The Dental Genius of Glen Haven

Darby 2

For many summers, Dr. Edwin Tyler Darby (1846-1929) enjoyed his summer home near Glen Haven, where his country pursuits contrasted markedly with his professional career as a dental surgeon and educator. As a young man, he attended the Cortland Academy, in Homer, N.Y., and then apprenticed at dentistry with Dr. Ransom Walker in Oswego. At the age of 17, he started his own dental practice. In 1864, he entered the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery in Philadelphia and graduated the following year with the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery.

In 1865, he was elected chief demonstrator of operative dentistry in the college, and in 1866, he married Caroline Beers Thomas. His professional practice grew rapidly, too rapidly in fact, affecting his health. In 1870, he closed his office for a year and sailed for Europe, touring the Continent and wintering in Egypt and the Holy Land. In 1871, he returned refreshed, and resumed his practice in Philadelphia.

In 1878, the University of Pennsylvania established a dental school and Darby became its head, with a newly conferred M.D.  He was intensely devoted to his work, and his achievements as a teacher and dental surgeon “unquestionably” placed him at the head of his profession in the U.S.

The Darby family, which included a son and three daughters, lived in Lansdowne, a suburb of Philadelphia and, at some point, began summering on Skaneateles Lake. Glen Haven offered Dr. Darby respite and balance.

House Beautiful May 1902

His great-granddaughter, Susan Darby Eaton Rudolph, writes:

“Dr. Darby built his summer home in 1898. He had been summering with his family before that, staying at the Glen Haven Hotel. The cottage included many out-buildings such as the workshop, the barn, a big ice house, a wood shed, a big cold cellar built in the side of the hill by the kitchen. Down the lake was a two- story boat house with the second story being a big bedroom. There were several boats including a Skaneateles Row Boat. The land behind the house on the hillside was cleared and they actually farmed it. It was a very steep hill, but they had an apple orchard, grape vines, currants, cows and horses. My father says he used to help his Grandmother Darby ‘can the currants and apples’ for jelly. When he built the cottage, he persuaded some of his doctor friends to build cottages, too. My father thinks they were Dr. [Matthew] Cryer, Dr. [Dudley] Guilford, and Dr. [Edward] Kirk.”

Dr. Darby’s recreations at his summer home were reading, rowing, walking, driving, and “tinkering” in his shop (shown below). Among his projects were dental instruments, many still used throughout the world, including the Darby-Perry Scaler.

Darby 3

In 1909, a banquet was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City to celebrate Dr. Darby’s career, and 200 of his colleagues attended. In his lifetime, Dr. Darby received “almost every honor that the dental profession can confer.” One biographer noted, “He was in constant demand as an after-dinner speaker, conspicuous in always saying the right thing in the right place. Besides having good sense, he had unfailing good taste.”

In 1926, a writer noted, “He hopes to spend the rest of his life doing some of the things that his active professional career has prevented him from accomplishing.”

Dr. Darby died December 11, 1929, of pneumonia, in Lansdowne.

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The photographs here were taken by Dr. Matthew Henry Cryer, who was first a student and then a colleague and life-long friend of Dr. Darby. The interior photograph of the den appeared in House Beautiful in May of 1902, and the exterior of the cottage, and the two photos of the workshop, are from Items of Interest: A Monthly Journal of Dental Science, Art and Literature, April 1909.

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One of Dr. Darby’s guests at his cottage was his son-in-law, Charles Harold Davis (1856-1933), an American landscape painter who married Francis Tyler Darby. Davis was said to have painted landscapes while here.

The USS Skaneateles

In 1920, Henry (“Harry”) Latrobe Roosevelt, a former Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, inherited Roosevelt Hall in Skaneateles from the estate of his uncle, S. Montgomery Roosevelt. In the 1920s, Harry and his family lived primarily in Paris, but in 1930, they reopened the mansion. That summer, and again in 1932, they hosted Harry’s cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was Governor of New York on his first visit and a candidate for the U.S. Presidency on his second. In 1933, the newly elected President confirmed Harry’s appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. One of the perks of the job was a launch at the Washington Navy Yard. Harry’s boat was a former Coast Guard “rum chaser,” the USS Onondaga. On June 1, 1934, Harry had the boat rechristened the USS Skaneateles.


The launch’s time under this name was a short one. Harry Roosevelt died in Washington, D.C., in 1936. Under his successor as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Charles Edison, the launch was rechristened the USS Milan in October of 1937.

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Photo of the USS Skaneateles/USS Milan by Theodore N. Silberstein, also known as Ted Stone.

Weenonah Lodge

Weenonah Lodge

Weenonah Lodge was for a time the camp of Olin C. and Maud (Huxtable) Moody. In the 1870s, Mr. Moody worked as a bookkeeper for Charles Pardee, and afterwards was a merchant. In 1905, he purchased a 25-foot power boat from the Skaneateles Boat Company, which was probably kept in the boat house shown above. Mr. & Mrs. Moody wintered in Miami, Florida, and eventually retired there. After their deaths, in 1925 and 1937, their remains were returned to Skaneateles and are buried in Lake View Cemetery.

Not Moving

In May of 1894, the De Ruyter Gleaner noted:

“A cat owned by Mrs. Mary Beardsley of Skaneateles seems to hold the long journey record. It was taken to Rochester in a box, where it escaped and disappeared, soon to reappear at its old home in Skaneateles.”

The cat was fortunate to make its escape when it did. By 1902, Mrs. Beardsley was living in Wilmothesville, Missouri, a considerably longer walk home.

Skaneateles Rocks

Joe Kim

On May 5, 2012, Joe Whiting, a Living Village Treasure, played the Musiktheater Piano in Dortmund, Germany, and the concert was recorded for CD and DVD. But you won’t find it filed under “Joe Whiting.”

Rather, look for Savoy Brown: Songs from the Road. It’s a great live set and Whiting shines. British rock critic Henry Yates wrote: “Of course, the impact of Songs From The Road is partly down to the performance and dynamics, with the jackhammer drums of Garnet Grimm, the rocksteady bass of Pat DeSalvo and Joe Whiting’s soaring sax and vocals all dovetailing with Simmonds, who soothes and scolds his instrument.”

From 2009 to 2012, Whiting and Savoy Brown played dates in England, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Brazil, even Syracuse. I didn’t make any of those gigs, but now I can get a taste, and happily recommend it to fans of Skaneateles rock.

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More fun: Joe Whiting’s website; Dortmund’s Musiktheater; the photo above of Kim Simmonds and Joe Whiting was taken at the Westcott Theater by Diana Whiting, in whose hands a camera is a musical instrument; thanks also to the scholarly Ron Wray.

The Trials of Helen Briggs

Helen Briggs seems to have gotten the short end of the straw more than once in her life. In 1855, as an organist, she had to sue the Skaneateles Religious Society which owed her $200 in back pay for three years of music she had provided at the Presbyterian church. The case was tried in Syracuse and “the galleries of the court house were thronged with ladies during the trial,” who apparently saw this as a case of one brave woman standing up against a committee of pious but stingy men.  Miss Briggs got her $200, and from the occasional news article we know that she continued to play the organ, at the Baptist Church, and for weddings as well. She was also a member of the Leisure Hour Club, but otherwise kept a low profile, until one day in April of 1905. On that day, she was cleaning her kitchen curtains with gasoline. Heat from the stove ignited the curtains, the dish of gasoline, Helen Briggs and her home, all in a moment. She died the following day and is buried in Lake View Cemetery.

Before Shotwell Park

Skan West Side House

Ken Wooster comments on this postcard from the collection of Palmer Simmons: “It was a tough job to identify, but I finally tracked it down as ‘The Terrace.’ That was the home of Josiah Jewett that was purchased in 1934 in order to make room for Shotwell Park.”  (To be precise, the house was sold to the Village, after Josiah Jewett’s death, by Nathan Jewett who was the executor of Josiah’s estate.) Thank you, Ken!