I have written before about S. Montgomery Roosevelt, the man who purchased Roosevelt Hall in 1899 and gave it the name that we know it by today. He was a wealthy artist and something of a hound dog whose last will and testament disclosed a mistress and cut his wife out of his fortune, leaving his money to nieces and nephews. But long before S. Montgomery Roosevelt’s death in 1920, Roosevelt Hall played a role in an exchange of views that was a preview of things to come.
It began in June of 1908, with a rumor in Paris and an explanation in the New York newspapers:
“Mrs. Horatio Rubens Denies That She and Her Husband Have Separated.”
Because Mrs. Horatio H. Rubens sublet her apartment in the Rue Hamelin, Paris, and took up temporary quarters in the Hotel d’Iena an absurd rumor spread in Paris that she was arranging for a separation from her husband, the famous American lawyer who is now president of the Matanzas railway in Cuba, where he has been living for the last few years.
Mrs. Rubens did not know whether to be indignant or amused when she heard the story this morning in her private drawing room of the hotel. “It’s too ridiculous to talk about,” she said. “I really couldn’t stand the climate in Cuba. I had, indeed, a touch of yellow fever a year ago, so I sailed direct for France, landing at Saint Nazaire. My husband could not come, both on account of business and because he is such an awfully bad sailor that the mere look of the sea makes him green. Why, when we went yachting with Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery Roosevelt, Mrs. Schuyler and others, Harry, that’s my husband, followed us from port to port by train. He has never been abroad, and I love it so much here in Paris. Some day I’ll persuade him to come over.
“I took a flat in the Rue Hamelin, and until January Mrs. Frankie Smith of San Francisco lived with me. When she had to go home Mrs. Stone of New York stayed with me till I gave up the flat three weeks ago owing to a piano player overhead. So that’s all there is to that absurd story.
“It is foolish as the story which was printed in New York that I had put my maid in an insane asylum because she refused to brush my dog’s teeth every morning.”
Mrs. Rubens is an extremely beautiful woman, slim and young. She wore one of the new indoor directoire gowns of pale yellow. Her only jewelry was a necklace of huge pearls. She has been very popular in French society and is an especial favorite in country houses, because she rides to hounds and shoots capitally. She is greatly sought after by artists anxious to paint her winsome, expressive face.
[Antonio] De la Gandara hopes to persuade her to pose this season, but she is now posing for S. Montgomery Roosevelt at his studio at No. 35 Avenue d’Eylau. Mr. Roosevelt has already painted Mrs. Rubens many times, the sittings being given when she was a guest of his wife at the Roosevelt manor, near Skaneateles, eighteen months ago.
“Winter” by S. Montgomery Roosevelt
One portrait which has been exhibited in Paris with great success was painted in the park near the manor gates. It represents Mrs. Rubens standing against a wintery background, wrapped in sables. “Every time I think of that lovely manor house,” said Mrs. Rubens, “I am anxious to go back. I had a letter yesterday from Mrs. Roosevelt, in which she called me her ‘dear little lady’ and asked me to come and visit her again.”
Mrs. Rubens was a Miss Lamar of a well-known Southern family. Her cousin, Lucius Quintus Lamar, is now in Cuba with Mr. Rubens. She is going to write to them both by next mail. Montgomery Roosevelt is one of the few American painters who has a high social standing in Paris. He comes over every spring and opens his studio to his social and artistic friends. He arrived three weeks ago and will remain the greater part of the summer, with occasional painting excursions into Auvergne.”
Well, that explained everything. That is, until Mrs. Roosevelt read the article, and launched this salvo from Roosevelt Hall:
“Did Not Invite Woman to Her Home – Mrs. S. Montgomery Roosevelt of Skaneateles Repudiates Statements Given Out by Mrs. Rubens in Paris”
A Skaneateles dispatch to a New York newspaper says: “It is not true that I wrote to Mrs. Horatio S. Rubens and invited her to my home, nor that I called her my ‘dear little lady.’ It is not true that I have either written to her or received a letter from her. I have not seen her in more than a year, nor do I wish to see her.”
Mrs. S. Montgomery Roosevelt, wife of the noted American artist, who is second cousin of the President, thus denied to-day statements made in the cabled interview concerning her, given out in Paris last Saturday by Mrs. Rubens. Mrs. Roosevelt, whose New York city home has been closed for a long time, was seen at the Roosevelt manor house overlooking Skaneateles lake, where she is spending the summer quietly… Mrs. Roosevelt’s reference to Mrs. Rubens to-day, however, was the very antithesis of the attitude assumed by the latter in her Paris interview.
“My husband left this country last April and I have not seen him since,” said Mrs. Roosevelt. “I have not received a letter from him in more than a month. I cannot discuss any difference that may exist between my husband and myself. It would not be proper for me to do so, but you can deny the statement of that woman that she received any letter from me. I would not think of writing to her, and I have no wish to see her here or elsewhere.”
So there, Mrs. Horatio Rubens. But was Mr. Roosevelt chastened in any way but his wife’s displeasure? Not the Montgomery Roosevelt we’ve come to know and love. Four years later, the New York Times carried this piece:
“On the ground that she was ill, Mrs. Harold S. Rubens, entered on the passenger list as Mrs. C. de Lamar of New York who arrived yesterday on the American liner Philadelphia, refused to identify her signature on her baggage declaration. The Acting Deputy Surveyor thereupon sent her ten trunks to the Appraiser’s Stores. Mrs. Rubens drove from the pier in the auto of S. Montgomery Roosevelt, an artist, of 57 West 58th Street.”
There was no note of Mrs. Roosevelt’s reaction.
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Sources: “Mrs. Horatio Rubens Denies That She and Her Husband Have Separated,” Syracuse Herald, June 15, 1908; “Did Not Invite Woman to Her Home,” Syracuse Journal, June 15, 1908; “Held Woman’s Trunks,” New York Times, October 21, 1912.
The waitresses in all their glory. You will find their names and a bit of history here.
On the dining room wall, horns said to be imported from Italy in 1875 by Charles Krebs for his Lake View House, and then passed down to his son, Fred Krebs, to adorn his establishment. My thanks to Gard Lorey for the loan of Pictorial History of Skaneateles (1980) from which this was taken.
“Skaneateles has a retired, quiet air, embosomed in a soil profuse in its productions.”
— From “Western New York. Copied from a Tour Book.” Geneva Gazette, December 29, 1830
I’m not going to tell you that the historic sea battle between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia took place on Skaneateles Lake. You’d never believe me. But there was an interesting link between the Union’s first ironclad and a boat that graced our waters during the summer of 1859. That year, a wealthy summer resident, Dr. George S. Case of St. Louis, Missouri, commissioned a launch to be built by Charles F. Hall, the go-to boat builder in Skaneateles at that time.
The Julia Allis was to be a launch 35 feet in length, powered by a caloric engine, an engine that used heated air instead of steam to drive its pistons. Thought to be safer that steam engines, caloric engines were the invention of John Ericsson, a Swedish immigrant who was working as an inventor and engineer in New York City. Hall’s finished boat and an Ericsson Caloric Engine got together in July of 1859, and made a trial run to Mandana at six miles per hour. After some tinkering, the Julia Allis settled into a regular schedule, traveling to Glen Haven twice a week.
This seems to have been sort of a busman’s holiday for Case, who in addition to being a physician had established the first street railway in St. Louis. But the career of his Julia Allis was a short one; she was shipped to St. Louis in November, after just a few months on the water.
Less than three years later, John Ericsson was called upon to respond to the building of the first Confederate ironclad, the CSS Virginia. Built over the frame of the captured USS Merrimac, the rebel ship was handily destroying the wooden ships of the Union blockade force and threatening to shift the balance of the war.
Ericsson’s Monitor, with its revolutionary design and rotating turret, fought the Virginia to a standstill and changed the face of naval warfare. But I am sure the Julia Allis provided a more restful ride to Glen Haven.
Grace Moore, the “Tennessee Nightingale,” was an opera star, a recording star and a radio star, and in the 1930s a film star as well. Raised in Tennessee, she began her singing career at the Black Cat Café in New York’s Greenwich Village, moved on to Broadway musicals (introducing Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do”), debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1928, played opera houses in Paris and London, and appeared as Jenny Lind in the 1930 film A Lady’s Morals, the first of her eight films.
So when she arrived in Skaneateles, stayed at the Kan-Ya-To Inn (today’s Sherwood Inn) and breakfasted at the Krebs, it was news:
“Grace Moore, Metropolitan opera and film star, today toured the Finger Lakes Region. Last night she was a guest at Kan-Ya-To Inn, Skaneateles. She left shortly before noon for a motor trip to other of the Finger Lakes. Tomorrow she plans to return to the inn at Skaneateles to spend the week-end… So delighted was the singer with the Finger Lakes country today that she left word in Skaneateles to prepare to receive a party of friends whom she would invite to join her for the weekend of relaxation there. This morning she dined at Krebs, autographing a card for Fred R. Krebs.”
— “Grace Moore Pays Visit to Finger Lakes,” Auburn Citizen-Advertiser, April 24, 1936
The next year she would star in When You’re in Love with Cary Grant and for years would remain the most popular selling classical artist on record. Grace Moore died in a plane crash in Denmark, after a sold-out concert appearance, in 1948. A movie based on her life, So This Is Love, was made in 1953.
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Photo above from One Night of Love (1934); there’s lots of Grace Moore on YouTube; here’s a link to a tune from One Night of Love.
I love a good ghost story as much as the next guy, but there is too much wrong with “The Screamer of Glen Haven” for me to embrace the tale. The story, widespread on the Web, begins, “A sanitarium was burned down in 1912 to clear a spot for a watershed for the city of Syracuse. The Sanitarium’s caretaker was said to have perished in the fire. His screams could be heard across the lake.”
This is a reference to the Glen Haven and its water cure sanitarium. But when the city of Syracuse bought the Glen Haven property in 1911 to remove possible sources of contamination from the city’s water supply, it chose to tear the buildings down, not burn them down. The wood from the hotel was sold and carried away in 1913. So no caretaker could have perished in a fire that did not happen.
Could the story have stemmed from an earlier fire? The main building at Glen Haven did burn down in 1854, but no one was hurt.
The story of The Screamer continues, “He can be seen and heard at night pacing the wooded cliffs above the camp brandishing his sharpened scythe and wailing.” If we accept this part of the story, who might The Screamer be?
Perhaps it is Lewis Thomas, who had charge of the baths at Glen Haven. In May of 1904, he attempted suicide with a dull knife, failed at the attempt and was sent to the New York State Asylum for the Insane. So it could be his ghost, brandishing a dull knife, and screaming in frustration.
But if there’s going to be a haunt at Glen Haven, why not the spirit of Lillian Dumont of Brooklyn, who, oddly enough, was born at Glen Haven. She came from a good family and had lived a life of ease. She was 22 years old, pretty and popular. But in August of 1889, without leaving a word or a note, she went to her room in “Liberty Hall,” a Glen Haven cottage, and using the laces from her corset hung herself in a closet doorway.
She was discovered by her mother, who at first saw only her empty bed. “Just then she noticed a hand protruding from the closet,” the newspaper reported, “and she at once gave the alarm. Some ladies who happened to be near rushed in and the door being opened, Lillian was found hanging to the same. The cord was cut and the body laid upon the bed. She gasped a few times, but all efforts to resuscitate her were unavailing.”
Her family had no explanation for her suicide, saying only that Lillian had been suffering from “occasional fits of melancholy.’”
The same day’s newspaper reported a second Glen Haven suicide that week. James C. Terry, a resident of Cortland who had been in poor health, hired a boat, rowed to the middle of the lake and jumped in. He was 58; he left no family.
I do have one more candidate, one with a reason to scream. The month before Miss Dumont and Mr. Terry took their lives at Glen Haven, Darius Green of the town of Scott was working at a saw mill at Fair Haven, just across the lake. The newspaper noted:
“He was standing on a plank at the side of the large circular saw, greasing the same while it was running at full speed. The plank tipped up and flung him headlong in front of the saw, which cut the top of his head completely off, spilling the brains on the floor. His left hand was also severed and fell into the lake and has not been recovered at our latest advices. He leaves a wife and nine children in poor circumstances.”
In fact, there appears to be no lack of troubled spirits who might be pacing the wooded cliffs above the lake. Or perhaps there is nothing to the story of The Screamer, and all these troubled souls have found peace. Would that it be so.