Earlier newsletters. Most recent is first.

Sally Holben, Editor Vol. 23, No. 5 November/December 2008



The Skaneateles Fire Department is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year in a brand new facility. For the Society's November program, Jim Buff will lead a tour of the fire department's new building on the corner of West Genesee and Kane.
Buff is a 45-year veteran of the fire department and served as its chief for 10 years (1975-1985). Some of his memorable experiences include the Winkelman plane crash rescue and pulling a woman from a burning house on East Lake Road. Buff notes that the Skaneateles Fire Department, which currently has 92 volunteers, has the longest-serving membership in the county; there are 47 members with over 20 years and 3 with over 50 years of service.
Please join us on Tuesday, November 25 at 7:30 for an inside look at the new state-of-the-art facility led by Jim Buff.


On Sunday, December 7, the Society will hold its annual holiday open house at the Creamery. The building will be festively decorated, music will fill the air, cookies and punch will satisfy your sweet tooth, Dickens characters are sure to visit, and a good time will be had by all. Please come to the Creamery, any time between 1 and 4, for this always happy occasion.


When we were restoring the Creamery, dozens of volunteers gave hundreds of hours sheetrocking, sanding, spackling, etc., thus saving the Society thousands of dollars. Now, with the museum expansion, we're hoping for the same sort of community help. If you can paint, we can use you. Please call the Creamery (685-1360) to give your name. We'll call you when the job is ready to be done. Thanks in advance for your contribution in sweat equity.


When the museum floor needed to be repaired this fall, numbers of artifacts had to be moved before the workmen could get started -- and then, of course, back again after the work was done. Several volunteers were of special help: Dave Bates, Pat Blackler, Elizabeth Hirsh, Sally Holben, John Kane, Karlene and Bill Miller, Dave, Paula and Paul Miller, Sue and Joe Spalding, and Laurie Winship. In addition, the artifacts had to be dusted because of all the brick dust stirred up. Bere, Dave "Swiffer" Miller proved particularly industrious. Thanks to all of them.
Kudos to former Society board member Charlie Major on his reelection as Town Justice.


The Creamery will be open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from 1 to 4, from Thanksgiving Friday through Christmas. Those are good times to bring visitors to the Creamery and to do some holiday shopping. (See page 5 for some suggestions.)


Don't forget that January is the month to renew your Society membership. Just $10 a person per year, and you get 10% discount at our Gift Shop.


Joining Margaret Chase on the Display Committee are Loretta Marx, Cindy Smith and Carol Ann Cook. This is the group responsible for planning and executing the displays at both the Creamery and 1st National Gifts. Welcome and thanks to Loretta, Cindy, and Carol Ann.

Bent Thomsen, Construction Committee Member

The snowflakes have started to fly. That does not mean, however, that construction of our museum expansion will come to a halt. Foundation work for the connecting wing between the boiler plant now under renovation and the Creamery is about to start. Foundations for the archival addition at the northeast corner of the Creamery, where an icehouse once stood, will proceed at the same time. In fact, we have asked Secor Building Solutions to expedite completion of that addition so that Ted Prindle and Jim Dougherty, long-time archival volunteers, can start to move into the new and much larger space before they totally run out of room in "the cooler." That move will involve a lot of work. Expect a request for some. volunteer help. Since the update in the September/October newsletter, we have made slow but steady progress on the renovation of the boiler plant. You can follow the progress on our website at skaneateleshistoricalsociety.org. Look for Museum Construction and click on Photo Album of Construction. The website is expertly constructed and maintained by board member Kenneth Wooster. When visiting the website (or the real site), you will find that the new roof structure and, importantly, the clerestory are in place. Soon we hope to see the bricklayers cover up the Tyvek-clad walls, replacing the unstable brick wall sections we had to remove. While foundation, trenches are open for the connecting wing, we plan to route electric and gas feeds to the boiler plant. This will enable us to complete the floor slab within the boiler plant after placing heating coils above the insulation and reinforcing mesh already in place. Landscape architect Sal Strods has completed the plans for creek bank stabilization needed directly behind the boiler plant. The plans were submitted to NYSDEC and a permit was received in short order. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to proceed with the work until after May 15, 2009, in consideration of fish activities in the creek. Fortunately, the stabilization work can be reached from the south side of the boiler plant before we replace the lean-to. In the meantime our fundraising efforts are continuing on all fronts and we aim to find the balance of our $700,000 target, or about $175,000, so that we can complete this worthwhile project without interruption.


Do you have any dresses, suits or children's clothes from the 1940's or earlier that you would be willing to donate to the Society? We use them in our exhibits and programs, to give a sense of period. Please call the Creamery (685-1360) or drop them off.


On Tuesday, December 9, at 7:30 at the firehouse, the eight Cornell graduate students who have been researching Skaneateles houses will report on their findings. They have been studying the architecture of and the families who have lived in some sixty houses along West Lake Street and West Genesee Street. Everyone is invited to come hear their illustrated talk. Those of you who came to the program given by last year's students know how informative, interesting and valuable such research is likely to be.


Can anyone tell us where this house is? It looks familiar but so far none of us has been able to place it. If you know, please give the Creamery a call (685-1360), so we can add the photo to the house files.
[The actual newsletter showed a picture of a house in this location, but technical difficulties have prevented showing it in this electronic version.]


Society tote bags $26
Society aprons $25
Brimmed caps $20
2008 ornament $9.26
Lightning Regatta 70th anniversary poster $15 (includes tax)
2008 afghan $45
2008 pillow $16
Pictorial History of Skaneateles $5
Wooden Boats of Skaneateles $12
Story of the Steamboats on Skaneateles Lake $8.95
Journey on the Jordan $3
Out of the Ashes: A story of the school fire and related events $3
Around the Octagon: A land and family history in Skaneateles $10.95
Pioneers and Prominent Citizens of Skaneateles $5
Images of America, Skaneateles 2001 $19.99
These are just some of the favorites at the Gift Shop. There's bound to be something for everyone on your gift list--or for yourself!
JUST IN ... Some more of the decorated teasel trees and wreaths that have been so popular in the past. New this year are teasel kissing balls, very good-looking.

Sally Holben, Editor Vol. 23, No. 4 September/October 2008



Skaneateles Town Historian Beth Batlle has spent nearly a year researching and documenting the history of more than 20 rural Skaneateles schools. Most were one-room schoolhouses and served children who lived outside the village prior to the school centralization in 1950. Many of the school buildings are still in existence (especially the stone schoolhouses) and now serve a new purpose as homes. Beth has interviewed many of the students who attended these schools and compiled a book full of photos to tell the story of these rural schools from the students' perspective.
Beth will begin the September 23 program with a little history of public education and then tell us about the local rural schools and stories former students shared with her. We expect to see some of them at the meeting! Please join us at 7:30 at the Creamery, to hear more about this on-going project.


Lia Bates was a child growing up in Amsterdam when World War II broke out. She attended a Montessori school where Anne Frank was her classmate for three years. For the October 28 program, Lia Bates will share her memories of Anne and of living through the war, the misery and the good part. A 17-year-old when the war ended, Lia will talk about "what it was like to be in the middle of the war and still function."
Lia is a long-time Skaneateles resident, an accomplished artist and a gardener. Everyone is welcome to see her scrapbook and hear her fascinating and very personal story, on Tuesday, October 28 at 7:30 at the Creamery.


Their required course in calculus completed, Syracuse University sophomores head to nearby Skaneateles Lake for the annual Calculus Burial. A calculus textbook is placed on a raft, set afire, and pushed onto the water. The tradition ends in 1889 when accompanying fireworks prematurely explode.
(Thanks to Kihm Winship for passing on this tidbit. I wonder whether John Wickwire or any of his fellow divers have come across any of these rejected texts.)

Pat Blackler, Village Historian

For the second year graduate students from the Cornell University Preservation Planning Program will hit the streets of Skaneateles to perform a historical survey. It's all about houses, history and architecture.
Throughout the fall, students will be investigating the history of the people, architecture and development on West Genesee and West Lake Streets. Eight graduate students will be undertaking a visual survey and conducting research on about eight properties apiece.
Under the direction of Associate Professor Jeffrey Chusid, the project will result in a written report documenting all the research gathered on the properties surveyed. A public presentation will be held in early December when the project is completed. The report will be a reference tool, available for the community's use: for the Village Trustees, the Planning and Zoning Boards, architects, Chamber of Commerce, and real estate firms.
The Village feels that the identification of the historic nature of our community will instill a sense of pride in its residents. You will see the students walking the streets mentioned above, beginning September 10. Do greet them and welcome them to Skaneateles: they are here for the preservation of our history.

Karlene B. Miller, President

If you have been on Hannum Street recently, you may have noticed that the new walls of the former Boiler Plant have been rebuilt. Work will begin immediately on the roof. Next the heated floor system will be installed and the concrete floor poured. Sewer and water lines are tied in.
The foundations for the connector building and the new room on the northeast corner of the Creamery will be the next segments to be completed. All construction decisions are made by the Building Committee: Architect Bob Eggleston, Project Manager Dave Secor, Steering Committee Members Joe Spalding and Bent Thomsen.
Just as Bob Eggleston has volunteered his time and expertise, so has Sal Strods, a landscape architect, who is working on plans to stabilize the creek bank, if necessary. We appreciate their knowledge and willingness to help.
The Steering Committee continues to meet weekly. This summer we organized a successful fund-raising event at the home of the Erricos. We are now working on grant applications to foundations, businesses and organizations in an effort to raise the last 25% of the funds needed to complete our project. ($700,000 is the amount needed and $520,000 is the amount raised or pledged.) We are also receiving help from Dick Lynch, who has agreed to help us establish an endowment to ensure the sustainability of the Society.
Please watch our progress as the construction moves forward, and visit the Creamery during its open hours.


For the rest of September, the Creamery will be open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 1 to 4. In October and November till Thanksgiving, it will be open on Friday and Saturday, 1 - 4. From then to Christmas, it will be open Friday, Saturday,.Sunday, 1 - 4. For appointments on other days, other hours, please call the Creamery, 685-1360.


Since the spring, the Society has gained at least 140 new members! Most of them joined in response to the fund drive letter; others signed up after a visit to the Creamery. We welcome them all, for their interest in and support of the Historical Society. And we wonder whether any of them (or any "old-timers") are interested in volunteering to help at the Society.

  • Do you have computer skills? We need a volunteer to help our gift shop develop a Web page to link to our Web site that would include pictures and descriptions of items we have for sale. We have had requests via email from people interested in seeing what we have to offer. We have started to explore online payment options, but in the meantime we could show people what we have and they could pay by check. It would be nice to have this in place now, so when the gift shop expands into its new location, we would be ready to add new items.
  • Would you be interested in helping with our seasonal displays, both at the Creamery and at our spot in 1st National Gifts on Genesee Street? No special artistic talent is required; height would be nice. These displays change every three or four months.
  • Do you have a strong back and winter boots? We need someone to shovel the front porch and entry walk. (The Village plows the parking lot and Hannum Street sidewalk.) We provide the shovel!
  • We are considering having an auction featuring items that members and others in the community would bring in and/or bid on. So far this is just a gleam in papa's eye, but wed welcome any input you might like to give.
  • We need help in the Acquisitions Department: entering new acquisitions in the computer program, labeling and filing new acquisitions on the shelves, taking inventory of past acquisitions. You need some knowledge of typing on a computer and you must like to work alone or with one other person. This work is done on Tuesday afternoons, for about three hours.
If you are interested in helping with any of these activities, please call Laurie Winship, the Creamery Director, 685-1360. Not only will you be giving much needed and appreciated help to the Society, but you'll be working with a very congenial group of people and youll be getting an inside look at the Society and the history of Skaneateles.

Kihm Winship

I was talking about chess with a friend recently, over lunch at the Sherwood, and afterwards it occurred to me that we couldn't have chosen a better spot for the conversation. In the late 19th century, the New York State Chess Association (NYSCA) held mid-summer meetings at places like Keuka Lake, the Thousand Islands and Saratoga Springs. For the players from large cities, these upstate tournaments were a welcome tonic, an escape to cooler, leafier climes. Beginning in August of 1889, Skaneateles was the host for four of these summer meetings, with the tourney headquartered at the Packwood House (today's Sherwood Inn).
The power players came from New York City and Philadelphia, the latter members having joined the NYSCA when the New York and Pennsylvania associations merged. More than 40 men were entered, and sorted by ability into four classes. Local entrants included attorney George Barrow, merchant Benjamin Petheram, WIlliam Shotwell (for whom Shotwell Park is named), and H.B. Dodge, the editor of the Skaneateles Democrat.
The New York Sun, the New York Herald and the Associated Press had a telegraph operator in place to report the result of each game.
After the first evening's games in 1889, Solomon Lipschutz, the reigning New York State Champion, relaxed by playing 11 informal games simultaneously --winning six, drawing three and losing two. Lipschutz would become the U.S. Champion in 1891 and hold the title until 1894. But at the end of the four-day 1889 tourney, the overall winner was William de Visser of the Manhattan Chess Club.
The NYSCA returned to Skaneateles three more times. James Moore Hanham of the Manhattan Chess Club won the 1891 tourney. A notable entrant that year was William Pollock, a winner of the Irish Championship.
In August 1892, Walter Penn Shipley and Herman G. Voight of Philadelphia's Franklin Chess Club tied for top honors. In 1895, S.W. Bampton, also of the Franklin Chess Club, was the winner.
Among the New York State Champions who played in Skaneateles were Lipschutz, Eugene Delmar, N.D. Luce, William de Visser and Albert D. Hodges. From that group, two also became U.S. Champions: Lipschutz and Hodges.
Of them all, Hodges is perhaps the most fascinating, a chess player with a double life. In his public career, he won the U.S. Championship in 1894. From 1896 to 1911, he played for the USA against England in 13 trans-Atlantic cable matches, without a single loss. He was the only American master to play against five world champions: Johannes Zukertort, Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Jose Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine. One of the most famous chess opponents of the nineteenth century, however, was not a man, but a machine. Ajeeb, a clockwork chess automaton that routinely outplayed human challengers, was a star attraction at the Eden Musee in New York City. Ajeeb consisted of a robed figure seated atop a cabinet, addressing a chess board. Before each game, the operator opened the doors of the cabinet to show that no one was inside. Then he wound up Ajeeb, and play began.
Inside, however, having moved from one side to the other to avoid being seen during the opening of the doors, was a real chess player, a cramped but well-paid player who worked by the light of a single candle, noting the opponent's moves and guiding Ajeeb's hand in the appropriate response.
Years later, it became known that one of the first men in New York to play inside Ajeeb was a very young Albert Hodges. I have to believe he was more comfortable on the porch of the Sherwood Inn, enjoying the breeze off the lake.

Pat Blackler, Village Historian

The Society would like to create an exhibit to honor Dr. Albert Smith, the wonderful friend and doctor to our Town. We have access to a few items from his office, documentations of his life and successes, but there is more.
Many people who knew him personally and/or were his patients have some wonderful stories about their experiences. For those who read this and have such stories to share, would you take a few minutes to write them down or even to call us? We would like to add them to our exhibit.
Call Pat Blackler at 685-7340 or send the stories to the Historical Society at 28 Hannum Street.

Sally Holben, Editor Vol. 23, No. 3 May/June 2008



Underwater Skaneateles will be the topic for the Society's May program, presented by local diver and boating enthusiast, John Wickwire. A Skaneateles Lake resident all his life, at the age of 49 John decided to become a certified scuba diver so he could explore the lake underwater.
To get his certification as a diver in 1994, John took a physical education course at SUNY Cortland in a class full of young college students. He dives in Skaneateles Lake every week now, with a group of fellow recreational divers. Rock formations, old anchors, bottles, boats, even a jet plane, are some of their fascinating finds. Please join us on May 27 at 7:30 at the Creamery to hear more from John Wickwire about his experiences and some of the underwater secrets of this beautiful lake.


Please come to the Creamery on June 24 for the annual meeting. Its election day for the Society, as well as a good time to reminisce, check out what's new in the museum, and get an update on the museum expansion progress. The slate (to date): Running unopposed are Vice-President Kathy Kane; Corresponding Secretary Sally Holben; Recording Secretary Mona Smalley; Treasurer Joan Thomsen; running for the 2 openings on the Board are David Bates, David Miller, Judy Morrissey, and Sue Spalding. Nominations from the floor may be made at either the May or June meeting. The meeting begins at 7:30 and everyone is welcome, although only members may vote.


From now through the summer, the Creamery will be open to the public on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons from 1 to 4. On Fridays, a special assistant will be there to help with research. Appointments on other days may be made by calling the Creamery at 685-1360.


Next time you're at the Creamery, please check out the new signs for the boat exhibits, thanks to help from Chase Design. They make the information much easier to read (you don't have to practically fall into the boats to read it) and the signs are handsome in themselves. This signage is only the first step in our revamping of all the display signs in the Museum. Many thanks to Chase for their expertise and help!


Ted Prindle, our master archivist, asks for donations of any pre-1965 Skaneateles Presses, especially for the 140s and '50s. Our collection has certain gaps, which make research difficult and frustrating.


Henry (Hank) Bryant would be 105 years old on May 19. To celebrate his life and to give his friends a chance to reminisce and tell "Hank stories," his daughter, Judy Bryant, is giving a birthday party for him on that day, Monday, May 19, at the Sherwood at 7pm. Everyone is welcome to come to the west porch for light refreshments, a birthday cake, and a cash bar. Come to enjoy Hank once again, back at his old stamping grounds.


The Society's own computer maven, Board member Ken Wooster, has created our new website at skaneateleshistoricalsociety.org. This site was launched on March 24, 2008, after many years of being hosted by the Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce.
Highlights of the site include: Lists of births, marriages, and deaths; Census indexes, including Federal and State; Historical Society newsletters; Membership information; Museum expansion plans; Donation opportunities; Announcements of Creamery programs and hours; Volunteer opportunities.
Future plans for the website include a Gift Shop page.
Enormous thanks go to Ken for his hard work that will make getting information from and about the Society so much easier. Visit our website from home or at the Creamery itself, and enjoy Skaneateles's rich historical history.


On Monday, May 19, restoration work will begin on the boiler building, as the first step in the museum expansion project. Since this is the last newsletter until September, check the local papers during the summer to get further information on the expansion progress. Better yet, stroll down Hannum Street, on your way to the Creamery perhaps, and get an upclose look at what's going on.


With the Village and the Fire Department celebrating their birthdays, perhaps it's time for you to celebrate the birthday of your house with a plaque showing the date it was built. They are available at the Gift Shop, for $35.00 plus tax; we can help you research your house, if you don't know the date.


While you're researching your house for its age, so you can get it a plaque, you may come across the terms "chains" and "links." Suppose your deed says 5 chains and 33 links; you dont need to take the long way, which is 5 x 66 = 330 ft 33 x 7.92 = 261.36 -- 12 (inches) = 21.78 ft. 330 ft + 21.78 ft = 351.78 ft (approx. 352 ft). There is a much easier way: 5.33 x 66 = 351.78 ft. Now, isn't that easier and less confusing? (from "How to Think Like an Abstractor," Cindy Amrhein)


During the annual spring rural school Field Day, the morning was devoted to group games. In the afternoon was a marionette show, band concert, a "novelty" broadcast, and a talk about 4-H Club activities. Exhibits in the high school gym included bird houses, the evolution of the alphabet from the Egyptian to the English, plans of a Greek house, and a model of a feudal castle with moat and drawbridge. There was also a ball game between the Skaneateles and Weedsport high schools (Skaneateles won). In the evening was a speaking contest, as well as instrumental selections by the high school band (including a trumpet solo by Doris Laxton).

RURAL SCHOOLS Beth Batlle, Town Historian

At one time there were over 15 rural schools dotted across the Town of Skaneateles; some still exist, now disguised as family homes, while others are just ghosts of the past. The first rural school was on Willow Glen, a log cabin built on the west side of the creek by Robert Earll in 1798. Edith Whitman taught here, the first teacher recorded in our Skaneateles history. The New York State Legislature passed an act in 1812 that established the New York School System. It required that schools be within walking distance of 5-year-old children. Under good conditions, 20 to 30 minutes was considered a reasonable walking time.
These early schools were not insulated. Though they were heated by a single wood or coal stove, students often wore their coats, mittens, and overshoes during winter classes. There were no snow days: school never closed and the teacher was always there. Outhouses, some attached, others located out in the back school yard, provided for personal necessities. Hands were often washed in a common basin and dried on a common towel. A single drinking cup with water drawn from a neighboring well satisfied the students' thirst.
Teachers taught grades 1 through 6, or in some cases 8. They also were required to keep the fire going in the stove, sweep the floor, shovel the front entrance; some even washed the windows. All this for perhaps $10 a month.
Some of these schools had unusual names: Poverty Corners, because the students came from such poor families; Peach Blow, apparently because of nearby peach trees; and Octagon, because the 8-sided building best suited the triangular piece of land on which it was built. But the most unusual school name was Hen Coop. Some say Hen Coop was so-named because the building was so poorly built it resembled a hen coop. Others say that one Halloween the boys removed the front steps and placed them on the roof. The teacher, when she arrived the next morning, was amused and wrote the following ditty:

This school was once the Lakeside Institute
But here the boys have stolen the stoop.
And the school now looks so nice and cute
We really should call it the Hencoop.
The "stoop" was recovered and replaced, but the name stuck. At the conclusion of their education in the rural school, the students had to find some way to get to the village high school in order to continue their education. Finally, the improvement of roads and the advent of school buses led to the Central School District Law, in 1925.
However, it wasn't until May 26, 1950, that the decision to centralize was put before Skaneateles residents. Of the 904 people who voted, 826 were for centralization, 77 against. A new school board was electred and Fred Fundis became what is now the Superintendent of Schools. The transition from a small classroom to a larger school wasn't always easy for students; however, they now had a wider range of educational choices and especially equipped classrooms -- science, music, arts for example. The rural school was no longer needed, but it has not been forgotten by its former students.
If you wish to learn more about rural schools in Skaneateles, please visit our new exhibit at the Creamery. Or, if you have some personal memories or photos of a rural school that you wish to share, please bring them in to us.


Their required course in calculus completed, Syracuse University sophomores head to nearby Skaneateles Lake for the annual Calculus Burial. A calculus textbok is placed on a raft, set afire, and pushed onto the water. The tradition ends in 1889 when accompanying fireworks prematurely explode. (Thanks to Kihm Winship for this tidbit). Do you suppose John Wickwire has come across any of these books?


While debating where to build the new high school, the Village seriously considered several properties before the school was built, in 1910, where the State Street School is now. Among the sites considered was the Roosevelt property on East Genesee (where Stella Maris is now), the Thorne property on State Street (where the State Street apartments now are, and the J.S. Holben property on Jordan Street (where the Lombardis now live). The going prices at the time ranged from $5000 to $15000.

Sally Holben, Editor Vol. 23, No. 2 March/April 2008



Looking back on two centuries of public health history in Skaneateles will be the topic for the Historical Society's March program, presented by local pediatrician and public health specialist, Dr. Philip Gioia. A special focus of the program will be Dr. Stephen Smith, a famous physician who was born on a farm in Spafford in 1823, and became a pioneer in sanitary reforms in New York City. In 1872, Dr. Smith was the founder and first president of the American Public Health Association. Dr. Gioia is a 1975 graduate of Upstate Medical School in Syracuse who summered for many years at his family's Skaneateles camp. In 1981 he started his practice in Auburn and last fall opened a Skaneateles office on Fennell Street. Please join us on Tuesday, March 25, at 7:30 at the Creamery, to hear more from Dr. Gioia about the beginnings of public health practice, both locally and nationally, and about native son Dr. Stephen Smith, who played such a critical role.


Judy Bryant has been researching her family and its history for many years. On Tuesday, April 22, Judy will present a program on her family in the context of the search experience. Judy's grandfather, Demsey Bryant, born in New Bern, North Carolina, in 1848, was the son of freed slaves and served in the Civil War. Only 17 when it ended, he headed north and settled in central New York and eventually Skaneateles where he owned five houses on West Elizabeth Street, in one of which Judy grew up. Judy's father, Henry "Hank" Bryant, was a noted local musician and active in Skaneateles community affairs, especially the Lions, and government; her mother, Gladys, was Harriet Tubman's great-grandniece. Judy has acquired the unofficial title of family historian as she has sifted through family memorabilia, visited the town of her grandfather's birth in North Carolina, and done research online and at the Historical Society. She will spotlight the resources and invaluable research assistance available at the Creamery.
The meeting will begin at 7:30 at the Creamery. All are invited.


Because of bad weather, we had to cancel the February program on post and beam barns. We are hoping to reschedule the program, perhaps in the fall. Keep your eyes peeled on this newsletter and the local papers to learn when it may occur.


Several times this past winter we have been surprised, delighted, and relieved to discover that the Creamery porch had been shoveled. (The Village plows the parking lot.) A little detective work determined that Charlie Major and Bill Miller were two of the Good Samaritans, and we thank them for their thoughtfulness and muscle. If anyone else was part of this good work, our thanks to you, too.


The Creamery is pleased to announce that we now have Verizon's FIOS service to provide us with speedy internet access. This will be a big help to people doing genealogical research who want to access pertinent genealogy databases, and will allow us to access other helpful Web sites related to historical information.


The following article is from the Syracuse Post-Standard, June 24, 1999, in the "Today in History" section under the caption "75 Years Ago."

1924 – The Skaneateles Village Board denied a move by 83 property owners on Railroad Street to change the name of that street to Fennell Avenue in honor of Martin Fennell, retired boat captain and engineer. The board agreed to change the name to Fennell Street, but not to avenue on the grounds Railroad Street was not an avenue. The board contended that an avenue was a thoroughfare lined with beautiful trees, shrubbery and flowers. Since Skaneateles Railroad runs through Railroad Street, and there were no beautiful trees, shrubbery and flowers, the board refused to name it an avenue.

Thanks to Ken Wooster for spotting and passing on this tidbit.

Pat Blackler, Village Historian

On April 19, Skaneateles can say that the Village was incorporated 175 years ago, in 1833. At the centennial celebration of the same date, in 1933, there were grand festivities in the Village. I quote from an editorial in the then Syracuse Herald: "It is a wholesome, patriotic sentiment that inspires American villages to recognize their centennial anniversaries with up-to-date celebrations marked by reminiscent fervor. As in the case of Skaneateles Village, demonstrations of this class arouse a neighborhood enthusiasm which the average large city cannot match in point of local ardor." The 100th celebration was a success from every angle; the weather was perfect, and there were thousands of visitors to the Village who were very impressed with the week-long pageant. A temporary museum was set up by the residents in a home on Genesee Street.

A civic holiday was declared by the then mayor, Charles DeWitt; all business was suspended to witness a parade that included a covered wagon driven by a descendant of the Cuddeback family (our first settler). Dr. Alexander Flick, the State Historian, and Judge Frank Hiscock spoke that day. During the week, the Central New York Firemen's Association opened a two-day convention; 210 delegates attended and more then 2000 firemen of the 14 CNY and Southern Tier counties took part in an all-day program. The Skaneateles Firemen also were celebrating their centennial.

In 1983 the Village was to celebrate again, this time for the 150th, the sesquicentennial. Under the wonderful leadership of Dave Chase, Don Stinson, and their committee, events dotted the whole year and a souvenir booklet was published that is used today by anyone who wants to have a quick and easy knowledge of our history. The booklet has been reprinted by the Historical Society and is on sale at the Creamery. Every Village resident should have one in their bookcase. Let me quote from Mr. Chase's foreword to the publication: "This booklet can only touch on the people, events and accomplishments that have made Skaneateles what it is today. I do hope, however, it will stimulate many of you to look further into our rich history and to become more aware of the personalities and the vital additions over the years that have enhanced the quality of living in our lovely community."

So here we are today, the 175th, yes, the quartoseptcentennial. May the word feel right and be easily said by April 19 when both the Volunteer Firemen and the Village will celebrate the day and the year. Happy Anniversary!


Ninety years ago, on November 21, 1918, the Skaneateles Creamery Company transferred its plant and its Benson Street skimming station to the Best Ice Cream Company of Syracuse. The Creamery Company then dissolved and went out of business. The capital stock of the business was $4,000, and it was thought the stockholders would receive about $100 for each $50 share of stock held by them.

Bent Thomsen, Steering Committee

With spring and warmer weather right around the corner, the activities in connection with our planned museum expansion are heating up as well. An asbestos inspection has been completed within the old boiler plant that will be renovated to house transportation and boat exhibits. Regulatory approvals for our project have been secured. David Secor of Secor Building Solutions has been chosen as construction manager. Architect Bob Eggleston is steadily progressing with the renovation plans as well as the plans for the connecting wing and the "ice-house" addition. An asbestos removal contract will be awarded in a few weeks. Renovation of the old boiler plant will proceed immediately following asbestos removal.

Our Board of Directors and the Campaign and Steering Committees have been very active sending out letters to prospective donors. We are pleased to report that to date more than 66% of our goal of $530,000 has been reached. We have also submitted applications for grants to federal and state sources as well as to local foundations. At this time we are very optimistic that the generous support we are receiving at all levels will enable us to move directly from the boiler renovation to construction of the two additions.

Doubling the museum footprint will allow for expanded and improved exhibits. Chase Design, Inc. has generously volunteered to help us with the planning of this. The "ice-house" addition will allow us to expand research and archival spaces. A subcommittee of museum volunteers is working on how to optimize the layout of these "back rooms." The current gift shop will be renovated to house our museum director and administrative activities, allowing us to move office equipment out of the public meeting room. The gift shop will be moved to a prominent location in the new connecting wing near the new main entrance to the museum.

As we progress we will provide further updates, but make sure to take the opportunity to stop by and see for yourselves what is happening.


"Firemen of the [18]50s," by William S. White in Skaneateles Democrat, April 21, 1910: To remind firemen of their monthly meetings, "a tin horn of fair dimensions . . . inserted in the nozzle of the long discharge pipe and filled by a few strokes of the breaks [handles] would emit a scream that would cause a lighthouse fog siren to turn green with envy."

"The village fire inspectors have examined the Skaneateles High School [the old Academy] building and will officially report to the village trustees at their next regular meeting. It is rumored that fire escapes are to be recommended from the second floor on the west of the building, and that the oiling of floors will be condemned. At a fire drill yesterday morning the High School building discharged all the scholars to the grounds outside in less than a minute." Skaneateles Press, March 13, 1906.

Ed. note: The high school moved up State Street in 1910 and was there until the fire in 1952 that some people believe spread so quickly because of the oiled floors.

"Fire Alarms Keep Firemen From Senility The Skaneateles Fire Department has had a very busy week this week" . . . In the course of four days, the firemen were called out to seven fires, six of them grass fires and one of them a car fire. "Police have issued a warning to people to be very cautious in the conduct of their bonfires. Skaneateles Press, April 18, 1958

Sally Holben, Editor Vol. 23, No. 1 January/February 2008



Architect Bob Eggleston and Steering Committee member Bent Thomsen will present an informational program on our museum expansion project. They will explain the plans for the renovation of the recently purchased former boiler plant at 24 Hannum Street into a boat/transportation museum. They will also present plans for a building that will connect the new museum and the Creamery and an addition at the northeast corner of the Creamery, in an area that was once an icehouse. What will these new spaces be used for? Please join us to find out, on January 22, at 7:30. PowerPoint handouts will be available.


Rich Haven of Fayette (Seneca County) will speak on "Early Post and Beam Barns and How They Were Constructed" at the February meeting. With hand-hewn timbers and old tools on display, we will see how the barns of the 1800s were shaped and raised. Join us for the program at 7:30 at the Creamery.


Two of the Society's most dedicated and indefatigable researchers, Jim Dougherty and Ted Prindle, have completed the index for the 1865 Skaneateles census. The index is now on the shelf in the meeting room. Since finding out about their families is the number one quest of people coming to the Creamery, such an index is an invaluable tool for research. Thank you, Jim and Ted, for the countless Saturday hours you put in to this project!


Hart Larrabee, grandson of Marshal and Elizabeth Larrabee, is setting up a web page about his grandfather and Skaneateles Handicrafters. If you worked there between 1930 and 1965 and have memories you'd be willing to share, please get in touch with Hart at hart@valley.ne.jp

THE FIRE BELL Beth Batlle, Town Historian

Sitting on a brick pedestal in front of the fire station on Fennell Street is one of the earliest forms of alerting the fire fighters of the community. The large bell was originally housed in the 12-foot-square, 59-foot-high tower of the red brick and stone fire station that was located at the corner of Jordan and Fennell Streets.

All through the 1800s the large bell tolled for alarms. Anyone knowing of a fire would run to the fire station and ring the bell. Eventually more modern forms of alerting the fire fighters of an emergency were used, such as electrically operated roof top sirens and fire alarm boxes located on utility poles throughout the Village. The last time the bell was rung from the old fire station was October 4, 1964, when the fire department moved down the street to its present location. The brick pedestal for the old bell was constructed in 1975, made of the same yellow brick as the fire station. Inside the base was placed a copper history box: a time capsule of sorts, it contained 1890 items from the cornerstone box of the old fire station, such as a copy of the Skaneateles Democrat and Skaneateles Free Press. Items from 1975 were added, including a copy of the Skaneateles Press and Pennysaver.

Just recently the bell was removed from its base and put into storage until the time comes when it can be installed at the new fire house at the corner of West Genesee Street and Kane Avenue. The time capsule is currently being stored in a safe and will be opened at the 175th anniversary dinner scheduled for April of 2008.

Editor's note: If you haven't had a chance to see Lisa Leubner's gingerbread model of the red brick fire house, please make a point of visiting the Creamery to check it out.


Gleanings from 1958 Skaneateles Presses:

THE SURFWOOD ROOM AND BAR UPSTAIRS IN THE TOWN HOUSE REOPENS TONIGHT Our recent fire did not in any way damage our upstairs Surfwood Room. A visit will please you.

THE TOWN HOUSE Jordan Street

RIEDL'S RESTAURANT "Where the chatter is on the platter." 44 East Genesee Street

SKANEATELES GRANGE SUPPER: Tomato juice, chicken and biscuit, mashed potatoes, squash, peas, home-made rolls, brown bread, cabbage salad, pickles and jelly, pie, tea, coffee, milk--$1.50


Early sidewalks in Skaneateles were made of wooden planks. In the winter snow would accumulate, sometimes up to a depth of four feet, making it difficult to walk to the post office or other essential places.

In 1867, Freeborn Jewett opened a flagstone quarry near Stag Horn Point as there was a demand for flagstone to improve the sidewalks in the Village. In 1868, a flagstone walk was laid from Legg Hall to the bridge. Scows were built to carry the flagstone down the lake to the Village. Unfortunately, one of Jewett's scows, "Dunderburg, loaded with flagstone, sank near the coffer dam.

Also in 1867, the Village passed a bill giving the Trustees the duty of seeing that winter snow-and ice were removed from the Village sidewalks, keeping at least one sidewalk on each Village street free from snow. The pathmaster (as the superintendent of highways was then called) used horse-drawn scrapers and plows to cut a path 4-feet-wide early in the morning after a snow storm.

Two hundred dollars from the highway tax funds was to be set aside to pay for the service. E.N. Leslie, in his History of Skaneateles said, "There is no other expenditure of money received from taxation that all the residents get more value from and more comfort from than the cost of scraping the snow from the sidewalks-here in the village." He called this a "Skaneateles invention." This convenience remains in effect today, although of course more modern equipment is now used.

In 1904 and 1905, Village crews began to pour concrete sidewalks throughout the Village. However, at least one flagstone sidewalk remains today and can be found on the south side of the Creamery building on Hannum Street.

"THOSE WERE SOME GUYS" Pat Blackler, Village Historian

Jerry and Tom Shallish came to Skaneateles from Somersetshire, England, in the 1840s, before they were ten years old, two brothers coming across the ocean with their family. The voyage took eight weeks and four days. When Jerry died at 95 in 1926, he was one of the oldest and most highly respected citizens of the Village.

When he was 19 years old, Jerry started a plumbing and tinning business and carried on his craft for 71 years. From 1888, his shop had its location in Legg Hall. In his 90s he still ran ads in the newspapers to publish his plumbing business. Jerry was regular and temperate in his habits, working winter and summer in all weathers. He was never intoxicated in his whole life. He was proud of his Masonic record, holding the office of High Priest for 18 years. He was also a Knights Templar and a Shriner.

In the late 1800s, he bought a lot on Leitch Avenue (#10 today), made the plans and built the house. In early 1908, when most men of his age would feel they should take life easy, he wired his home for electricity and installed all the fixtures. "I never turned down a job because I thought I couldn't do it. I took anything that came my way and did it. Copper and tin work, silver plating for carriages, opening safes: I have done them all." (Skaneateles Press, July 13, 1923) He also assisted in putting up the pipe organs in each of the Skaneateles churches. He claimed in a 1923 interview for the Post Standard that people were softer then than they were in the old days. What would he think of us today in 2008?

And what about Jerry's younger brother Tom? The "Laura," for many years the champion sailboat on Skaneateles Lake, was captained by Tom Shallish, carriage maker and sailor. Henry Latrobe Roosevelt owned the "Laura," which had been designed in 1856 by George Steers, who had also designed the "America," the first winner of the America Cup races, in 1851. The "Laura"was built in Skaneateles.

Captain Shallish had a 12-man crew; the "Laura" was a sandbagger in those days. To celebrate her victory in the Inter-Lake races of 1874, Mr. Roosevelt had a picnic on his lawn (116 East Genesee Street) in honor of the winning sailors. The prize was a silver set composed of a teapot, coffee pot, water pitcher, sugar bowl, cream pitcher, and spoon holder. The crew were given gifts of money, but the silver service was given to Tom Shallish. The set is inscribed: "First Sailing Race won by the Laura at the Regatta on Skaneateles Lake, August 20, 1874." The "Laura" was sailed for 75 years on Skaneateles Lake. The silver service is now owned by the Historical Society and can be seen at the Creamery.

Tom died at 71 in 1905; his wife Nancy died five months before her 100th birthday in 1939. Tom and Nancy were the great grandparents of Peggy Palmer Major, who lives on Austin Street. You have some great genes there, Peggy.

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Address: 28 Hannum Street, Skaneateles, NY 13152-1009
Phone: 315-685-1360