Two Views of Genesee Street

Main Street Bank

On the right, the bank before it had its east wing.

Main Street Over Tinted Car

And some tinting abuse, especially the pink car at the curb. Interesting to see a time when cars and horse-drawn carriages co-existed. And I like the two women dragging the child over the trolley tracks, sort of an early stroller.

Advertisements

Harold MacGrath at Glen Haven

Arms

Of all the writers to grace Skaneateles Lake, Harold MacGrath (1871-1932) may well hold the record for bestsellers and the fame that accompanies them. MacGrath was born in Syracuse; as a young man, he worked as a reporter and columnist for the Syracuse Herald. In 1899, he published his first novel, Arms and the Woman, and two years later his second book was a success, prompting him to leave journalism and focus on writing fiction – stories about romance, adventure, mystery, espionage.

Harold_MacGrath

Of his beginnings, he said, “My advice to all those who wish to write is broil a little while on the grill of newspaper work. You learn brevity, directness; you learn to make words count; you learn the art of holding your reader in suspense. And over and above that, you have seen life, on the mounts and in the pits.”

In the years to come, it was not unusual for MacGrath to have three books listed in the top ten bestsellers at any time. He wrote 40 novels in all, and short stories for The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, and Red Book; he also serialized his novels in magazines, spreading his fame and multiplying his money.

MacGrath Hazard

In 1905, just six years into his career as a novelist, and a few months after their wedding, Harold and his wife Alma spent part of August at Glen Haven. He was famous enough for the newspaper to notice his presence, but soon he would be wealthy enough to forsake Skaneateles for the pleasure spots of Europe.

In 1906, MacGrath was in Naples with his wife, and fellow writer/explorer E. Alexander Powell and his wife; together they witnessed the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. And they spent time at Lake Como, which Harold and Alma MacGrath said was their favorite place in the world. (Mrs. MacGrath was especially partial to the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, where you can make reservations should you wish to do further research.)

In 1912, Harold MacGrath wrote his first screenplay, for a western, The Vengeance That Failed. In all, 30 of MacGrath’s stories were made into films; the rights for Drums of Jeopardy alone brought $27,500 from Louis B. Mayer. Other MacGrath stories were adapted for the stage, running on Broadway and with touring companies.

DrumsAs a writer, MacGrath was both disciplined and shrewd. One of the films made from MacGrath’s writings was a 1913 movie serial, The Adventures of Kathlyn. While writing the screenplay, he simultaneously wrote the novel so it could be published in time for the theater premiere of the first episode, and on sale in book stores during the serial’s 13-episode run.

MacGrath-House-Sepia

In spite of his success, MacGrath maintained Syracuse as his home; in 1912 he built an English country-style mansion at 1618 James Street, a home that became renowned for its landscaped garden surrounded by a poplar hedge, with ponds, rock gardens, pools, and flowering shrubbery. Alma MacGrath often visited the Parker Peony Farm in Fayetteville, N.Y., to purchase new plants.

Harold's Garden

MacGrath Coogan

Two images of MacGrath’s garden, the first in a magazine article, the second in an ad with child star Jackie Coogan, in 1923.

The MacGrath house was known as “Hadhaven,” probably from Alma’s pet name for her husband, “Haddie.” Inside the house were paintings, carvings, old glass and tapestries collected during travels around the world, and artwork from the illustrations done for MacGrath’s books.

Harold and Alma MacGrath shared their home with others. A garden party was held in June, when the peonies bloomed. An annual open house on New Year’s Day drew hundreds of guests. And whenever the G.A.R., the Grand Army of the Republic, held a convention in Syracuse, the gathered veterans of the Civil War were welcomed at a reception at Hadhaven.

(The connection to Civil War veterans was through Alma MacGrath. Her father, John S. Kenyon, enlisted in the Union army at the beginning of the war. At the age of 19, as a member of the Third N.Y. Cavalry, his unit engaged Confederate troops along the Trent River in North Carolina. After three futile assaults on a Confederate line, they were given orders to withdraw, but in the retreat, a fellow horseman was shot, fell from the saddle, and was being left behind. Kenyon turned, rode back, put the man on his own horse, and then shielded him from gunfire with his own body, running alongside the horse, bringing the wounded man to safety. He never spoke of the incident, but years later his comrades lobbied for recognition of his bravery, and in 1897 he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.)

Fritz

The MacGrath’s love of Syracuse was not always repaid with kindness. Given their wealth, they were something of a target. More than once, their dogs were kidnapped and held for ransom; I don’t know if they were all returned.

Choo Choo

In 1937, Alma MacGrath’s pigeons were stolen by three boys who found a few of them on the front lawn, and decided to go for the whole flock, until the theft appeared in the newspapers and the boys panicked, releasing the birds who promptly flew home. Jewel thieves hit the MacGrath home twice, in 1924 and 1933. In 1937, Alma MacGrath’s summer cottage in Cazenovia was “plundered” over the winter by two 17-year-old boys who sold all of the furniture and valuables they could carry away. And in 1939, the garden was vandalized, its stone bridge, ornaments, seats and dovecote smashed and destroyed.

MacGrath Hearts

But on better days, Hadhaven was indeed a haven, where Harold MacGrath could sit undisturbed and write his novels in longhand, with Alma MacGrath stopping all callers at the door. And there were frequent vacations; Harold enjoyed taking several weeks off to go fishing in the Thousand Islands, and Alma once noted that she had made 32 trips to Europe.

Harold and Alma

Alma and Harold, bound for Europe.

And not to forget Skaneateles, Alma MacGrath had a link with the village that lasted for a lifetime. Her cousin, Clara (Mrs. Leonard) Haight, lived here and was often a guest at Alma’s parties and receptions in Syracuse. And when there was a celebration in Skaneateles, such as a birthday party at the Krebs for Clara’s daughter, Alma motored out for the festivities.

Harold MacGrath’s novels are as forgotten today as they were popular a century ago. He wrote in a casual romantic manner, at a time when writers like Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Willa Cather were creating a new kind of American fiction. If read today, MacGrath’s novels require a willing suspension of judgment, but can reward you with some amusement, exotic locales and even some thrills. One of my favorite reviews, from 1919, pretty much says it all:

“Harold MacGrath’s new book, The Yellow Typhoon, is widely exciting. The story revolves around a mysterious murder and the scene shifts from Manila to the Adirondack Mountains. There are two strangely beautiful women in this story and one is good and the other is bad; $1.60.”

The Krebs, 1953

West-Lake-Krebs

This postcard of West Lake Street had the following message on the flip side:

“8/11/53   We finally had dinner at that renowned place, ‘The Krebs’ and it was out of this world. If we would eat that much every day we would soon be in our graves. We are enjoying our trip very much. Love, Maxie & Nick.”

Brilliant, but Worthless

“… Mrs. Augustus Kellogg, the lovely wife of a brilliant, but worthless, husband, whose escapades and eccentricities are still remembered. His funeral is recorded in no parish register. He left directions to be buried at sunrise, without religious services.” – From Recollections of the Parish of St. James, Skaneateles (1897) by Mary Elizabeth Beauchamp

Since reading those lines, especially the phrase “brilliant, but worthless,” I’ve wanted to know more about Augustus Kellogg. He sounds like my kind of guy. But apart from alluding to his “escapades and eccentricities,” few people actually went into details.

Augustus Kellogg was born at home on Onondaga Street on July 3, 1803, the eldest son of Daniel Kellogg and Laura Hyde Kellogg. His parents were comfortably wealthy and influential, and Augustus showed great promise. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1823, studied law at his father’s office, and was admitted to the bar in 1826. In 1827, he married Cornelia Hart, daughter of Ephraim and Martha Hart of Utica, N.Y., and the next year went into a legal partnership with his father and Lewis H. Sandford. So far, so good.

A daughter, Louisa Emily Kellogg, was born July 27, 1828, but she died soon after, on January 12, 1830. A son, Augustus Converse Kellogg, was born November 2, 1830. But one year later, Cornelia Hart Kellogg died, at her father’s house in Utica. She was 26; her son had just turned one.

The son, Augustus Converse Kellogg, for whatever reason, was not to be raised by his father. Instead, he was taken to Buffalo, N.Y., to be raised by his aunt, Velona (Hart) Maynard. Initially, at least, Augustus Kellogg appears to have survived the loss of his wife, daughter, and the departure of his son. Edmund Leslie later wrote:

“When he was in the prime of life, he was one of the most prominent members of the Onondaga County bar. Having a classical education, a brilliant intellect, commanding presence, fine oratorical powers, ready at repartee, and possessing a sarcasm which few would wish to encounter, he was formidable in debate. His intimacy with leading men throughout the State, and especially at Albany, became very extensive. He often visited the sessions of the Legislature, and always when there attracted attention by his commanding appearance and knowledge of all public questions. His mode of dress was exceptionally neat, always wearing gold spectacles and a silk hat. He had a ruddy complexion and expressive eyes, while his bright conversational powers always rendered him an attractive companion.”

However, Leslie continued:

“But he had his infirmities, over which we are disposed to draw a veil, but the history of his checkered life would be incomplete without reference to them. His career took a downward turn.”

And what were these “infirmities” in Leslie’s account, that prompted his “escapades and eccentricities”? I suspect they involved alcohol, and perhaps laudanum, a tincture of alcohol and opium that was a popular remedy at the time.

An anonymous writer, quoted by Leslie, described an Augustus Kellogg sighting:

“At a corner we were gratified with a glimpse of the great engineer engaged upon the fortifications of our city, who seemed to be lost in contemplation of something, the exact nature of which, whether shade-trees or telegraph-pole or flagstaff, we could not exactly determine.”

More ominously, Leslie noted that Kellogg’s son had inherited “his father’s infirmities.” In 1847, after his childhood in Buffalo, Augustus Converse Kellogg enrolled at Williams College as Converse A. Kellogg and joined the Kappa Alpha Society, whose journal noted, “His very winning manners, amiable disposition, and youthful grace made him generally popular and endeared him much to his intimate friends.”

However, Converse left Williams during his junior year and went on to Yale for a brief time in which he became a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. By “brief,” I mean from October of 1849 to February of 1850.

Biding farewell to academia, Converse worked for a time as a telegraph operator in Chicago. But in 1851 he was back in Buffalo, working for his uncle, Elisha A. Maynard, at his newspaper, the Buffalo Republic. That year, Converse also served as a volunteer fireman, with Live Oak Engine No. 2.  And in 1852, he was listed as a director of the U.S. Health Association of Buffalo, N.Y., a health insurance company.

In April of 1853, Converse returned to Chicago to marry Mary Louise Woodworth; her father, Hiram P. Woodworth, had died of cholera in 1852, and marriage probably seemed like a good idea to a young woman living with her widowed mother. The couple returned to Buffalo, but in 1854 Elisha Maynard sold his interest in the newspaper, and Converse was out of a job. He next worked for the U.S. Express Co. in Buffalo, and there his trail goes cold for a year or two. He reappeared in 1860, said to be working as a correspondent for the New York Herald.

On April 25th, Converse Kellogg died in New York City; he was 29 years old. Mary Louise Kellogg returned, or had already returned, to Chicago. Converse Kellogg was buried in Buffalo, in a grave doubtlessly paid for by his Uncle Elisha and Aunt Velona, who had raised him.

In Skaneateles, Augustus Converse had now outlived his wife, his infant daughter, and a son he probably never really knew. And so he lived for another 11 years, until early one Sunday, in October of 1871, he was found unconscious in his father’s old law office, probably from an overdose, perhaps intentional, of laudanum.

Leslie notes that Kellogg’s relatives were informed, and that “The neighbors flocked in and the rooms were filled all day long.” In spite of his visitors, Kellogg never regained consciousness and died on the morning of October 30th. He left instructions that he wished to be buried at midnight, with no religious service at the graveside. However, at the request of his brothers, a friend read aloud a few prayers. The grave in Lake View Cemetery was unmarked, but said to be just west of the headstone of Helen M. Huxtable.

The story, however, was not over. Charles Pardee of Skaneateles, as mean-spirited a man as any who has ever lived here, wrote an epitaph for Augustus Kellogg, which he sought to have cut on a second-hand gravestone to be placed over Kellogg’s grave. The epitaph read:

AUGUSTUS KELLOGG

Died Oct. 30th, 1871, aged 67 years.

Born in affluence, talents and education of the first order.
Died as the fool dieth — buried in midnight-darkness by his request.
With the talents of an Angel — a man may be a fool.

But as mean-spirited as Pardee was, he was even more miserly. He had wanted a cheap stone and promised to select one from among those available, but he never appeared with payment, so the order was not carried out.

What prompted Pardee’s attempt to have the last word? Possibly a number of things, but we have one clue, from a John Humphryes Skaneateles Press newspaper column of May 7, 1937, referring to an incident in the 1850s:

“It had been the custom of the village boys to have a large bonfire on each recurring Fourth of July, the place selected being Genesee street, at the foot of Syracuse [State] street and in front of Pardee’s store. Mr. Pardee ‘kicked’ at having a roaring fire so close to his property, as it blistered the red paint on the front of the building, and spoke to President Slade about it. [W.G. Slade was Village President in 1853-54.] Thereupon Mr. Slade issued a proclamation prohibiting the bonfire.

“Then Augustus Kellogg had circulars printed and distributed, denouncing the President’s order and quoting an excerpt from John Adams’ letter [to his wife Abigail, July 3, 1776] regarding the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which counseled the people to forever celebrate the event, to fire cannon, build bonfires and ring bells! This aroused the patriotism as well as the mischief that ensued in the youth of Skaneateles and the bonfire was built and Pardee’s store was blistered as usual.”

And so Augustus Kellogg, “brilliant, but worthless,” got the better of Charles Pardee. I’m looking forward to the spring, so I can find Kellogg’s grave, and remember him with some flowers and a smile.

* * *

My thanks once again to Edmund Norman Leslie and his Skaneateles: History of Its Earliest Settlement and Reminiscences of Later Times (1902).

The Nichols Family at Ten Mile Point

Nichols-Start

Ten Mile Point was a popular picnic spot for lake outings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was once the property of the Skaneateles Railroad and Steamboat Company who built a steamboat dock and a dancing pavilion there, and planted a grove of trees. The company planned a hotel but it was never built.

In 1922, Frederick Harris Nichols of Greenwich, Connecticut, acquired the 50 acre site from the Auburn and Syracuse Electric Railroad; the dance pavilion had already been removed, as had a steamboat, the Ossahinta, which had been beached at Ten Mile Point in 1914.

Where did the money for 50 acres on the lake come from? The Nichols had a family business. Frederick’s uncle, William Henry Nichols, engaged in manufacturing, refining and smelting, and was modestly successful. In the course of his career, he served as chairman of the board of General Chemical Co., as president of the Nichols Copper Co. and the Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting & Power Co., as vice-president of the Corn Exchange Bank, and as a director of the Nichols Chemical Co., the Title Guarantee and Trust Co., the Hoagland Laboratory, the General Development Co., the Mexican International Railroad Co., National Railways of Mexico, Pittsburgh Steel, Phosphate Mining Co., Read Phosphate Co., State Realty & Mortgage Co. and the Miami Copper Company.

Frederick Nichols worked for Nichols Copper in New York City and lived in Greenwich, but he had ties to central New York. His wife was Clarinda Myers of Syracuse, and in 1917 Clarinda was the guest of her sister at her cottage on Skaneateles Lake. In 1922, the Nichols family took the Mallory Cottage for the summer, and Frederick purchased land at Ten Mile Point. In July of 1923, they stayed at the Kan-Ya-To Inn while their cottage was being completed. When the last nail was driven and the paint dried, the family had a lovely summer place.

Nichols-1

  • The Lodge was for guests, and also included the main dining room, living room and kitchen
  • Mr. & Mrs. Nichols’ cottage was on the south side of the Lodge and had two sleeping porches, two dressing rooms, a small kitchen and porch. It was said to be the coolest place on the Point and was a place for afternoon gatherings with Mrs. Nichols.
  • The girls’ cottage was on the north side of the Lodge, and the scene of “many a happy house party”
  • One account notes a cottage for the boys, called “The Male Box”
  • The maid’s cottage was behind and to the east of Mrs. Nichols’ cottage
  • The garage accommodated four cars and a chauffeur
  • The boathouse was on the shoreline, with two slips and canoe racks
  • A summer house, built by Frederick’s son, George Nichols, completed the camp.

Nichols-2

Street lamps lit the paths between the cottages and down to the dock and boat house; flowers and shrubs surrounded the cottages. The property had its own stream and waterfall, along with 1,000 feet of lake frontage. In a 1983 letter, Sylvia Littlehales Nichols, wife of George, wrote that the Nichols family’s favorite activities were entertaining, tennis, fishing, canoeing, swimming, walks up the gorge, singing and playing games in the Lodge after dinner, going for motorboat rides to watch the sunset and moonrise, and picnics at the summer house.

Frederick Nichols took the train up from New York every other weekend, and then spent the entire month of August at the camp. The camp had a telephone; on at least one occasion, Mr. Nichols could not quite hear what the person in New York City was saying, when the Rose Hill operator cut in and shouted, “They want you on the first morning train!”

The Nichols’ family’s time at Ten Mile Point ended suddenly and tragically in 1942. Mrs. Nichols was alone at the camp, staying in her cottage next to the Lodge. On July 16th, a hired man came in and started the oil-burning water heater so Mrs. Nichols would have hot water in the morning. The oil leaked, the heater exploded, starting a fire; nearby campers tried to rescue Mrs. Nichols, but the doors and windows to her sleeping porch were either locked or jammed shut, and the cottage burnt to the ground. Mrs. Nichols was 64.

Family members came up immediately, removed their personal possessions and left, never to return.

Brochure-1

Brochure-Open

The family printed a brochure about the camp, in an effort to sell it for $50,000, but in September of 1942, unable to find a buyer and not wanting to hold onto the estate for another day, Frederick donated the Nichols camp to the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse; it became Lourdes Camp for Children in Memory of Clarinda Myers Nichols. Below, a postcard of the new “main lodge” at Lourdes.

Lourdes Camp Lodge

* * *

 My thanks to the Skaneateles Historical Society, and to Ed Littlehales who has shared a copy of the Nichols family’s brochure.