Here is a brief history of Hazelhurst, a house that began as William Loney’s summer place in 1864 and is today The Athenaeum.
William Loney was a dry-goods merchant in Baltimore. By his first wife, Ruth Ann, he had three children: William, Mary and Ruth. His wife died when the children were very young, and William raised them with help from other family members. In 1863, he visited Skaneateles and met Alice Louise Allen.
Between 1866 and 1878, William and Alice had four children, Alice, Allen, Henry, and Frederick Roosevelt Loney. Above you can see Allen, Fred and Henry, all of whom summered here.
William’s eldest daughter, Mary, married Frederick Roosevelt. In 1879, they bought land near William’s house and had a summer home designed by New York architect William Rutherford Mead.
Their house, named “Roseleigh,” was finished in 1881, with interiors by Stanford White, who had just joined Mead’s firm. Today Fred and Mary Roosevelt’s home is Stella Maris.
In 1890, with their children grown, William and Alice moved to a smaller house they had built on the corner of Leitch and Genesee streets, which they called “Minton.” William Loney sold his original home to the Jeremiah Curtis family trust for $10,000. The Curtis family was very wealthy, having made their money from a single patent medicine.
Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was based on a recipe by Jeremiah Curtis’ sister-in-law. Curtis and a friend formed “Curtis & Perkins” in Bangor, Maine, to market the syrup. They eventually employed 3,000 sales agents in the U.S. and U.K., sold millions of bottles at 25 cents each, and moved the company to New York City.
The product’s success was based on its efficacy. A compound of alcohol, ammonia and morphine, it was certainly soothing. And there was extensive advertising — calendars, recipe books and print ads. How famous was it?
In 1879, Sir Edward Elgar, perhaps best known for the Enigma Variations and the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, wrote the “Adagio Cantabile, Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, for 2 flutes, oboe, clarinet and bassoon.”
In the 1890s, Jeremiah Curtis’ grandson, Louis Curtis Taylor, summered in the house with his wife, Susie.
Given his fortunate circumstances, Louis had studied painting in Paris. He and Susie are seen above, on the left, in the artist’s studio he built behind the main house; on the right, their friends Mr. & Mrs. Harris.
Above, Louis is shown painting in the company of his St. Bernard, Graf. (Some accounts note that his dog was a Newfoundland named Czar; they are incorrect.) Louis and Susie eventually moved back to France for good, living in Paris and on the Riviera. In 1899, the Jeremiah Curtis Trust sold the house to Theodore Specht for $5,000.
A German-American merchant, Specht had come to the U.S. from Germany at the age of 8, via a 30-day sea voyage under sail. He went to public schools in New York City. He was an enterprising lad, and when the Civil War began, he passed through the Union lines to sell equipment and “military regalia” to Confederate armies.
Theodore came to Skaneateles in 1888 when his New York firm, Arnstaedt & Co., bought the Glenside Woolen Mills. Arnstaedt & Co. imported specialty cloths, e.g., fancy goods, trimmings, hat materials, plush, casket cloth, velveteens and cloakings from Germany, and the addition of a stateside woolen mill was a logical acquisition.
In 1901, the Specht family gave up their New York residence and moved to Skaneateles. Theodore purchased more land to add to the original Loney property; his estate totaled more than 20 acres and ran all the way down to the lake. The family included Theodore’s wife, Clara, and two children, Clara Louise and Harry Mortimer. Clara Louise went by “Lou” or “Lulu,” and she liked to dress up.
And clearly her parents humored her.
She also painted miniatures, was very popular, and in 1901 christened The City of Syracuse at its launching.
In 1902, a fire destroyed Louis Taylor’s studio and it was replaced by a bungalow.
Also in 1903, Theodore added a bowling alley to the grounds. That’s him on the left, wearing a straw hat.
In 1905, major renovations began on the main house and it took the shape that one can easily recognize today.
Specht called the house “Hazelhurst.” It was said to be the finest in Skaneateles and soon had its own postcards.
Hazelhurst was beautiful on the inside as well. And very German-American: Note the beer steins hanging up over the sideboard.
The Specht family had many visitors, especially in the summer, among them John Bockes and Lulu.
Visitors passed through the arch you see in the background, and if you flip it, you can see “Hazelhurst” spelled out in twigs.
Hazelhurst also had a boathouse…
… and, of course, a boat, “007,” a motor launch built by the Skaneateles Boat & Canoe Co.
It was said to be the fastest on the lake, capable of 19 miles per hour.
In 1906, Harry married Miss Margaret Gamage, a Smith College girl, and they moved into the remodeled bungalow. Harry had graduated from N.Y.U. and was serving as secretary-treasurer of the Skaneateles Golf Club; he was also a member of the Owasco Country Club of Auburn. So of course…
… Hazelhurst had its own golf course.
And the home had central heating so it could be enjoyed year-round. Also, the bowling alley was enclosed so it could be used in the colder months.
The “bowling league,” a total of eight men from the village, started in 1903 and met three times a week. Theodore Specht had the high average.
Hazelhurst was a grand setting for a hostess. Clara had a staff of six and loved to entertain. She welcomed company for bridge, whist and euchre (including a euchre party for 100). A full-time seamstress made all Clara’s clothes and embroidered every towel and napkin in the house in her free time. In addition to playing cards, Clara loved to send postcards, many of which are in the collection of the Skaneateles Historical Society.
She sent out postcards of her house…
… the boat house…
… the grounds…
… even a postcard of Lulu sledding, or “coasting,” down the hill towards the lake. And, of course, there were postcards of the golf course.
She wrote on many of them…
“The street car line on June 29, 1909”
“Our boat house”
“Our church” with the note “Have I ever sent you this before?”
And she sent out postcards with her own photograph.
Theodore Specht died in 1916 and was buried in Lake View Cemetery. His son, and son-in-law, continued with the Glenside Woolen Mills. Clara Specht died in 1942. The main grounds of Hazelhurst were subdivided in 1949 and became Lake View Circle. The main house changed hands many times; it was vacant for much of the 1940s and thought to be haunted; young children would cross the street rather than walk directly in front of it.
In 2007, “Hazelhurst” became the home of The Athenaeum.
I was so excited when I found this postcard; such a nice clear image of ice cutting and the ice houses, with a conveyer carrying the cakes of ice up to a loft. But mostly, since the card was in England, I wanted to know who mailed it across the Atlantic from Skaneateles. And it arrived, and it had never been mailed; someone sent it in an envelope, probably along with a letter. Next time.
This just in: The Skaneateles Historical Society notes, “Turn of the century is the label on ours. The man’s name is Wesley J. Hares.” Thank you, Laurie Winship!