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