On a clear August night in 1903, out on Long Island Sound, the future of Roosevelt Hall was in peril. S. Montgomery Roosevelt had bought his estate in Skaneateles just four summers earlier. He called it Roosevelt Hall, but there’s no telling whether the name had started to stick. And now, after a visit with his cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt at Oyster Bay, the owner of Roosevelt Hall was sailing to New London, Connecticut in his yacht Wenonah, dining with his guests in the stern.
The running lights were lit, but that didn’t stop the fishing steamer Falcon from crashing into Wenonah bow on, crushing the bow above the water line, and carrying away the mast and rigging. Tangled in the rigging, three members of the crew went overboard. In the cabins, oil lamps were torn from their mountings and shattered, covering the furnishings in broken glass and flaming oil. Roosevelt and his guests pulled the three crew members back into the boat while others doused the flames. In Roosevelt’s words, “It was a lively few minutes.”
Two Japanese servants in the galley were trapped by smoke and heat, and suffered burns. The ship stayed afloat, was taken in tow by the Falcon, and brought into New Haven, arriving a daybreak. A local doctor attended to bruises and burns, and one of the Japanese stewards was sent to hospital in New York. Roosevelt and his guests, New York financier J. Leslie Cotton and artist Sanford Pomeroy of Paris, completed their journey to New London by train and then went on to Newport, R.I. And Roosevelt Hall was able to spend 40 more years in the Roosevelt family.
The Wenonah, however, had to be scraped. It was valued at $37,000.