The Post Office

The Post Office in Skaneateles, circa 1908. The man wearing a hat in the foreground on the left is George Spearing, grandfather of my late next-door neighbor, George Spearing, our former fire chief.  The post office is on the left, and Hall & Stackus, Furniture & Undertaking is on the right. In the center is the doorway to No. 7 East Genesee, still there today; S. J. Moore Jewelers now occupies the former post office, and Smith Barney is in the space that was occupied by Hall & Stackus.

Not Exactly “Charlotte’s Web”

Neither life nor the press spared those who came before us, however sensitive they might have been. This appeared in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Friday, April 6, 1900:


William Murphy Found with His Head Partly Eaten Off.

Skaneateles. April 5 – William Murphy, brother of James Murphy, was found dead one mile west of Skaneateles Junction yesterday afternoon. He went to the barnyard Monday to look for eggs and did not return. Nothing, however, was thought of it inasmuch as he often went away and stayed away three or four days. When Edith Wilson went to look for eggs yesterday she found Murphy behind a strawstack in the barnyard with the top of his head eaten off by hogs.


My favorite sign in Skaneateles, between the Country Club and the farm to the south. This photo was taken circa 1999. Sadly, the sign is today but a scrap of its former self, weather-worn, its white paint gone, and only a scrap of the original still in place.

The Axe Man

On November 17, 1936, at 11 a.m., Skaneateles hosted Peter McLaren, America’s champion wood chopper, who challenged local men to a contest, saying he would finish cutting a log in less than two-thirds of the time that they could, or he would give them $50. The only caveat was that his challengers could not use a Plumb Axe, his chosen brand. Born in Australia, McLaren rose to fame as a wood chopper, and in 1929 he authored a book on how to wield the axe.

Sponsored by local hardware stores and lumber yards, who doubtless sold Plumb Axes, McLaren toured the country giving demonstrations. The morning of his Skaneateles appearance, he appeared first in Elbridge, at 9 a.m. At this time, McLaren was 50 years old. He said that chopping wood kept him in shape, and who was going to argue?

An ad in Boy’s Life noted that in 200 chopping contests, McLaren only failed four times to cut through a log in half the time of his opponent. McLaren also noted, “I can shave my arm with a Plumb Axe both before and after cutting a 20-inch oak log.” I cannot find the results of McLaren’s challenge here, but in nearby Mexico, N.Y., he cut a 14-inch log in 1 minute 40 seconds. His closest challenger, who McLaren complimented for a game effort, finished in 6 minutes.

The Glen Haven Daily Mail

Glen Single

Between 1850 and 1859, guests at the Glen Haven Water Cure & Summer Resort had no nearby U.S. post office to convey their letters to the outside world. The closest was four miles south in the tiny hamlet of Scott, with a larger post office seven miles farther on, in the town of Homer.

As a service to its guests, Glen Haven opened its own “supplementary” post office where letters were collected and carried to Homer (when the weather was pleasant) or to the closer post office in Scott (if the weather was bad). The cost for the service was one penny per letter. Any incoming mail was picked up free of charge, and brought back to the hotel guests.

Glen 4

To the delight of present-day collectors, in addition to the required U.S. postage stamp, each outgoing envelope carried a Glen Haven Daily Mail stamp, signifying that the penny had been paid.

In 1859, the U.S. opened a post office at Glen Haven, and the supplementary service came to an end.

The Private Local Posts of the United States: Volume 1, New York State by Donald Scott Patton, published by Robson Lowe Ltd.; London, 1967, pp. 320-325

Ought To

“People have to think past their personal ownership of resources, because there are some things that ought to outlive them.”

— Lori Salganikoff, quoted in “The Fall of La Ronda” in Architectural Digest, October 2010, speaking about the demolition of the historic 1929 Addison Mizner house in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania