charlotte, Vermont, in 1819 for $7,500.
1823 — Richard Talcott (1791-1876) buys the property for $6,000, tears down a small two-story frame house already built there, and builds his own two-story Greek Revival house from the wood of the surrounding forest.
1838 — Richard Lawrence De Zeng, a real estate investor, engineer and canal builder from Oswego, buys the 220-acre property for $12,000 and trades the Talcott house to H.W. Allen for a matched team of horses, on the condition that the house be removed immediately.
1839 — H.W. Allen sells the Talcott house to James Gurdon Porter who disassembles it and moves it across the lake ice in the winter, and reassembles the main house and one wing at 19 Leitch Avenue (where it stands today); the second wing becomes another house, at 27 Leitch.
1839 — De Zeng completes his mansion on the lake (the present day Roosevelt Hall); the house costs $18,000 to build, with another $11,000 spent on its interior furnishings. (The furniture is made at Auburn Prison in a workshop run by Spencer Parsons of Skaneateles and two business associates from Auburn; Parsons pays each prisoner/carpenter 30 cents a day.) For a longer piece on the architects and architecture, visit here.
1840 – On July 3rd, the Skaneateles Columbian reports:
“Mr. Wood has just finished, at his room, a fine picture of the residence of Mr. DeZeng in this place, together with the surrounding scenery. The view was taken from an elevated position in the Phoenix building. The edifice, the grounds, the blooming trees and shrubbery, the quiet lake, with here and there a boat upon its surface, all seem true to nature, while the effect of the scene is heightened by the softening radiance of the declining sun. The picture is well worth seeing. Mr. Wood will remain in our village but a short time longer, and those who wish to avail themselves of his instruction should apply without delay.”
On August 18th, Col. De Zeng’s daughter, Emeline, married Capt. James Hugh Stokes at St. James’ Episcopal Church, followed by “a brilliant ball at the De Zeng house.”
1841 – De Zeng sells off 108 acres for $9,000.
“J.H.W.” visits De Zeng, and in August writes this for the Hoboken Tribune:
“… from my window, at an early hour, I was introduced to as picturesque and beautiful a view as ever the eye rested upon. A self-introduction briefly preceded a strong attachment; and I envy not the man who can resist such charms, or turn a deaf ear to the winning voice of Nature, when, with more than queenly majesty and grace, arrayed in her most beautiful robes, she thus presents herself for admiration.
“You should go to Skaneateles if you would see the glory of a Country life. As you stand upon the Eastern piazza, there is a fine view of Skaneateles Lake… As you look down this superb sheet of water to its apparent termination, (but only apparent, for it is sixteen miles in length,) it requires no stretch of the imagination to believe you are looking upon the noble Hudson and its scenery between Newburg and West Point.
“Upon the opposite shore, and near the foot of the Lake, you discover almost a hidden Paradise, among the profusion of shade-trees with luxuriant foliage, the snow-white dwellings of the Village and its modest spires, distant from ‘Lake Lawn,’ as the residence of my friend is properly termed, about half a mile. Standing upon this most bewitching spot, and casting your eye in whatever direction you will, the sense are gratified by the lovely face of Nature; and gazing upon the lake, its richly variegated borders reflected in its transparent waters, the imagination is excited by the most noble of prospects.”
Note: This is the only instance I have seen where the home is called “Lake Lawn.”
1843 – On March 30th, Richard De Zeng’s son is ordained as an Episcopalian priest, becoming The Rev. Edward De Zeng, at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Skaneateles.
1845 — In December, William Henry Seward stops at the De Zeng mansion on his way to Washington and after leaving finds he has come away with the wrong coat. From the capitol, he writes:
“I discovered that in leaving Mr. De Zeng’s, at Skaneateles, the night before, I had brought away a cloak similar to but not my own. This is somewhat inconvenient, for I think the exchange an unequal one.”
1848 — Richard L. De Zeng dies on June 17th, in Oswego.
1849 — John Legg buys the house and its remaining 112 acres as an investment from the De Zeng estate for $10,000.
1850 — Legg sells the house and its 112 acres to farmer Peter Whittlesey for $10,500, and sells the furnishings separately for added profit.
1856 – On September 19th, the Skaneateles Democrat reports:
“We learned on Saturday, Mr. Whittlesey disposed of his family residence to Mr. S.W. Hale, of New York, at a bargain; possession given next spring. Mr. W. retains the residue of the De Zeng property, and will, we hope, make Skaneateles his permanent residence.”
Peter Whittelsey did not stay in Skaneateles; he sold his farming equipment and household belongings at auction soon after.
1857 – Seth W. Hale, a manufacturing jeweler from New York City, moves in; he purchases the house for $9,000.
1858 — August 17th, Seth Hale sells the house to Anson Lapham of New York City for $8,000. Lapham names the estate “Lake Home.”
1861 — Anson Lapham retires to Skaneateles. His cousin, Susan B. Anthony, is a frequent visitor.
1868 — Elizabeth Cady Stanton accompanies Susan B. Anthony on a visit. She writes:
“Mr. Lapham’s place is one of the most beautiful in this country. The house, with its pure white columns on either side, looks like a Grecian temple, and the close cut lawn running down to the lake is as smooth as velvet. Everything is kept with Quaker neatness and perfection, both inside and out.”
During the visit, Anthony takes some young men sailing, with amusing results.
1876 — Anson Lapham dies, leaving the house to his second wife (and widow) Amie Ann Willetts Lapham. His total estate is valued at $700,000.
1878 — William R. Willetts buys “Lake Home” from his mother for $20,000.
1879 – On February 28th, the Syracuse Sunday Courier reports:
“The marriage of Miss Prentice, daughter of Mr. John H. Prentice, of Grace Court, Brooklyn Heights, to Mr. William Willetts, of Skaneateles, which was solemnized Tuesday evening, February 18th, was a ceremony of much brilliancy and elegance. The bride is a lady of culture and wealth, and Mr. Willetts’ many friends in Syracuse extend their congratulations. The future home of the happy couple is the elegant mansion of the late Anson Lapham, at Skaneateles.”
Willetts was married twice: first to Mary Prentice of Brooklyn, N.Y. (the sister of Emma Prentice Willetts, wife of William’s brother, Joseph C. Willetts, who in 1883 builds The Boulders on Genesee Street), and after Mary’s untimely death, to his cousin, Louisa Frost. William and Louisa have two daughters: Louise and Katherine.
1888 – Katherine Willetts is photographed on a sofa, by a window in the mansion.
1892 — Willetts sells the house to Edward Macomber Padelford — of New York, Washington, Baltimore, Newport and Paris — for $20,000.
1899 — Padelford sells the house to his friend Samuel Montgomery Roosevelt (shown above); the two men share common interests in coaching, yachting, and membership in New York’s Knickerbocker Club. Montgomery Roosevelt is the grandson of Nicholas Roosevelt of Skaneateles, and the first Roosevelt to live in Roosevelt Hall.
1903 – Roosevelt Hall’s gardener, George Stuart, who had tended to the greenhouse, gardens and grounds since 1859, dies. He is replaced by Mr. H. Treen, who for eight years had been a gardener for A.H. Benson, of Ankerwycke House, Wraysbury, Buckinghamshire.
In August, Roosevelt Hall almost loses its namesake when the yacht of Montgomery Roosevelt is run down by a fishing boat in Long Island Sound.
1904 — Montgomery Roosevelt is away, spending several months in Italy and the south of France, then taking a suite at the Savoy in London.
1905 – On June 14th, Miss Augusta “Gussie” Boylston is wed at St. James’ Episcopal Church followed by a reception at Roosevelt Hall. The bride is the daughter of Augusta Shoemaker Boylston Roosevelt and the step-daughter of Montgomery Roosevelt. Miss Boylston was a fixture in the Social Register and on the New York Times’ society pages, all the more so because her step-father’s cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, is the President of the United States.
The groom is Donald Campbell, son of Major General John Campbell. On the way to St. James’, and on the way back to Roosevelt Hall for the wedding breakfast, Augusta is delighted to see flags flying from the porches of every home, a tribute, she is sure, to her new husband’s military connections. The following day she writes a letter of thanks to the Skaneateles Press for this lovely gesture, not realizing June 14th was Flag Day.
1906 – In March, an article in the Syracuse Post-Standard announces that Roosevelt had hired architects Gaggin & Gaggin of Syracuse to renovate Roosevelt Hall and have it ready for the couple’s arrival in June. The article noted:
“…up to this time practically the only change made upon the interior is the installation of modern plumbing, heating and lighting. Now it is proposed to take out the painted woodwork on the first floor and finish all the rooms and halls with choice white quartered oak. The plans call for some elaborate wainscoting and panel work and a new staircase.”
The article also described the outdoor addition of twin stone steps of Onondaga limestone leading from the back of the house to the lawn, and a pool with a lily pond and fountain to be placed between them.
Roosevelt has his coach horses shipped up from New York City for the summer, and in June gives his portrait of John Barrow to the Skaneateles Library. (The portrait, which today hangs over the entrance to the Barrow Gallery, is the only painting in the collection by an artist other than John Barrow.)
1907 — Montgomery and Augusta, with their niece Virginia Roosevelt, are in residence for the Christmas holidays.
1908 — In June, a rumor in Paris prompts a letter to the newspapers from Mrs. Roosevelt at Roosevelt Hall.
In July, prompted by Theodore Roosevelt’s comments on “race suicide,” Mrs. Roosevelt and her daughter host a baby contest. Shown, three contestants on the gala day.
1911 – In January, actress Marie Dressler comes to Roosevelt Hall for tea with Mrs. Roosevelt, Mrs. W.J. Shotwell and Miss Mabel Avery. Her current play, “Tillie’s Nightmare,” is set partly in Skaneateles and this is her first visit to the village, which she at first had assumed was fictional. Dressler rides to Roosevelt Hall in Mrs. Roosevelt’s sleigh; upon her return to the Packwood House, she says, “Talk about Versailles and all your European piles, Roosevelt Hall with its exquisite furnishings beats them all.”
1912 – In July, Augusta Roosevelt drives her Packard across America, from New York to San Francisco. She was just the 32nd person to motor across the country and receives a Tiffany Silver Medal for her accomplishment.
In August, she drives from Skaneateles to Philadelphia in one day.
Later in the month, she hosts a musicale at Roosevelt Hall with Miss Harriette Cady playing the piano.
1913 – Edward Padelford revisits Roosevelt Hall as Montgomery Roosevelt’s guest.
1914 –Roosevelt Hall is occupied by Mrs. Roosevelt, while Mr. Roosevelt goes salmon fishing in Canada, sails at Newport, and leases a house in London “for the season.”
The Girls’ Friendly Society of St. James’ Episcopal Church meets at Roosevelt Hall.
In August, trouble at Roosevelt Hall is reported by the Skaneateles Free Press:
1915 — In early May, Theodore Roosevelt, the former U.S. President, visits while his cousin is away. Teddy is in Syracuse on a legal matter (the Barnes libel trial), and comes to Roosevelt Hall as a favor, to inspect damage done by a lightning strike on April 29th.
In July, Montgomery Roosevelt hosts James St. George Dillon, of Montreal and New York, at Roosevelt Hall. Dillon was a wealthy importer of chemicals and drugs who had offices in New York, and who summered in Newport. For a time his firm was the only licensed importer of morphine, which must have been a swell monopoly.
1918-1919 – The Skaneateles Press reports on a New Year’s celebration at Roosevelt Hall in this piece written by “One Present”:
“Roosevelt Hall Gloriously Celebrates the Passing of the Old Year and the Coming of the New.
“If joys could continue in the same plentiful degree throughout the year as the New Year brought in to all at Roosevelt Hall Tuesday evening, life would be a rosy path to tread. Alas! it was one brief evening of mirth, cheer and entertaining mysteries to unfold. The evening was opened by a funny darky dialogue given by a Mr. Harper of New York, and the hostess’ daughter, Mrs. Gussie Boyleston Campbell, who was the much bedecked Mrs. Johnson, in “garret” finery, like a Christmas tree with myriads of white curling papers crowning her and waving her fan most majestically. They were colored gentry of high degree, bantering back and forth in high-flown English in quick repartee of wit.
“When the chimes at midnight tolled out the old victorious year, all rose in respectful silence and with a ‘toast to our hostess, Mrs. Roosevelt,’ who so quietly was dispensing pleasure all around her. The colonial type of the house suggests house parties and brilliant social scenes, beautiful and stately in holiday decorations of evergreen and red candles flickering everywhere. A huge Christmas tree, ablaze with electric lights, nestled in the corner of the English drawing room. Following the entertaining program came the delicious refreshments that are beyond describing, all a beautiful dream to remember.
“May as much happiness come to the hostess at Roosevelt Hall as she gave her guests the close of the old year. “
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1920 — Montgomery Roosevelt dies in New York City at the Knickerbocker Club. Legend has it that his portrait in Roosevelt Hall fell to the floor at the moment of his death. (This is based on the testimony of the servants; at the time, Mrs. Roosevelt was up West Lake Street having tea with Mrs. J. Thorne Mollard.)
Mr. Roosevelt’s funeral is held in Skaneateles and he is buried at Lake View Cemetery. In addition to family members, his friend and frequent guest Leslie Cotton comes to the village for the service.
Later in New York City, scandal ensues when the will is read. The mansion passes to his nephew, Col. Henry (Harry) Latrobe Roosevelt. Recently retired from the Marine Corps, Harry is married to Eleanor Morrow of San Francisco, daughter of Federal Circuit Judge William W. Morrow. Eleanor Morrow and Lt. Roosevelt were married in 1902; their children were William Morrow, Henry Latrobe, and Eleanor Katherine.
1922 – In December, “Henry Evans and a gang of men have this week been rebuilding the ice house on the Roosevelt Hall property that was partially wrecked by the high water in the lake last June. A retaining wall has been built to guard against future damage.”
1923 – In August, Mrs. H.L. Roosevelt hosts Spanish Ambassador Don Juan Riano y Gayangos – Knight Grand Cross of the Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III, Grand Cross of Isabel the Catholic, Grand Cross of the Military Merit, Grand Cross of the Naval Merit, Grand Star of Honor of the Spanish Red Cross, Gold Medal of the San Payo Bridge, Grand Cross of the Order of Cambodge, Daneborg of Denmark and Saint Olaf of Norway, Commander of the Legion of Honor of France, Knight of Leopold of Belgium, of the Conception of Villaviciosa of Portugal, His Gentleman of the Chamber, Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Washington of His Most Catholic Majesty Alfonso XIII of Spain – perhaps our most titled visitor ever, for a quiet weekend.
1923 -1930 – The Roosevelt family lives mainly in Paris, where H.L. Roosevelt is heading the European operations of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). He oversees the building of large radio stations in Ankara, Turkey, and Warsaw, Poland.
1926 – The Roosevelt family summers in Skaneateles. Before returning to Paris in the fall, they travel to California to visit with Mrs. Roosevelt’s father.
1927 – Cold Spring Farm, owned by Montgomery Roosevelt, is sold to John Pease by Henry Latrobe Roosevelt for the trust fund of William Morrow Roosevelt.
1930 — The Roosevelt family returns to the U.S., and Mrs. Roosevelt reopens the mansion. On July 18th, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Governor of New York, visits Auburn Prison, and then motors to Skaneateles with his wife Eleanor and youngest son John to lunch with his cousin Harry at Roosevelt Hall. Others in the Governor’s party have lunch at The Krebs.
1931 – In August, Admiral Mark Bristol visits Harry and Eleanor Roosevelt.
1932 – In September, Harry and Eleanor again host their third-cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was now running for President. Roosevelt wins, and in 1933 approves the appointment of Harry as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
1933 – In October, Herbert Parker, the caretaker, shares raspberries with the editor of the Skaneateles Press, and says that he and a friend drove to Washington the previous week and presented Col. Harry Roosevelt with two quarts of the berries.
On November 4th, the Auburn Citizen-Advertiser reports:
“Roosevelt Hall Robbed”
“Trophies and guns, some them valuable antiques, are missing from the armor and trophy room of Roosevelt Hall, summer residence of Col. Henry Latrobe Roosevelt, assistant secretary of the navy and kin of President Roosevelt, on the west shore of Skaneateles Lake, it was learned yesterday. The burglary was discovered a week ago, but state police kept the news to themselves in order that they might follow up on a clue to the identity of the thieves, who are believed residents of the vicinity.”
* * *
1934 – In response to a request from the Skaneateles American Legion post, Col. Harry Roosevelt procures two large guns for the village’s World War I memorial in Shotwell Park. The guns are originally from the deck of Admiral George Dewey’s flagship U.S.S. Olympia.
In May, Harry changes the name of his official craft, a former Coast Guard “rum chaser,” from “Onondaga” to “Skaneateles.”
1936 — Col. Harry Roosevelt dies, and the house passes to his son, Major William Morrow Roosevelt.
* * *
1937 – Eleanor Katherine Roosevelt, Roosevelt Hall and a sailboat on the lake appear in an ad for Pond’s skin cream.
1940 – Maj. William Roosevelt and 14 members of the City Troop of Philadelphia camp on the grounds of Roosevelt Hall, guests of Mrs. H.L. Roosevelt, on their way to war games.
1942 – In May and December, the Skaneateles Press carried one story and one classified ad from Roosevelt Hall:
“Mrs. H. L. Roosevelt Asks $66 from County In Death of 9 Sheep”
“Onondaga County probably will pay a $66 claim to Mrs. Henry L. Roosevelt of Roosevelt Hall here and Washington, D.C., for a sheep and eight lambs owned by her and destroyed by predatory dogs. The claim was filed with County Treasurer Nicholas Pirro after a visit to Roosevelt Hall by Sanford J. Henion and Webb H. Greenfield, Skaneateles town assessors. One sheep worth $10, and eight lambs worth $7 each were killed on or about May 8. They were in a flock of 29 sheep and 13 lambs, on the Roosevelt estate. If the claim is granted, the money win come from the county’s dog license fees.”
“LOST – Wednesday, December 26th, one earring set with pearls, believed to have been dropped when stepping off Auburn and Syracuse car at trolley station, Skaneateles. Finder please notify Mrs. H.L. Roosevelt, Roosevelt Hall, Skaneateles, and receive reward.”
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Roosevelt Hall circa 1944; photo by Spencer L. Adams
1944 — Maj. William Roosevelt, while serving in the U.S. military in Guam, sells the mansion to William H. Delavan.
1950 – A November windstorm blows off part of the roof, fells 20 trees and damages the greenhouse.
1961 — Delavan sells the house to Kenneth M. Dunning, the developer of Lake View Circle.
1963 – Dunning sells a portion of the estate’s land to Thomas Rich, who tears down the greenhouse, converts the carriage house into a residence, and further subdivides the land for another residence.
1967 — Dunning sells Roosevelt Hall to Dennis Owen.
1974 — Owen builds a smaller home for himself on the property and deeds Roosevelt Hall to the Christian Brothers.
2001 – The Christian Brothers pass the home to the Franciscan Friars.
2007 – At the Friars’ request, the house reverts to Dennis Owen who sells it to the current residents; it is once again a private home.