The Life & Death of Lone Oak

:: Moses DeWitt ::

In 1784, Simeon DeWitt was appointed Surveyor General of New York and, as such, he oversaw the survey of land grants to be given to Revolutionary War veterans – lots given in place of money which was in short supply in the young nation. Each enlisted man was to receive a lot of 600 acres; officers would receive more lots, depending upon rank.

Simeon chose a cousin, Moses DeWitt, to assist him; the two had previously worked together surveying the boundary line between Pennsylvania and New York. This time, Moses DeWitt managed the entire survey in the field, which he completed in 1787 and 1788. For his work, he received 50 acres for each section he surveyed. More importantly, he saw all the tracts being surveyed, which gave him an advantage over soldiers for whom the lots would be merely a number, a square on a map, a sight unseen.

In 1791, the plots of land were assigned to the veterans by lottery. The names of the eligible men were drawn from a barrel and matched with numbered lots drawn from a “Township Box.” Captain John Doughty, because of his rank, was granted three – Lot No. 37 in Marcellus (Skaneateles), Lot No. 47 in Aurelius (Auburn) and Lot No. 70 in Manlius – 1,800 acres in all.

John Doughty was born in 1754 in New York City, graduated from King’s College (Columbia U.) and entered the military in January 1776. He served with the New Jersey Eastern Artillery Co. and the 2nd Continental Artillery Regiment before commanding the New York State Artillery Co. He saw action in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Springfield and Yorktown.

At the time of the lottery, Doughty was still in the army, and he had an estate in New Jersey. So, like many other soldiers, he sold his claim to the land to speculators. On March 31, 1791, Martin Hoffman and Josiah Ogden Hoffman of New York City paid £150 for Lots No. 37, 47 and 70. (Note: The pound [£] was the currency of New York state until 1793.)

The Hoffmans were brothers – Martin a merchant and Josiah a lawyer. One writer noted, “Martin Hoffman was in everything,” i.e, a man with his fingers in many pies. Josiah Ogden Hoffman was a talented and respected attorney who eventually served as Attorney General of New York State. This investment was doubtlessly one of many for the brothers, and it did well. On June 10, 1793, the Hoffmans sold Lot No. 37 in the township of Marcellus to Moses De Witt, who had seen the land, for £185.

Moses De Witt, in turn, began parceling out land to his sisters and their husbands.

:: Abraham Cuddeback ::

To his sister Janneke DeWitt Cuddeback and her husband Abraham, he leased a portion of Lot No. 37 on the western shore of Skaneateles Lake. In the spring of 1794, Janneke, Abraham and their children left Minisink, N.Y., with a colt, 12 cows, and three yoke of oxen drawing a two-wheeled wagon. They traveled by way of Albany, then Fort Schuyler (now Utica), where there were just two buildings, then to Onondaga Hill, the last settlement. Abraham left his wife and the younger children there with the family of Janneke’s brother-in-law, James Coleman, and pushed on with his two eldest – a daughter, 14, and a son, 12 – and the livestock, arriving at the outlet of Skaneateles Lake on June 14, 1794.

The forest around the lake was dense; there were no roads. A grandson, Lafayette Cuddeback, writing circa 1885, said, “On the bank of the lake there, he constructed a raft of logs, and, after completing it satisfactorily, put on his two-wheeled wagon and other things, and poled the raft along the shore to what is now known as the Dr. [Samuel] Hurd place. His two children then drove the cattle and a colt through the woods to the same locality.”

And so the first white settlers arrived in Skaneateles. In the months to come, the Cuddebacks cleared the land, built a cabin and planted wheat.

Hannah DeWitt Ennis, and her husband James, also received land from Moses DeWitt, on the southern boundary of Janneke and Abraham’s property, and they too came to settle. (A small part of the Ennis land is today the site of Roosevelt Hall.)

In time, Abraham Cuddeback was able to buy the lands he and his wife had leased. Abraham died on May 23, 1855, and was survived by many descendants and relations farming the land on the western side of the lake. The three acres of his original residence were auctioned off in February of 1863.

:: Robert M. Grinnell ::

The next tenant of note was cut from a different bolt of cloth. Robert Minturn Grinnell was the son of Henry Grinnell, of the Grinnell, Minturn & Co. shipping line, owners of the famous Flying Cloud clipper ship. Robert grew up in the shipping business and was member #4 of the New York Yacht Club. In 1860, he was living in Liverpool, England, active in shipping. At the time, more than half of the cotton grown in the American South was sent to Liverpool, and then to the textile mills of Lancashire. Sellers, shippers and buyers on both sides of the Atlantic made fortunes, and were dependent upon one another. When the U.S. Civil War broke out, England was officially neutral, but Liverpool was ardently pro-Confederacy. Its shipping and textile industries faced ruin if a Union blockade of Confederate ports was successful.

This explains why, in June of 1861, Robert Grinnell dissolved his shipping partnerships and sailed for New Orleans, where he enlisted as an officer. Lt. Grinnell saw action in the First Battle of Bull Run, in Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign, and at the Battle of Front Royal where he was wounded, losing two fingers, and captured. He was exchanged for a Union officer and promoted upon his return. Writing to a friend from Richmond in June 1863, Maj. Grinnell said he was confident of victory, but had lived on bacon and corn for a year. Two years later, with the defeat of the Confederacy, he was one of many secessionists with wealth and European connections who chose to take advantage of them. There was, after all, talk of hanging rebels for treason.

But in 1873, Grinnell was back in the United States, marrying Sophia “Sophie” Van Alen of Newport, Rhode Island. In 1876, their daughter Josephine Lucy “Daisy” Grinnell was born in New York City. The next year they bought, from a farmer named Elias Hunsicker, a plot of land in Skaneateles, essentially all of the land between today’s Westgate estate and the Skaneateles Country Club. They sold the northern half to Sophie’s sister, Lucy Hurd, wife of Dr. Samuel Hurd. Although the “west lake road” was still a dirt road, the property had gone from farmland to society enclave.


In June of 1879, the The Evening Auburnian noted, “Mr. Grinnell is fitting up his residence in fine style. Dr. Hurd is also making elegant improvements to his house and grounds.” We know from later accounts that Grinnell’s house was built circa 1848, but not who built it. And we know that one of Dr. Hurd’s improvements to his grounds involved tearing down the last standing wall of a barn built by Abraham Cuddeback. After Samuel Hurd’s death in 1897, the local press reported, “Possessed of ample means he made his house a most hospitable one, and it was adorned with all that shows liberal culture, and all that can make a home pleasant and attractive.” The Hurd house was sold that year to William Fitzgerald of Chicago, and for the next few years, Lucy Hurd stayed with her sister at the Grinnell house when in Skaneateles.

Robert and Sophie Grinnell spent their winters in Europe. In 1898, they went to Nice, France, to the villa of Robert’s sister, Sarah (Grinnell) Watts, where Robert became ill, died, and was buried at the Cimetière des Anglais Caucade (British Cemetery). He is remembered today in Skaneateles by the chancel area of St. James’ Episcopal Church, enlarged in his memory in 1901, and by the “School of Tiffany” window put in place at that time, both gifts of his wife.

:: Clifford D. Beebe ::

C D Beebe

In August of 1901, Clifford Dwight Beebe bought the Grinnell property from Sophie Grinnell for $15,000. There were rumors he wanted to create a summer resort, but to the relief of many he kept the property as a summer residence, one he and his family – wife Maud Chapin Beebe and sons Dwight Sawyer Beebe, David Chapin Beebe and William Nottingham Beebe – would enjoy for the next 20 years.


Since 1899, Beebe had been building up a syndicate of interurban railways, based in Syracuse. Before the advent of the automobile, the electric trolley was a popular, inexpensive, convenient way to travel. Beebe’s first involvement with electric railways was with the Syracuse & East Side Railway in 1894. From local streetcar lines, Beebe turned his attention to interurban (city-to-city) railways, the most prominent local example being the trolley that ran from Auburn, through Skaneateles, to Syracuse, begun in 1901 and completed in 1903.

Beebe RR

This was a palmy time for Clifford Beebe. In a single day – the 4th of July, 1904 – his railroads collected $2,700 in fares. The executives of the company traveled first in The Marcella, then in “the incomparable private car No. 999,” made in Cleveland by the G.C. Kuhlman Car Co., with a “richly finished interior… electric car luxury that was not intended for the masses.”


The Marcella was built in 1902 by the G.C. Kuhlman Car Co. of Cleveland, Ohio and purchased in 1903 by Beebe. The car was later remodeled for “parlor car” service and renamed The Syracuse.

Marcella Lounge

The lounge of the Marcella was finished in mahogany and included a paneled, built-in refrigerator and buffet.


No. 999 was a 56-foot/45-ton private car with six rooms, built for Beebe’s personal use in 1910, later remodeled as a revenue-producing parlor car in 1915. For the trip from Syracuse to Rochester, a ticket for a seat in the parlor car was 25 cents.

999 Bathroom

The lavatory of No. 999

999 Smoking

The smoking room of No. 999, finished in Mission Oak.

999 Parlor

The parlor of No. 999, paneled in mahogany.

Beebe had other investments as well. In Washington state, he was on the board of the Seattle Lighting Company, and owned that city’s Hotel Cecil and the Beebe Building, built for him in 1900-1901. Beebe visited Seattle in the spring of 1904 to tend to his business interests, and on the journey stopped to visit the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, more popularly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair.

(The high point of the exposition for Beebe was a visit to the Philippine Village where members of the Igorrote tribe were building huts and demanding dog meat. Beebe told a Syracuse reporter that there was an initial protest, but officials “concluded that a good fat dog at $2 was about as cheap meat as could be supplied.” You might ask, “How in the world did Philippine natives get to St. Louis?” Well, in 1904 the U.S. government imported 1,300 aboriginal Filipinos from various tribes and brought them to the exposition – at a cost of $1.5 million – to show the public that the “primitive” people of the Philippines were not ready for self-government, and thus gain popular support for the U.S. policy of colonialism. The dog-eating Igorrotes drew the largest crowds of all; the dogs were purchased from the St. Louis city pound.)

Back in Skaneateles, Beebe named his new summer place “Lone Oak” and added a new wing, piazzas, a gatehouse and a cottage. And, even though outside the village limits, he was allowed to hook into the Skaneateles village sewer system in 1904, an amenity of great, if invisible, value.

Postcard Lone Oak Beebe

In March of 1905, Beebe gave George Barber a contract for building a boat house; it would cost $2,500 and have “the best appointments” – a billiard room 30-feet square, two sleeping rooms on first floor and four sleeping rooms for servants on the second floor.

Beebe's Boathouse at Lone Oak

Clifford and Maud Beebe entertained. One night in July of 1905, they hosted a party on a searchlight trip aboard the City of Syracuse steamboat. In 1906, they gave a dance for Amie Willetts of The Boulders on the eve of her wedding to Samuel Roosevelt Outerbridge. They hosted luncheons, teas and dinners, entertained guests for long weekends, and when their sons got older, they hosted house parties for their friends.

The Auburn Citizen was especially rhapsodic about “a brilliant affair” held in August of 1906:

“Mr. & Mrs. Clifford D. Beebe gave a large lawn fete and boat house dance at their beautiful home, Lone Oak, on Skaneateles Lake yesterday afternoon. The reception was from 5 until 8 and many Syracuse and Auburn people were present. A special [trolley] car left Syracuse at 4 o’clock and returned at 8. The decorations of the house were golden glow which was placed about most artistically. Upon entering could be heard the beautiful music of an Hungarian band from New York. Elaborate refreshments were served in the magnificent dining room overlooking the water. Some of the guests remained for the dance which was held in the boat house, a most attractive place built out over the lake, which in the evening looked like fairyland. The moon rising over the water, the boat house with its beautiful illuminations, and the strains of soft music produced an effect which was entrancing. The piazza, lawn and boat house were illuminated with myriads of lights, and the guests enjoyed dancing until 12.”

Summer in Skaneateles, however, was not without its hazards. In July of 1908, 4-year-old William Beebe, the youngest of the three sons, fell into the lake at the village dock as his nursemaid was lifting him out of a boat. She slipped and both went into the water. A “barber from Syracuse,” who afterwards refused to give his name, dove in fully clothed and brought the boy to safety, while two more men in a nearby rowboat lifted the maid, now unconscious, from the water. The maid was revived by Dr. E.P. Hall and recovered. (The news account also noted that earlier in the year, William Beebe had been bitten by a dog in Syracuse and taken to the Pasteur Institute in New York to undergo treatment to prevent hydrophobia. He was having a tough year.)

In 1910, Beebe hired Henry Treen as head gardener for Lone Oak. Treen had been a gardener for A.H. Benson of Ankerwycke House, Wraysbury, Buckinghamshire, and more recently had tended to the grounds of Roosevelt Hall for Samuel Montgomery Roosevelt. Together with two other men for the season, Treen kept Lone Oak mowed, in bloom and beautiful.

Also in 1910, Beebe bought 60 adjoining acres of farmland from Porter Cuddeback (a third generation Skaneateles Cuddeback: son of Peter & Maria, grandson of Moses & Mary), a surly recluse who often set his pack of dogs on would-be visitors. As I have noted before in a longer piece about Porter, I don’t know how C.D. Beebe got past the dogs with his offer and a check. Perhaps he mailed them and let the postman run the gauntlet. Regardless of how Beebe accomplished the purchase, the land would soon turn out to be useful.

In the summer of 1911, Beebe purchased The Phantom, “one of the fastest and handsomest motor boats plying the waters of Skaneateles lake,” 35 feet long with graceful lines and a mahogany interior, built to accommodate 15 people.

Phantom Beebe

In August, the “Society” page of the Syracuse Post-Standard noted:

“One of the most delightful social events of the vacation season here was the dance given by Mr. and Mrs. Clifford D. Beebe at their summer home, Lone Oak, on Tuesday evening. Japanese lanterns were strung though the extensive grounds surrounding the house, while the boat was brilliantly lighted. The spacious rooms were prettily decorated with many different kinds of flowers. Some of the guests danced, while others played auction bridge, one of the favorite pastimes this summer in Skaneateles. Throughout the evening music was furnished by an orchestra. Refreshments were served at midnight.”

Later that month, eldest son Dwight S. Beebe held a dance of his own with 40 guests present, and the ensuing write-up contained one line that was a portent of doom for his father’s business: “Most of the Auburnians made the run to and from this village in machines, although a special [trolley] car was run to Auburn after the last dance.”

In November of 1913, Lone Oak was robbed, and not for the first time; one George Barber, no relation to the boathouse builder, had already done a year in Auburn Penitentiary for an earlier break-in. This time, someone targeted three of the largest (and vacant) houses in Skaneateles: Beebe’s Lone Oak, John Guy Owsley’s Brook Farm, and Theodore Specht’s Hazelhurst (today’s Athenaeum). Specht’s monogrammed silverware was later found in a basket under a barn.

During the summer of 1915, a group of Syracuse and Skaneateles men were invited to an informal meeting at Lone Oak to talk about golf and a possible country club. Beebe had enough land for a course. Was there enough interest?

On August 6, 1915, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported:

“About fifty-two acres of land on the west shore of Skaneateles Lake owned by C.D. Beebe is considered the desirable tract for the new nine-hole course. The property has frontage of several hundred feet on the lake shore and extends back over a variety of grade conditions which tend to make it an almost ideal location for a golf course.

“The land is now covered for the most part by a luxurious growth of timothy hay. With this mowed down in required length and a bit of grading done to make the fair green more desirable, the course could be made an exceptionally good one. There are a number of natural hazards and others could be constructed to make the game more difficult to meet the requirements of the membership.

“Three small streams… cross the property and each could be worked into the course, providing natural water hazards… Another advantage is found in a gully at the far end of the lot. A short hole, with the cup in a punch bowl, could be built to cross this obstacle, making it one of the most unique playing possibilities in this vicinity.

“On the property there is ample room for the nine-hole course, as it runs more than 3,000 yards in length, that distance being the minimum of the standard course. With a clubhouse facing the lake the establishment should be a popular one with Syracuse, Auburn and Skaneateles families. ”

Two months later, the Skaneateles Country Club (SCC) officially came into being in Syracuse, on Thursday, October 21, 1915, in Beebe’s offices. The day after the meeting, The Auburn Citizen reported the details:

“E. N. Trump of Syracuse was elected president of the Skaneateles Country Club at the first meeting of the Board of Directors which was held in the rooms of the Electric Terminal Building in Syracuse yesterday afternoon… A committee was empowered to proceed immediately with the work of laying out the club. A club house committee was also appointed but it was explained that this work will not be started until next year. Plans, however, will be considered during the winter. Definite negotiations for the lease of the land [from C.D. Beebe] were finished.”

Beebe electric railway auburn 1913

The Beebe Syndicate reached its height in 1915, controlling 28 individual companies. But the debt incurred by expansion – in excess of $10,000,000 – together with the rapid proliferation of the automobile and competition from the steam railroads, would soon force Beebe’s trolley lines into receivership and foreclosure. Another blow to business was delivered by the U.S. entry into World War I, and Beebe felt this personally as well.

In August of 1917, Dwight Sawyer Beebe, 25, was commissioned as a Captain of Field Artillery, and David Chapin Beebe, 20, a sophomore at Yale, was ordered to officer’s aviation camp. (William Nottingham Beebe, 14, was a student at the Manlius Military Academy, too young to go.) Soon both Dwight and David were in France, and Clifford and Maud Beebe had every reason to worry.

Beebe David 2

Lt. David Beebe was a pilot with the 50th Aero Squadron, tasked with flying over the enemy’s rear areas for reconnaissance of troop movements, activity on roads and railroads, locations of storage dumps and airfields, and placement of anti-aircraft artillery. On September 13, 1918, early in the morning of the second day of the St. Mihiel offensive, Lt. Beebe was on a mission with Lt. Franklin Bellows, his observer. They were flying through clouds and mist at an altitude of 300 meters when hit by fire from ground batteries. The plane’s motor was damaged and rifle fire wounded Lt. Bellows. Although they were eight kilometers behind the German lines, Beebe kept the machine aloft and landed just inside the American lines in a effort to save his observer’s life; he was too late. For his actions, Lt. Beebe was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

In October of 1918, Capt. Dwight Beebe was leading Battery B of the 314th Field Artillery. The daily battle diary of the 314th notes:

“October 7, 1918 — Although Brieulles was said to be burning and a great glow was visible in the north, we gassed the town early in the morning. Whether it was on account of some of our ammunition being defective or because the Germans sent over some gas with their H.E. [high explosives], is not known, but the regiment suffered heavily from gas casualties. The Second Battalion lost Major Granville Fortescue, Capt. Dwight S. Beebe, Capt. Samuel B. Ridge (Surgeon), Lieut. Frank A. Heacock and five enlisted men.”

Capt. Beebe survived and returned to the front from the hospital on October 10th, but two days later was relieved of his duties and sent to Camp de Souge, 20 kilometers from Bordeaux, as an artillery instructor. The war ended on November 11th. On Thanksgiving Day, in Bordeaux, Capt. Dwight Beebe and Lt. David Beebe had dinner together and gave thanks.

And so C.D. Beebe had reason to rejoice, in spite of his trolley business melting away. He left Syracuse in 1919 and moved to New York City to deal in real estate, but continued to summer in Skaneateles, and to host his sons, soon married with children of their own, at Lone Oak.

Miller Ad 1915

Later in the 1920s, Beebe rented Lone Oak to Edward H. Miller, who made his way by manufacturing corsets (another product headed for obsolescence) in Cortland, Owego, Ithaca, Brooklyn and Newark, N.J. Miller lived in Rochester at this time, and summering at Lone Oak brought him closer to Cortland, where he had spent much of his life. He was probably a very agreeable neighbor. When he died in 1933, the Corset & Underwear Review noted, “With the death of Edward H. Miller, the corset industry loses one of its most colorful and dynamic personalities… Always energetic and alert, his death will come as quite a shock to those who remember his many lovable qualities, his vision and his energy… His likable character won for him the warm friendship of many of those with whom he came in contact.”

In the summer of 1928, Maud Beebe was back at Lone Oak, and placed an ad in the Skaneateles Press to sell her glass and mahogany china cabinet. Down-sizing.

:: Morris & Madeline Foley ::

In October of 1929, Morris J. Foley and Madeline Cullen Scott Foley bought the Beebe estate on “the west shore drive” for $70,000. The Auburn couple lived in a brick mansion on Genesee Street next to the Post Office. And they require some explanation, beginning with William Scott.

Born in 1863, William Winfield Scott was a lifelong resident of Auburn, worked as a clerk in the post office, and led “a secluded life.” In 1901, he married Elizabeth Cornell, 12 years his senior, the daughter of a millionaire who had her own income from extensive real estate dealings in Auburn. William retired shortly after the wedding.

In 1908, the couple built a brick mansion on Genesee Street in Auburn, right next to the post office. They lived there with two servants and a coachman.

Foley Mansion PO SMALL

Auburn Foley Mansion

PO Auburn NY

When Elizabeth died in 1911, William inherited more than $650,000 in stocks, bonds and real estate. He began to develop an interest in civic affairs and a talent for philanthropy.

In August of 1920, William Scott married Madeline Elizabeth Cullen, also of Auburn, in a quiet ceremony. She was 33 years his junior and the following year presented him with a son, William Cullen Scott. In 1926, William Sr. died; his son was just four years old. Auburn remembered him as “one of its most prominent and wealthiest citizens.” The former postal clerk was now remembered as a former “postal official.” It took two cars to carry all the floral tributes to the cemetery. William left bequests to his siblings and the residue of his estate, along with the mansion, to his wife and son.

In 1928, William’s widow married Morris J. Foley at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. During the early 1920s, Foley had been a district manager for Standard Oil, but now talked of going into business on his own. But first, he joined Madeline at the mansion on Genesee Street. There were stables and a barn behind the house, where the couple kept horses and dogs under the name of “M & M Stables.” And one year after their marriage, they bought Lone Oak in Skaneateles.

The family enjoyed Lone Oak during the summer, although on the 4th of July, 1931, nine-year-old Billy Scott lit up a pack of fireworks that was still in his pocket. He was on the dock and thought to jump into the lake. Still, he had to be hospitalized for burns to his right leg.

As “Lone Oak Stables,” Morris and Madeline were active in showing horses – Lindy, Natty, Sweetheart, Emerald Cavalier and Emerald Lady brought home many ribbons. Morris was a clubman and sportsman; in 1933, he made the paper for scoring a hole-in-one at the Auburn Country Club. In addition to Billy Scott, the couple had two daughters of their own, Mary Ann and Patricia.

But the idyll did not last. In April of 1935, Morris contracted a spinal infection and after a struggle of days, died at the age of 44.

Foley Photo and Funeral

Madeline Foley continued on at Lone Oak. In August, she opened the grounds for a lawn party to benefit Holy Family church of Auburn.

In 1936, the city of Auburn and Cayuga County began discussing the purchase of the Foley mansion at 159 Genesee Street for use as office space. In November of 1938, the purchase had been made, but not for offices: A new Sears-Roebuck store was to occupy the space. The first casualties of the demolition were a pair of stately, “century-old” elm trees that stood in front of the residence.

In December of 1938, Billy Scott was a 17-year-old cadet at Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, home for Christmas vacation. One evening, he took a car from Auburn and drove to Lone Oak with a friend. On the trip back to Auburn, about 11 p.m., Scott brushed a car coming in the opposite direction and lost control; his car crashed through four concrete posts, careened down an embankment and rolled over several times, stopping 150 feet from the road. Both boys were thrown clear, but the car was a wreck, its metal roof torn to ribbons, all four wheels knocked off. Motorists stopped and Scott’s friend was taken by a driver to the hospital in Auburn, where he was treated and released. Scott himself had been knocked unconscious and when he awoke, he saw what was left of the car, but his friend was gone.

Before the police and ambulance arrived, another motorist picked up Scott and drove him back to Lone Oak. There the boy told the caretaker, Kenneth Laxton, that he had been in a fight, and was going to sleep in “the big house.” Instead, he loaded a 20-gauge shotgun, went out to the end of the dock, laid down, placed the muzzle under his chin, steadied the stock between his legs, and pulled the trigger. About 1 a.m., a state trooper and a policeman from the village found the body.

No one could explain why Billy Scott had taken his own life. Perhaps he thought he had killed his friend. Perhaps he was distraught over wrecking the car, guilty about driving illegally at night on a junior permit. Perhaps he sustained a head injury and was “unbalanced.” Twice-widowed, Madeline Foley had now lost her son.

Madeline and her daughters, Mary Ann and Patricia (“Patsy”), continued to summer in Skaneateles. In August of 1944, Madeline’s father died, and the funeral was held at Lone Oak. In 1945, Madeline sold the property to Dwight W. Winkelman, and she and the girls moved to California.

:: Dwight W. Winkelman ::

Dwight W. Winkelman started in construction in 1924 in Chicago, and came to New York in 1930 to do road work in the Adirondacks. He opened an office in Syracuse in 1937, specializing in heavy construction – airports, highways, buildings. On the eve of World War II, his company built the Army Air Base in Mattydale (which later became Hancock Field) and then a secret project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, that became known as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, home of the atomic bomb. As president of D.W. Winkelman Construction, Dwight enjoyed 16-hour work days, as long as they were in the field – he flew from job to job in his own airplane – and not behind a desk.

The Winkelmans re-named the Lone Oak property “Lakelawn.” Their equine activities – show horses and polo – were based on Kane Avenue at Lakelawn Farms/Lakelawn Stables/Lakelawn Field, and Winkelman’s air strip was the Lakelawn Airport. Dwight was a founder of the Skaneateles Polo Club and built the first polo field next to his airplane hanger on West Lake Road. Compared to most of his construction projects, a polo field was a piece of cake.

Lakelawn was a gem on any Skaneateles house tour. The house was opened for the Skaneateles Garden Club in 1947 and 1957, and for the Women of St. James’ in 1961, when it was noted that the house had been “completely redecorated and modernized” by the Winkelmans. (Also in 1961, Dwight Winkelman sold 54 acres of land on the west side of West Lake Road to the Skaneateles Country Club, enabling them to double the size of the golf course to 18 holes.)

In 1964, the Winkelmans added an indoor pool and a “Tiki Room,” and the next year opened the house to another Skaneateles Garden Club tour. As Dwight Winkelman spent more time in the south, his son, Peter Winkelman, became the main resident of Lakelawn, and in 1972, Peter opened the house for another St. James’ tour.

:: Lawrence & Janet Ruston ::

In November of 1978, Lawrence and Janet Ruston bought the property. Mr. Ruston was the President of Ruston Paving Co. of Syracuse. In June of 1980, the Marcellus Weekly Observer noted, “His wife Janet and their five children have combined the stateliness of the house with the intimacy sought in family living.”

The Rustons hosted benefits for the Vincent House Guild (1980, 1990) outdoor concerts of the Skaneateles Festival (1982, 1983) and an “Elegant Evening” to benefit the Syracuse Symphony Guild (1985).

In 1990, the Rustons sought to subdivide the property, into 12 building lots; they were unsuccessful. On July 2, 1999, Lakelawn appeared in the Wall Street Journal as “House of the Week,” with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms in 12,000 square feet on 7 1/2 acres. Among the amenities: seven fireplaces, a three-car garage, an indoor pool, and the three-bedroom gatehouse. The asking price was $2,225,000. With the two-bedroom boathouse, tennis court and an additional 310 feet of lakefront, the price was $4.9 million. The property did not sell.

Lakelawn Porch

The view from the porch, photo by Suzanne Dunn of The Post-Standard

In August of 2002, on a perfect Sunday afternoon at the Ruston home, pianist Adam Gay received the first Robinson award from presenter Hilary Hahn. The Skaneateles Festival hosted the affair; three music groups from the Skaneateles High School, directed by Mickey Kringer, performed on the terrace, and Cateress Kendra of Moravia provided “a delicious cold buffet supper.”

In 2004, after a decade of frustration, the Rustons had their landmark mansion torn down. It was “old and brittle.” It needed a new roof, and electrical/plumbing upgrades. The repairs would have been too costly. With the house gone, the Rustons tried again, unsuccessfully, to subdivide. In 2006, they sued the town and village of Skaneateles in federal court for $75 million, saying local governments abused their power and arbitrarily blocked development. The lawsuit was dismissed.

In September of 2014, the 25-acre estate that had been a Cuddeback farm, a summer home for Robert Minturn Grinnell, C.D. Beebe’s Lone Oak and Dwight Winkelman’s Lakelawn, was sold by the Rustons to the anonymous Lakelawn Properties LLC for $11 million.

* * *

Lot No. 37, originally in the township of Marcellus, became a part of the newly formed township of Skaneateles in 1830. Images of C.D. Beebe’s private train cars are from Some Classic Trains (1964) by Arthur Dubin. The most recent information on Lakelawn was from reporting by Jerry Rosen and Kevin Tampone.


4 thoughts on “The Life & Death of Lone Oak

  1. Pingback: 5 kitchens and a ‘fainting room’: Who’s building Syracuse area’s biggest mansion? | GAR Associates | NY Real Estate Appraisal and Market Analysis Firm.

  2. Pingback: C.D. Beebe’s Boat & Boat House – Skaneateles

  3. Pingback: Linen – Skaneateles

  4. Pingback: Lone Oak Encore – Skaneateles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s