A truly uninviting view of Shotwell Park
A truly uninviting view of Shotwell Park
From Syracuse and its Surroundings (1888) C.L. Sherrill Co., Buffalo, N.Y. [Library of Congress]
A handmade leather postcard posted in 1907 from F.S. in Ithaca to Agnes Gunsalus in Skaneateles.
A diminutive (4 3/4″ by 3″) one-cent Ulysses S. Grant postal card sent in 1896 by Benjamin Petheram to Philip Allen to remind him of an upcoming meeting of the directors of the Bank of Skaneateles.
With thanks to Julie for the discovery.
In October of 1929, Morris J. Foley and Madeline Scott Foley of Auburn bought Dwight Beebe’s Lone Oak estate on “the west shore drive” for $70,000. In addition to Billy Scott, a son from Madeline’s previous marriage, the couple had two daughters of their own, Mary Ann and Patricia. Morris Foley died in 1935, but Madeline and her daughters continued to summer at the estate they now called “Lakelawn.”
Among Mary Ann’s friends was a young woman named Audrey Arthur, who lived in Skaneateles. In later life, Audrey wrote this memoir.
“To this day, I can’t forget that house.”
“I had a girlfriend, Mary Ann Foley, who only lived on the lake in the summer. Their house had 75 rooms, many acres, stables, tennis courts and most of all – the boat house, which was our hangout that summer of 1939.
“It had big windows all around the main room that jutted out over the lake. Several big white polar bear rugs on the floor and a terrific record player that was stocked full of all of Benny Goodman’s records. My six friends would head for these just about every day.
“It was a mile up the lake next to the Country Club. Some of us would canoe up or catch a ride in someone’s motorboat or else we’d catch a ride with someone heading for the club, with bathing suits under our arms. The afternoon would be spent lounging on the dock and the record player going full blast so everyone at the club would know where we were. A couple of us would always walk over the huge lawn, up past the first green to the club house for frozen Milky Ways and bring one to everyone who had kicked in money.
“Mary Ann was two years younger than I, but tall for her age. She was the same age as my sister Dottie. We had a wonderful time spending most of our time down at the boathouse… It was elegant, with heavy walnut furniture and two big white polar bear rugs. It had windows all around from floor to ceiling, but best of all it had a radio with a record player and all the terrific Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Harry James records from Mary Ann’s brother. He didn’t care how much we played them. We used to [play] the records as loud as we could. You could hear them all the way to the Country Club.
“We lived in our bathing suits, lounged in the sun, danced with kids as they came by in their canoes, and stopped to swim. We also wandered around down at the stables, which once had been a real show place, each stable paneled in mahogany, but now the only thing it housed was Mary Ann’s pony… We also liked to wander around the huge flower garden that had a pond in the middle with water lilies and benches. Below that was the vegetable garden where we snitched tomatoes.
“At the entrance was a caretaker cottage — and I might add it looked just like a doll’s house – then a tree-lined driveway with acres and acres of mowed green grass. Before the main entrance way there were tennis courts, which hadn’t seen any games or action for some time and were quite overgrown… Then began the huge porch and steps that led into the great hallway with circular stairs that reached up three floors. The biggest living room I’d ever seen on the right. To the left was a double dining room, breakfast room with circular windows that looked down at the lake and a more formal one on the other end. And the huge porch followed all around from the entry to the lakeside… Oh, the peony bushes in all colors! When in bloom, their fragrance filled the living room. They smelled like heaven.
“Well, for some three years I spent my summers there. As I look back, I think it was more or less a way to keep Mary Ann occupied, because day after day her mother wanted me to stay the night. Anything we wanted to do she arranged it – movies, picnics by the lake in the picnic house or the boathouse. Many a warm night we’d sleep on the white polar bear rugs with the lake breeze coming through while listening to all the latest Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw… all the records. Mary Ann’s brother, Billy Scott, was 17 and the best-looking male I’d ever seen; he had all the latest music of the day.”
— Audrey Elizabeth Arthur Saviers (1925-2018)
Nancy Arthur Hoskins, who shared her sister Audrey’s memoir with the Skaneateles Historical Society, added her memories:
“I remember being at Lakelawn with Audrey and Dottie and especially remember the bear rugs in the boathouse and being inside a gorgeous mansion. My sisters probably had to take care of me and brought me with them to Mary Ann’s house and boathouse when I was four or five years old.
“Audrey was Hollywood beautiful with eyes the color of moonstones… Her Skaneateles group of six friends were called ‘The Q Balls.’ I have no idea where the name came from. Teddy Weeks Huxford, Marge Ludington and Nancy Lawson were part of the group, if I remember correctly. Teddy for sure. They stayed friends until they died.”
In 1938, Billy Scott took his own life at Lakelawn, after an auto accident in which he mistakenly thought he had killed his best friend. In 1945, Madeline Foley sold Lakelawn to Dwight W. Winkelman, and she and her daughters moved to California.
I am so grateful to Nancy Arthur Hoskins for sharing this.
When I say “Appledore Farm” your thoughts may turn to the 1894 novel by Katherine Macquoid which begins, “Some little way above Church-Marshfield, the high-road to the market-town of Parley begins to climb a ridge, the lower one of two steep sides to a green and fertile valley. At the bottom of this valley, a little way before the high-road turns leftward from the ridge to seek a lower level, lies Appledore Farm.”
But, no. Our Appledore Farm was not in the county of Kent, England, but rather a short ride down West Lake Road, to what was also known as the Hiscock residence.
Spencer Adams took this photo and many others in Skaneateles; I can place most of his subjects at once, but this one was a mystery to me. Where was it? Who were the Hiscocks? I had to go back a few generations to sort this out.
Frank Harris Hiscock was born in 1856 in Tully, N.Y., the son of Luther Harris Hiscock (1824-1867) and Lucy Bridgman. The elder Hiscock was a Syracuse lawyer, a founder of the law firm now known as Hiscock and Barclay, Speaker of the New York Assembly and a delegate to the 1867 New York State Constitutional Convention.
When Frank Harris Hiscock was eleven, his father died (1) and the boy was raised by his father’s brother and law partner, Frank Hiscock (1834-1914). He graduated from Cornell in 1875 when he was only 19. He obtained his law degree from Columbia and joined his uncle’s law practice in Syracuse. A respected attorney and jurist, he later served as Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals from 1917 to 1926.
In 1879, Frank Harris Hiscock married Mary Elizabeth “Bessie” Barnes of Syracuse at her family’s home on James Street. (2) The couple had four children. (3) The eldest son was George Barnes Hiscock, born in 1889, and he thrived.
Like his father, George went to Cornell, but studied agriculture rather than law. In March of 1912, while still in college, he bought the George D. Cuddeback farm of 225 acres on the west side of Skaneateles Lake.
In November of 1912, in his senior year at Cornell, he added the adjoining Asa Childs Foote (1811-1884) farm of 90 acres, buying the land from Asa’s daughter, Jesse A. Foote. The Skaneateles Free Press reported that he planned to devote a large part of the farm to apple trees.
Upon graduation in 1913, George began making improvements to the farm house. He was now engaged to Genevieve “Genny” Saxer of Syracuse, a popular young woman in society, and wanted to create a proper setting for her.
Joseph Frost had built the original farm house in 1816; he cut the date into the woodwork of a door.(4) In 1914, George Hiscock began the transformation, hiring architect Albert Levertt Brockway (1864-1933) of Syracuse for the design and construction. He was one of Syracuse’s leading architects in the first quarter of the 20th century, and also served as a consulting architect for the New York State Agricultural College at Cornell, George’s alma mater.
In October of 1915, George and his bride were married at the home of her parents on James Street. The Syracuse Daily Journal reported, “Beneath a canopy of Southern smilax entwined with white chrysanthemums behind which an orchestra breathed softly during the ceremony, Miss Genevieve H. Saxer was united in marriage to George Barnes Hiscock.”
After a honeymoon trip that included visits to New York City, Atlantic City and Washington, D.C., the couple returned to Appledore Farm. The bride’s friends felt that she would not last six months on “the farm,” but she proved them wrong.
“Farm life” did not wear her down; she lifted it up. A cook prepared all the meals and a manservant brought the food to the table when she rang a silver bell. Mealtimes were formal, and the table was always set with fine china, crystal and silver. When daughter Henrietta reached the age where she would entertain gentleman callers, the finger bowl at each place setting served as a test. If a suitor had to ask what the bowl was, or worse, drank from it, he failed.
While Genny enhanced the house and grounds, George was taming the soil. On July 22, 1916, the Cortland Standard reported:
“Since Colonial farmers first turned the virgin soil with wooden plows and ox-teams, the historic town of Skaneateles, says the Free Press of that village, has seen many of its cherished traditions swept aside by the onrush of modern invention. In the forefront of destroyers of antiquated methods of tilling the soil is George Barnes Hitchcock of ‘Appledore.’
“Where the happy, barefoot farmer boy once drove his yoked team with a ‘gee’ and a ‘haw,’ there is now heard only the ‘sput, sput, sput’ of the engine of a gasoline tractor. Behind the throttle, just as brown and sturdy as his forefathers, sat the modern agriculturalist yesterday afternoon, while trailing along behind was the gang plow that turned over more soil in one hour than it would with a team of horses in a whole day.”
By 1916, George had planted more than 2,000 apple trees. His children rode their ponies through the orchard.
In 1920, the Syracuse Herald noted:
“’Appledor farm’ is the sort of place you read about in English novels where the ‘Squire’ is the lord of the manor. The house, built more than a century ago, has a wide veranda facing the lake, and fitted with couches and hammocks and cushions and easy porch chairs. At the rear is a tangled garden of old fashioned flowers—phlox and dahlias and marigolds and zinnias and asters and ten week stocks and cosmos and coreopsis.
Back of that stretches the wide young orchard of forty acres, with all varieties of apples just beginning to bear. To the east is the ‘old orchard,’ eight acres of it, planted so long ago that, as Mr. Hiscock says, probably not a man living today remembers when the trees were set out or who knows the names of the different varieties. There are freaks and sports galore in the ‘old orchard.’ One tree, for instance, bears on some of its branches the delicious strawberry apple, while from other branches come a sour fruit that puckers your lips when you taste it. No one knows that there was ever a graft on the tree.” (5)
There was still much on the farm that was traditional. The dairy had 36 Holstein cows; the milk was bottled for Skaneateles residents, and the cows were led across West Lake Road to graze in the pasture below.
L. Harris Hiscock, George’s younger brother, also joined him on the farm. He had hoped to be a reporter in Syracuse, but came home from an Army camp with a spot on his lung, and was prompted to move to the country. Fortunately, he liked chickens, and the newspaper observed, “The chicken houses on the Hiscock farm are worth going miles to see.”
Water was pumped from a well, 320 feet deep, into a 1,600 gallon wooden tank which supplied water to the farm and also to neighboring farms and houses. Also in the “Well Room” was an electric plant which furnished light for the houses and barns.
George was an early member and President of the Skaneateles Country Club, and in July of 1919, when the Club hosted a picnic for soldiers and sailors returning from the war in Europe, George was one of the chief organizers of the day’s festivities. Appledore also provided dirt for the landscaping of the golf course.
In 1946, George left farming behind. He sold 240 acres to Arve and Helen Wikstrom, but negotiated a life lease for the main house. When George died in 1975, Genny moved into town with her son and the Hiscock residence passed from the life of the family. But in an era of “tear downs,” it is comforting to know that the Hiscock house stands today, as Hobbit Hollow House.
(1) In 1867, Luther Harris Hiscock was murdered by Gen. George W. Cole in the public reception room of a hotel in Albany, N.Y. Cole walked up to Hiscock, placed a pistol to his forehead and pulled the trigger. Shouting to the horrified witnesses, Cole claimed to have proof that Hiscock had an affair with his wife in the summer of 1864, while Cole was away at the Civil War. Cole was eventually acquitted by reason of momentary insanity.
(2) The Barnes-Hiscock House is an historic building located at 930 James Street in Syracuse, N.Y. It was built in 1851-1853 by industrialist and abolitionist George Barnes. In 1883, Frank and Bessie Hiscock commissioned architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee to remodel the house in a more fashionable Colonial Revival style.
The Frank Hiscock house, from Syracuse and Its Surroundings (1888)
From 1949 to 2009, the house was the home of the Corinthian Club, a private women’s club. The George and Rebecca Barnes Foundation oversees the house today.
Frank Hiscock was a close friend of President William Howard Taft, who is said to have visited the home. Other notable visitors to the house included abolitionist Gerrit Smith, women’s rights crusader Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum.
(3) The children of Frank and Bessie Hiscock included Rebecca Cornelia (1880-1896); she died at the age of 15 of tuberculous peritonitis at Loon Lake in the Adirondacks where she had been taken in hopes of a cure; Helen Lucy (1882-1978) married William Eager; George Barnes married Genevieve Saxer and had two children: Henrietta Hiscock Gottschalk (1910-2015) and Frank Harris Hiscock II (1919-2011) also known as “Bud,” both of Skaneateles; Luther Harris (1893-1975) married Dorothy Neal and was the father of Reba Hiscock Pierce (1920-1997) and Allie Hiscock Laupheimer (1922-1996).
(4) “Early Quakers of Skaneateles” Skaneateles Press, June 1, 1933
Joseph Frost (1770-1838) began farming here in 1812. William Willetts (d.1841) purchased the farm from Frost in 1821, and in 1839 sold it to his son, Valentine Willetts (1795-1873). In 1864, Valentine Willetts sold his farm to James Thornton. In 1882, James and Emeline Thornton sold the farm to George David Cuddeback (1858-1916), husband of their daughter Letitia “Lettie” Thornton.
In the History of the Town of Skaneateles (1896), Dwight Bruce notes, “The west side of the lake was very early settled by members of the Society of Friends [Quakers], who exerted a wholesome and permanent influence upon the subsequent development of the town. Bringing with them their quiet, ennobling characteristics, they impressed upon the community a lasting regard for institutions of an elevating nature, and firmly implanted their doctrines among the settlements. About 1812 a society was organized in the community; among its members were Joseph and Russell Frost, Abner Lawton (died January 20, 1855), Warren Giles, Silas Gaylord (died January 31, 1843), and William Willetts; soon afterward an edifice was erected near the octagon school house.”
(5) Apple grower Matt Householder notes, “A strawberry apple might be the Chenango Strawberry, but could refer to any apple with strawberry flavor/aroma or even to an apple with red flesh. A sour apple is likely one of many possible cider varieties. Grafts expertly done are nearly impossible to pinpoint after just a few years. Sports are a mutation in the budding process when new branches form. Sports are rare — like one in a million.”
“Judge’s Son Happy on Big Farm, Where Geometry and ‘Scoops’ Are Barred,” Syracuse Herald, 1920
“Appledore Farm, 1911-1975” by Henrietta Hiscock Gottschalk, July 26, 1997
Appledore presentation given by Diane “Dee” Pierce Maguire at the Creamery, September 29, 2016
A booth for the “Home, Heaven and Mother Party,” staffed by women of Skaneateles who opposed giving the vote to women. The “Vote No” campaign was unsuccessful. In November of 1917, New York voters passed an amendment to the New York State Constitution granting women full suffrage.
Joel Thayer’s boathouse, Legg Hall, Thayer’s park, and F.C. Austin park before the breakwall was built, in a photo by Spencer Adams.
Photos by Spencer Adams, thanks to Norm Shepard and the Skaneateles Historical Society.