3. Free Hollow to Forest Home
In the years from 1812 to 1830 most of the present old houses were being built … By 1827 the village boasted four dwellings, two barns, a copper shop, a school house, two grist mills, a dye house, and a brand new saw mill. There was plenty of work for each — but the saw mill must have been running day and night. Great pines went down before the axe, were trimmed and sawed into boards and timbers practically on the spot. The old houses show in their inner structure that there was not time or need to completely finish the timbers. Many of them still have the bark on, and are framed together with pins. Roughhewn boards sheathe the sides, with clapboards on the outside and lath on the inside.
Crude they were, perhaps in structural members — but beautifuly right in proportion and in the moldings and delicate window frames and mullions. Old Isac [sic] Cradit was on hand to see to that. He arrived from New Jersey about 1830 with a group of wood workers and carpenters, and it was he who was responsible for the Greek Revival architecture in the village. This distinctive style which began in western New England just across the Hudson, swept in a wave across New York State and into Ohio and Illinois. The early carpenters, not trusting their own ideas and free to admit their ignorance of the principles of architectural design, carried with them in their saddle-bags a copy of “The Carpenter’s and Builder’s Guide.” This little manual showed them how to adapt the proportions of the Greek temple to the frame dwellings, churches and public buildings of that period — how to fashion pillars and frieze, and how to cut moldings and design panelled doors so that the simplest house might have the dignity and distinction which characterize them. (12, pp. 4 and 5)
The English settlers brought with them to the new world the carpenters’ and builders’ guides, for example The Carpenters’ New Guide — “Being a complete book of lines for carpentry and joining” by Peter Nicholson. (32) The fourth edition of this book was published in London in 1805. Like the other books of this type, it deals with the subjects Mr. Force mentions in the quote above, and also extensively with practical geometry and with: “Some observations and calculations on the strength of timber.” The book Albert Force referred to may very well have been Lucius D. Gould’s Carpenters’ and Builders’ Assistant and Woodworkers’ Guide (21) or R. G. Hatfield’s The American House-Carpenter (23) — “A treatise upon architecture, cornices, moulding, framing, doors, windows and stairs and practical geometry.” The Gould book is a small, simple, if somewhat confusing, instruction booklet. Some of the plates and tables are taken directly from Nicholson (32) and Tredgold (38), another British publication. Hatfield’s book is longer and contains chapters dealing with Greek and Roman architecture and the Greek orders. These titles by no means exhaust the lists of carpenters’ guides. There were many others. Asher Benjamin alone compiled almost a dozen of these early “how-to” books; one of them, The American Builder’s Companion, has been reprinted by Dover Publications (3). This is a reprint of the 6th edition, which was published in 1827.
Professional architects designed public buildings and mansions in the grand Greek Revival style. The wooden houses built with the aid of a carpenters’ guide were simple but dignified small homes, built in the proportions of a Greek temple. These buildings were often called “carpenters’ classics”. The carpenters created the mouldings and cornices, and hewed the large timbers for the framing of the houses. Later, in the middle of the nineteenth century, mouldings, window frames and the like were often prefabricated in a turning mill. The houses were usually one and a half stories high8 not a proper classical proportion, according to some students of Greek architecture. The small “lie on your stomach” or frieze windows were used in the upper half story. The exteriors were usually painted, as well as the interiors, the latter often in blue. Over the years the many coats of paint have reduced the detail and the sharpness of design of the mouldings and carvings. (18, 22, 28, 35, 36)
8 Some of the story-and-a-half houses in Forest Home have had their roofs raised, some more than once.
Sixty years ago this village was a perfect and almost unspoiled museum piece of the Greek Revival Period. Even the barns and out·houses were well designed, with fine panelled doors, moldings and cornice returns. First Mr. Cradit built himself a house where Peter Kline used to live — now occupied by Dr. Norman Moore. … Then a house was built for each of his workmen, which accounts for the harmony of the little cluster of houses and their fitness to their surroundings.
A hundred years ago there were only a handful of neat white houses with green blinds in Free Hollow — just twenty seven of them. Cows grazed in the little meadows and behind every house was a tidy garden, fruit trees and a chicken house. There were spreading, shady trees and long stretches of white picket fencing over which spilled damask and moss roses, and those charming old-fashioned cloth-of-gold roses. Prim posy beds, bordered with shells were on either side of the door steps. Big willow trees dipped their slender branches in the stream, and here and there in the woods were giant pine and hemlock and oak trees, remnants of the virgin forest.
Free Hollow was a wonderful place to grow up in — it still is. In the spring the woods were full of hepaticas and violets; in the summer the swimming hole in the gorge behind the Red Mill … was great fun. The boys fished and hunted, and the girls picked berries, the best patch my grandmother always said was on the site of the University Library. In the fall there were chestnuts and hickory nuts and butternuts to gather, there were election parades with top hats and flares, and in the winter there were sleigh rides and church sociables and square dances. There were barn raisings and hornings for newly-weds, singing-school and spelling-bees. Ladies dressed up of an afternoon with a clean white apron, took their work-bags and went calling and stayed for tea. They sat up with the sick, and the dead, did hair jewelry, made charcoal drawings, and on rare occasions saw a play or heard a lecture at Library hall. Or there were quiet evenings at home when neighbors dropped in and grandmother would make popcorn and egg-nog.
Life remained slow-paced and peaceful in Free Hollow throughout its first one hundred years. (12, pp. 5, 12, 11, 13)
Those who lived in the Hollow during its first century were mill workers and owners, tenders of the local business establishments, farmers, and some were employees of the new university on the hill. The women too, besides caring for their families, their gardens and live stock, and their neighbors in need, often worked either in the family business or away from home. Many were workers in the knitting, fulling, and paper mills, others ran boarding houses for the mill workers and later for students; some were seamstresses or took in laundry, and others were school and music teachers. Just before World War I, young faculty members, mostly from the new College of Agriculture (now named the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences) at Cornell, moved into the community. Many came without advanced degrees or extensive formal education, but with the know-how and skill to develop an agricultural program fitted to the needs of the state and the nation. Some of these men, in their time, became renowned professors. A few of the young men had boarded in Forest Home during their student years. They returned with their new brides and often, at first, set up housekeeping in rented quarters in the village. They bought lots, most of them between the Judd Falls Road-Forest Home Drive intersection and the Agriculture Campus land and built homes. These houses were larger and more imposing than the mill workers’ little Greek Revival houses.
The new residents brought other changes to Forest Home. Few of the faculty wives worked outside of the home. There was some tension between the old and new residents. The Judd Falls Road area was called “the 400 block” by some of the old inhabitants. For many years two womens’ organizations have existed side by side: the Sewing Circle for the wives of the older residents, and the Embroidery Club for the faculty wives. Both organizations still exist, but the membership now cuts across town and gown lines. These antagonisms have never been as strong in Forest Home as they are in the Ithaca community. Both university and non-university people report that they became angry when a crowd of down-town war veterans tried to disrupt a concert by the violinist Fritz Kreisler in Bailey Hall on the Cornell campus, shortly after the first war. Kreisler continued to play and a serious riot was prevented by the calming actions of a few persons in the audience.
Cornell professors from Forest Home have left a distinct mark on the university. Many programs were, and still are being, developed by former and present Forest Home residents. Four Cornell campus buildings bear the names of persons who have lived or worked in the community : Warren Hall, Rice Hall, Riley-Robb Hall, and Martha Van Rensselaer Hall. Almost every present Forest Home family has some Cornell connection; they are graduates or students, faculty members, employees, technicians, or supervisors.
Some major changes took place in Forest Home before World War II. The chapel was built in 1915 and the new school soon after that. Bools Furniture Mill, the last of the mills, closed. And in 1935 the water system was established. The roads were surfaced and metal bridges were built. One by one the chicken houses and pig pens were removed, and soon every household had an automobile. After the second war, many new young families moved into the community. Many paid for their new homes, as well as college educations, with G.I. loans. They moved to Forest Home because it was a good place to bring up children. The houses and gardens were roomy enough for the large families, the woods and creeks were good places to play and swim and skate, and the little Forest Home School had a fine reputation. Forest Home was a suburb with some very old-fashioned virtues. Residents worried more about their vegetable crops than about crab grass. In time of need, neighbors still brought in food9 and offered baby sitting and other help. There were still many community-wide activities such as the annual Sunday School picnic on McCurdy’s lawn on Father’s Day, the church suppers, the Youth Fellowship service projects10 and hay rides, the Halloween parades, the annual school meetings, and the many fine school programs.
9 The author gratefully remembers her kind neighbors, who brought her family a “dish a day” for six weeks after she was injured in an automobile accident. There were always extra treats for the children, and on one child’s birthday, a birthday cake.
10 Helen Washburn received the Freedom House Award for her work with the young people to collect money to send heifers to Germany after the war. She led a very active, service-oriented teen·age Sunday School class.
The spirit of Forest Home in the 1950’s can best be summed up by this statement from a letter Helen Washburn wrote to her neighbors in June 1957:
How can a person keep from getting well when the whole neighborhood is helping the healing along? … I think it is the spirit of Forest Home. It is made up of large portions of neighborliness, but neighborliness of a special variety, not indiscriminate and casual, but planned and plotted to reach the greatest need with the utmost speed.
Life in the village is different in the 1970’s. Houses change owners more frequently. Many families move on before they can become part of the community. And old people are moving out of their homes into housing for the elderly.
Women, including mothers of young children, are working and studying and there is little daytime or even evening “neighboring”. The creek is no longer safe for swimming, the school has been closed, and there is little land left for playing. The community is divided by the steady stream of traffic that passes over its roads between the new developments to the northeast and Cornell. But the community spirit remains and there are some signs that the old neighborliness is coming back.
The entry to Forest Home from Ithaca is either from Triphammer Bridge and Forest Home Drive, which skirts Beebe Lake, or from the upper campus along Judd Falls Road, which was named after the Judd Woolen Mill on Cascadilla Creek. Although the oldest house and two former school houses are located in the southwest section of Forest Home, most of this area did not become settled until the turn of the century. A large part of this land belonged to Aaron McIntyre and later to his descendents, including the inventor and mill owner Arnold McIntyre. Sections of the plot were inherited by the Van Natta family, who were related to the McIntyres by marriage. In 1866 (46) three buildings stood in the southwest section of Free Hollow: the Van Natta homestead, considered the oldest standing house in the village, now 112 Judd Falls Road; the old School House Number Two, and the Cradit house on the bluff at the Forest Home Drive and Judd Falls Road intersection. The rest of the land to the southern border of the village was farmland until the end of the nineteenth century when a few other houses were built in this area.
At the foot of McIntyre Place stand two clapboard houses built during the first decade of the century. Both houses have been owned by well known members of the Cornell faculty. The house facing the lake (1X)11 was owned during most of its existence by Professor Byron B. Robb and his wife Georgia. Professor Robb taught agricultural engineering and is one of the professors after whom Riley-Robb Hall, the agricultural engineering building of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is named. The other house (2X) was owned from 1921 to 27 by astronomy professor Samuel Boothroyd and his wife Alice, and from 1927 to 1972 by Charles and Nora Chupp. Professor Chupp taught plant pathology.
11 This and all the following “X” references refer to notes in the Appendix.
The remaining houses on McIntyre Place, with one interesting exception, were built by the builder William McElwee, Sr., who with his wife Ethel resided in a house of his own construction (3X) just east of the Chupp house. Mr. McElwee built many of the homes in Forest Home, as well as the Forest Home Building and the school. William McElwee, Sr.’s son Andrew and grandson William still reside in the village and have continued the family construction business together with another son, Raymond. Many of the “McElwee houses” in Forest Home were built by the end of World War I. Most were large stucco houses with fine hardwood interior woodwork and floors. Some of the houses had big porches, and some had the very popular sleeping porches, which were used extensively before the advent of air conditioning. The other houses of this type on McIntyre Place are the Barrus house ( 4X) and the two big houses at the crest of the hill. Mrs. Maria Barrus keeps up the beautiful large garden, which for many years provided flowers for the annual Forest Home Improvement Association Flower Show. The house at 115 McIntyre Place (SX) was purchased in 1910 by Professor Harold Ross, of the Department of Dairy Industry, and his wife Jessie. Like many of their neighbors the Rosses rented rooms to students from the College of Agriculture or the Veterinary College. Grandma and Grandpa Ross were generous people. Many children now grown remember the good Halloween treats and the never forgotten birthday ice cream. The brick and shingle house across the street was built for Professor Ayres of the Department of Dairy Industry in 1907. (6X)
In 1912 the first meeting of the Embroidery Club was held in this house with Mrs. Ayres as the hostess. Previously Mrs. Della Barrus had invited the new Cornell couples to tea. The ladies found they had much in common, and, since they were excluded from the Sewing Circle because of their Cornell connections, they decided to meet again and form an organization of their own. Until 1950 the membership of the club was limited to wives and relatives of Cornell employees, female Cornell employees, the wife of the minister, and wives of members of the armed forces. In 1950 the club was opened to all women residing in Forest Home.
Embroidery has been one of the club’s minor purposes. It is rarely mentioned in the minutes, unlike other handwork such as wartime Red Cross knitting and sewing, mending, hem raising and lowering … or, in 1933 “many quilt blocks in evidence.” The main activities have been “neighboring”, socializing, and eating … a great deal of whipped cream before cholesterol was heard of. During the past few years there has been an annual spring lunch for the members. In the more distant past, many luncheons (including a “point free” lunch in 1945), dinners (in 1918 a “conservation supper” with patriotic songs, or a dinner in 1925 at the Forest Home Inn for $1.25 each), picnics, and parties were held each year, often with husbands and the picnics with the families.
Travel talks have been a common program item. In the early history of the club, these talks were given by the husbands, although usually the wives had gone along on the trips. The first travel talk by a woman was given by Barbara Hall in 1948. Some other programs of interest were: hobby shows, musicals, concerts (two performed by pianist John Kirkpatrick), card and game parties, mock jury trials (with the husbands), Forest Home history, square dancing, Christmas toy collections, and a long remembered Finnish-Swedish Christmas meeting. The community and the larger world are also mentioned in the minutes. Gifts and flowers sent at times of illness, death and tragedy are recorded, as well as farewell parties and births. Mention is made of the fires in the rose garden house and the Kline Road barracks, the wartime activities, including a daylight alert during a World War II meeting, but there is no hint of the depression. In 1951 members were asked to cooperate with the Civilian Defense finger printing program. In the late sixties and early seventies, “social action” programs became more common … e.g., talks on social and school problems, discussion of Forest Home traffic and bridges, a program on the proposed electric plant (atomic reactor) on Cayuga Lake, a talk by a black militant, and a program dealing with legislation of interest to women. (16) (26)
In 1916, Benjamin and Abby Sanford, purchased the Ayres house and lived in it for thirty years. During their occupancy the Epworth League of the Forest Home Chapel held many parties and dances in this house. In 1953, when Professor Urie Bronfenbrenner, Departments of Human Development and Psychology, and his wife, Liese, owned the house, a small bungalow was built on the eastern half of the lot for Dr. Alexander Bronfenbrenner, Professor Bronfenbrenner’s father. This was a prefabricated house, the first of three National Homes to be built in Forest Home. (7X)
The last house on McIntyre Place was built by Mr. and Mrs. Fowler before World War I from a Sears, Roebuck design. Professor Asa King purchased the home in 1916. (8X) He was a professor of farm practice in the College of Agriculture and was instrumental in setting up the farm practice program.
To the south, in the valley below McIntyre place stands the last Forest Home school, which was constructed on Cornell land, by William McElwee, Sr., with the stipulation that the land and building would revert to Cornell when the school closed. Opened in September 1921, it replaced the old school, situated in the building that is now the garage for the house at 131 Judd Falls Road.
For a number of years before the new school was built, grammar-school students from Forest Home attended East Hill School in the City of Ithaca. The new school was a district school, run by trustees elected at the annual meeting in May of each year. Students in the secondary grades continued to go to Ithaca for their education. The school had two grades in each classroom. For some years after World War II, the school became very crowded because the children residing in the Cornell housing project for married students, located on the present Veterinary College site, and children from the Pleasant Grove apartments and Varna, attended the school. The district school was consolidated with the larger Ithaca School District in 1956, and closed in 1964. The school building became the office of the Cornell Plantations, and the Robinson York State Herb Garden was planted on the former playground. The closing of the school was a very real loss to the community. Not only did the children lose the educational qualities that a small, mixed grade, rural-type school could provide, but they also lost their playground, and the Forest Home community lost an important community center and rallying point. The children now attend more modern, better equipped schools. But gone are the days of sledding and shoo-fly games on the playground, gone are the holiday programs in which all the children young and old participated, gone are the poetry books and notebooks, the spelling bees, the many live animals that Mrs. Adams kept in her room, and gone, to be replaced by a bland ceremony, are the participatory graduation programs.12 (9X)
12 A memorable one was put on by Ruth Holley’s fifth and sixth grade classes. It was a “tour through the Brain” … well done and most educational.
The Ag Boarding House stood on Judd Falls Road across the street from the former school. The house was built before 1906 and was torn down by Cornell University in the 1950’s. Mr. and Mrs. Dunn came to the boarding house in 1913, and operated it for single male students and workers from the Cornell barns until1920. After that it was run by Mr. and Mrs. Newton. Later the Cornell Dramatic Club used the building for storage.
The next two houses (10X) (11X) were built in the 1930’s, the first by the Wescotts for their son Karl, who was killed in World War II and never occupied the house. The soft maple on the front lawn was planted by George Wescott and Cedric Rockwood. Most other maples in Forest Home are Norway maples. The second plot had once been part of the Earl Northrup estate and was owned by E. S: Guthrie for a while. Next are three older houses built before 1890. The first was owned from 1906 until 1972 by members of the Tailby family. George Tailby was superintendent of the Cornell University Farms and his wife, known as “Mother Tailby” was a much loved baby sitter when the young faculty families first came to Forest Home. (12X) The “Post house” was built around 1890 by the grandparents of Laura and Louise Post, the last members of the family to own the house. (13X) Old Mr. Post did trucking and his wife, Jenny, was a piano teacher, whose favorite piece was “Listen to the Mockingbird”. The house at 111 Judd Falls Road appears in the 1890 picture of Judd Falls Road. (14X) It was constructed by William Wescott, who operated a trucking business with a team of horses. For many years he trucked sand from the sandbank which lay between his and McCurdy’s property. Sand from this sandbank was used to build Lincoln Hall on the Cornell campus.
Adda and Clarence McCurdy, now professor emeritus of agricultural engineering, still own the house they built north of the Wescott sandbank in 1916. (15X) They had purchased the land from “Mother Wescott”, and Mr. McCurdy and Challis Compton designed the house. During the first year in the house they had a telephone, but no electricity and had to operate the water pump by hand. The sandbank was the play area for the children of the neighborhood. For many years the annual Sunday School picnic was held on the McCurdy’s lawn on Father’s Day. It was always good weather, at least during the hours of the picnic. One year the picnic was held on another Sunday; in the middle of the picnic, while adults and children were sitting on the lawn eating, and much food was spread out on long tables, a sudden, very wet thunderstorm broke over the picnickers. Everyone snatched a dish or a crying child and ran for the nearest parked car or the McCurdy house.
The McCurdys came to Forest Home in 1909, shortly after their wedding. They remember taking the trolley from the station after a day long train ride from Grove City, Pennsylvania. At the Triphammer Bridge trolley stop they were met by Mr. Bogardus, a Forest Home resident, who led them with a lantern around the lake into the village. If a Forest Home resident planned to come back up the hill on the trolley after dark, he would leave a lantern hanging in a tree near the trolley stop. Adda McCurdy began teaching Sunday School, before the chapel was built in 1915, at the old School House Number 2. Professor Guthrie was the other teacher. He had organized the Sunday school for the two dozen or so children in the community because the downtown classes were so far away. When the school trustee locked the Sunday school out of the school, classes were held on the porch of the house the McCurdys were renting on The Byway. Mrs. McCurdy taught many generations of Forest Home children, and many still have the bible verse and picture scrapbook she made with them in their third grade year. The large brick house on the other side of the hill next to McCurdy’s house was built by Andrew McElwee, the son of William McElwee Sr., for himself, his wife Barbara, and their five children. (16X) To build the house a section of the hill had to be leveled. The original hill was as high as the third floor level of the house. The fill taken from this land was used in the construction of the Statler Inn and the Ithaca Plaza shopping center.
There were two schools in Free Hollow — first the Hen Roost, and the second the building which is now Trevor Teele’s garage [131 Judd Falls Rd.] It may have been built prior to 1850 since it appears on the 1853 map. From that date until the present school and church were built, it served both the Lord and the needs of education six days a week, I have some of the reward of merit cards which were given for deportment on Friday afternoons after the speakin’. On such an occasion little Clara Slocum [Albert Force’s mother] recited an original poem about Free Hollow written in her childish hand.
Free Hollow is a little town
With hills of green all scattered ’round.
It is in the town of Ithaca, too
Many roads lead into it, both old and new.
Through it a little stream doth flow
Where little fishes always grow.
It has sufficient water power
To run two mills that give us flour.
Factories, tannery, a cider mill too
Without the latter what would we do?
Cloth is manufactured, and leather for shoes
And besides there’s a grocery where we learn all the news.
The people here are so wonderfully wise,
And the school of such enormous size.
They adopted a plan entirely new
By dividing the school into wards one and two.
The people who inhabit this fine little city
Are most wonderfully kind, but I cannot say witty.
For they attend to the affairs of neighbors and friends
Sadly neglecting their own they never can mend.
My advice to you, both great and small,
And infants too, both short and tall —
Mind your own affairs, let others alone,
You’ll have plenty to do if you mind your own.
The rather pert advice in these last stanzas referred to a separation in the village over school matters, and the establishment of a private school taught by Mrs. Cole. For years the school-house was used for church services, preached by a supply from Varna — usually a rip-snorting hell-fire and brimstone exhorter. Those wonderful old-time socials, harvest suppers, entertainments, town meetings, elections, and early moving picture shows were held in the old school house. … I wish I’d saved some of the wonderful playbills that were posted around the village in preparation. And we saw parts of the “Great Train Robbery” and all those early films flickering on a screen in this … old school house. People picked their way through the mud by the light of oil lanterns which were left half turned down in the vestibule to save the trouble of re-lighting. Such food — such warmth of good feeling — such wholesome good times. … It was also the location for the election and that was set up with booths and, of course, only men went to vote. And there were plenty of peanuts which Earl Northrup brought over from his store, and the men would smoke and make a regular social day out of the election. And they didn’t mind that the kids came in and hung around and ate the peanuts and participated in what was going on. Yes, that little old school house was … a center and it became quite active later when some of these young agricultural professors got interested in the church and it grew and grew until finally an old codger by the name of Charlie Rawley became the school trustee. … In reading the school law he found out that school houses should be used for educational purposes only, so he padlocked the door one day and put up a sign and said ‘”As long as I am trustee, the school house will be closed to church services, Sunday school services, anything else except school purposes.” (12 pp. 7 and 8) (13, pp. 16 and 17)
Mr. Rawley was, of course, interpreting the law correctly, but at that time school classes were not being held in the building, and many felt he was stretching the law. In 1918 the school opened again briefly. Clara Bool, related to the Bools of the Bool’s Furniture Mill, was the teacher. When Mrs. Bool’s students were promoted to the seventh grade in the downtown schools, they were immediately passed to the eighth grade. They had completed seven years’ work in six years. This policy continued for about ten years, even after the move to the new school. Jim Bush Sr. was custodian of the school, and often when he arrived in the morning, he would find frost on the blackboard and ice on the water buckets.
The house next to the old school was built late in World War I by Hugh Mitchell. (17X) Mr. Mitchell, a stone mason, cut the stone used for the first floor of the house from the quarry on Ellis Hollow Road. When the house was built, electric refrigeration was not generally available and ice deliveries were erratic, so Mr. Mitchell built a large, cool food storage room in the basement. He covered the floor with marble slabs, with an inch of space between them. Cold water was dashed on these slabs to provide a cool well drained place to keep food.13 Professor James Edward Rice, who taught poultry husbandry and after whom Rice Hall is named, and Mrs. Rice, purchased the house in 1920. They in turn sold the house to Trevor and Marta Teele in 1939. Mr. Teele was a photographer and minister, and Mrs. Teele taught kindergarten for a year at the Forest Home School. The Teele home was a center for the children in the neighborhood. They could browse in Marta Teele’s large library of unusual children’s books, play with educational or foreign toys, or help Trevor Teele make a bonfire.
13 Information from Mr. and Mrs. G. O. Hall.
The house on the bluff at 137 Judd Falls Road was the first one built by Isaac Cradit’s son, some time after 1850. (18X) It is labeled “Cradit” on the 1866 map. (46) Professor James A. Bizzell, of the Agronomy Department, and his wife Polly purchased the house in 1926. They remodeled it completely. The road to Cortland (Forest Home Drive) passed in front of the house, and Polly Bizzell recalled that during the Depression traveling tramps would stop and ask for food in return for a little work.
We now go back to the southwest end of Judd Falls Road. After we pass the small red house at 110 Judd Falls Road (7X) we come to what is probably the oldest standing house in Forest Home, now known as the Washburn house. (19X) This was the farmhouse of the Mcintyre and VanNatta families, built sometime after 1800. In its original location it stood approximately on what is now Clara Goodman’s property. It was constructed in the style of a New England farmhouse, but, unlike most farm houses of that period, the front door faced west instead of east. The house was moved to its present location by William Mitchell, brother of Hugh Mitchell, sometime before 1915. The Mitchell family lived and kept house in the dwelling while it was being moved a few inches a day, for almost two weeks, up Judd Falls Road. The house faces east at its new location. The unusual fireplace was put in by Billy Mitchell, who was a skilled stone mason. The original clapboards were covered with more fashionable stucco. In 1950, during the occupancy of Kenneth Washburn, a painter and professor of fine arts at Cornell University, and his wife Helen Washburn, most of the stucco was removed and clapboards again were put on three sides of the house.
The white house at 116 Judd Falls Road was built by Kenneth Washburn and his uncle Wallace Washburn, in 1939. (20X) Kenneth Washburn painted a view of the Grand Canyon that hung over the mantle of the fireplace. There were to be four paintings in all, one for each season of the year. They were not completed. The one painting hangs now in the Halcyon Hall residence of the R. W. Shaws, long time residents of this house.
The next house was built by Edward Sewell and Faye Guthrie, from their own design, in 1912. (21X) Professor Guthrie, of the Department of Dairy Science, was a leader in the community, both in church and secular activities. He started the Sunday School, and was one of the active initiators of the chapel and school building projects. For five years Professor Guthrie held early morning services on Christmas Day at the Reconstruction Home, at that time an institution mainly for polio victims. Gracie Bush played the violin to accompany the singing of carols.
Behind these two houses, set on a bluff above Beebe Lake stands the McIsaac house still surrounded by the trees and patches of wild flowers that botanist and professor of plant pathology, Herbert Hice Whetzel, planted during his occupancy of the house. The house was built early in the 20th century for H. H. and Lucy Whetzel by William McElwee Sr. It was the first stucco house and one of the first “modern” houses in the village. The Whetzel’s daughter, Gertrude Whetzel Grover, owned the house until 1959. (22X) . The next house on the same bluff, was built by a professor of entomology, Alexander MacGillvray and his wife, the former Fannie Edwards, in 1903. It was one of the first houses in Forest Home to have an inside bathroom and central heating, and one of the two houses that has a second stairway. The area to the north of the house was a poultry farm until the Washburn house was moved to its present location and the lot subdivided. Professor Albert Wilhelm Boesche of the German Department purchased the house in 1912. (23X.)
The next two houses, 124 Judd Falls Road and 119 Forest Home Drive, were built by Mr. Eugene Preswick. (24X, 25X) He had been an instructor in chemistry and later became a builder. These clapboard houses were built in 1914. A common pump served both houses until the water system was installed in 1935. Nancy Masterman recalls that many people used to rent spare rooms to students so that they could have help with the water carrying from the pump to the house. The house overlooking the lake was owned for many years by Professor Ralph H. Wheeler, who organized the original Farm and Home Week at Cornell University and later became director of finance and assistant treasurer of the university.
The remaining four houses on Judd Falls Road, built about sixty years ago, have stucco exteriors. The house at 126 Judd Falls Road was built for and designed by Helen Binkerd Young, of the Department of Housing and Design of the College of Home Economics at Cornell. (26X) The remaining three house were built by anatomist Dr. Earl Sunderville. The house at 128 Judd Falls Road was purchased in 1920 by Alpheus and Clara Browning Goodman. (27X) Their daughter still resides in the house. Professor Goodman taught agricultural engineering at Cornell and also in the Phillipines. The Goodman flower garden has been and is one of the most admired of any in the village. Mrs. Goodman contributed many fine roses to the Forest Home Improvement Association Flower Shows. Professor Goodman, as well as many of his neighbors, including Professor Barrus and Professor Whetzel, was one of the original organizers of the Forest Home Improvement Association. At the first meeting in the old school house, Dean Liberty Hyde Bailey urged the residents of the community to form an active organization. During the early decades of the organization’s existence, “improvement” was its main purpose, and many projects, besides the annual flower show, were carried out; such as the planting of dogwood trees along the Byway, the extermination of tent caterpillars and Japanese beetles, the numbering of houses, the improvement of walk ways, snow removal, and the establishment of the water system. The association was reactivated a few years ago, this time to “save” Forest Home from the problems of ever-increasing traffic, encroachments by Cornell University, sewage disposal problems, and the threat from the State of New York to widen the bridges and Forest Home Drive. The presidents of the Forest Home Improvement Association during this period were: Paul McIsaac, John Swan, Robert Aronson, and Robert Mueller.
Dr. and Mrs. Earl Sunderville used the small garage apartment house as a residence (28X). Dr. Sunderville built the large house on the corner with the assistance of Mr. McElwee, Sr. during World War I. (29X) The stairway was constructed at the Bool’s Furniture Mill and does not quite fit into the house.
We now come to the oldest section of Forest Home, The Byway, formerly called Old Road.
The Byway is the oldest settled part of the village, all the houses being of an early date. For years a big red barn stood on the corner where the Forest Home Building is located, and there was a little triangle of grass in front of our house which was a favorite play-ground for children. The only possible danger was from an occasional run-away horse and buggy. … My house is Greek Revival in its simplest form. The small sliding lie-on-your-stomach or frieze windows are characteristic of the period. (12, pp. 5 and 13)
Originally, the house was much smaller. When William Slocum, Albert Force’s grandfather, bought it in 1860, he raised the roof and built on additional rooms. The timbers in the northern part of this house were loosened by the explosion of the gun powder mill. In recent years, it has had little remodeling, and remains much as it was 100 years ago. (30X) (see figure 9)
The adjoining house along The Byway was originally, like the other mill workers’ homes, a small story-and-a-half building. (31X)
Mrs. Mapes’ house was the home of my great-grandmother and her spinster daughter Kate during the last years of their lives, and until the early 1890’s it was a story-and-a-half house of great charm, having a latticed Dutch stoop with benches on either side. There was a cellar kitchen with bed-sink — a recessed alcove for a bed with curtains which could be drawn during the day- time or on an especially cold night. (12, p. 13 )
Bedsinks were common in Holland, and it is likely that the builder from New Jersey, who also built the Dutch stoop on the house, was of Dutch descent. The only Dutch name that appears in the old Forest Home records is that of Jacob Dyckman, who purchased the fulling mill in 1821. About 1890 the house was sold to Mr. Manley, who rebuilt the house in the 1890’s style. He raised the roof, added additional rooms, and put in a bathroom and the first running water system and telephone in the village. He was the inventor of the folding ironing board: “Manley’s Ironing Table and Stepladder Combined, patented June 1, 1886.” Mr. Force had in his shop one of the folding ironing boards and a small salesman’s sample. The latter, and maybe both, were manufactured in the village. This house was probably the first home of the Gamma Alpha graduate scientific fraternity, which was founded in the late 1890’s.
The next little house was occupied by the Waldorf family in 1866. Around 1895 it was purchased by James Bush Sr. and his wife. Mr. Bush was for many years a Justice of the Peace, and he carried on his business — trials, hearings, and weddings — in his living room. He worked in the shops at Sibley College, and at night as a caretaker at the Cornell University power plant. (32X)
The house at 8 The Byway was built some time before 1850. (33X) Albert Force’s mother was born there in 1861. Before the Slocums bought the property, the Jacob Price family lived in this house. In 1906, Andrew J. Lamoureux, who worked in the College of Agriculture library, bought the property and also the present Heckman and Konvitz properties. The Lamoureuxs lived in this house and remodeled it, as did Forrest B. Wright, professor of agricultural engineering, who purchased it in 1930. “Doc” Wright used the bricks that had surrounded the old boiler at Bool’s mill to build the fireplace. The front part of the house had originally been built from planks.14 The planks had been cut from the large hemlocks that stood in the swamp that is now Beebe lake.
14 Many of the Greek Revival houses are “plank houses”, at least in part. Planks were attached to the frame in two layers, either one horizontal and one vertical layer or two vertical layers with the planks overlapping the crevices. These walls were usually about four inches thick, and had a function similar to contemporary curtain walls.
The former woolen mill warehouse was converted to a residence by Andrew and Sarah Lamoureux, and later further remodeled by Earl Sunderville for Miss Van Zandt, a librarian at the Veterinary College. When Miss Van Zandt, who had been a cripple for many years, became too ill to care for herself, Mrs. Heckman and her family moved in to nurse her. At Miss Van Zandt’s death the Heckmans found, to their surprise, that the house had been willed to them. (34X)
The house at 16 The Byway was built between 1820 and 1830. The house was constructed of white pine planks thirty inches wide and three inches thick. David Edwards became owner of the house in 1870, when he bought the mill. His wife was known as “Grandma Edwards”, and, according to Albert Force, she was one of the last of the old-fashioned grandmothers.
… her comfortable shape dressed in gray and white gingham in the morning, black-sprigged dress in the afternoons with a big white apron, and black silk with a gold breast pin for Sundays. (12, p. 10)
The next residents were Frederick Head and his wife. They had previously lived in the woolen mill-warehouse building. Mr. Head taught foundry and blacksmithing at Sibley Hall. He built and maintained the cindered paths along Beebe Lake to the trolley stop, even though he was badly crippled. When Walter and Edith Stone purchased the house in 1921 they did extensive rebuilding and remodeling. The roof was raised, and the architectural style changed to the earlier Connecticut style. (35X) Mr. Stone, a professor of fine arts and a well known painter, was very active in the affairs of the community. It was he who named The Byway. He and Albert Force made the futile attempt to change the name of Forest Home back to the more meaningful one, Free Hollow.
Mills McKinney, Albert Force’s great grandfather, who came to the hollow in 1830, moved into the last little house on the creek side of The Byway. (36X) The house was known as the Brown tenant house at the turn of the century. The property was part of a larger parcel of land, which encompassed the present Grace Bush and Bates houses and the plot on which the Forest Home Building now stands. At one time this parcel was part of the McIntyre holdings. The three older houses were built about 1830 for workers in Isaac Cradit’s shop. The later owners15 of this parcel probably, each in his time, operated the Great White Grist Mill.
15 Owned in 1866 by Horace and Polly Hart and Amos Ostrander, later by Comfort Hanshaw, Jessie Manning and by 1877 by the Brown family.
Two of the houses in the village departed from the Greek Revival style, perhaps built by men with a feeling for New England architecture. Helen Washburn lives in the one … and the other was the Underhill house, which in those early days must have been the most imposing place in the village. According to tradition, it faced to the south and had a beautiful door-way with fan-light, and a garden which lay between it and the main road, with a picket fence on all sides. (12, p. 13)
Dr. Oliver Barker16 lived in the house during the middle of the last century. It was also owned by members of the Edwards family at one time. (37X) The well on the corner of this lot was used by neighbors from The Byway for many years. It was closed while Thomas and Agnes Underhill owned the property. A crabapple tree now marks the location of the old well.
16 Dr. Oliver Barker is listed as a member of the Tompkins County Medical Society from 1830-1843 (37). The atlas of 1866 lists a Dr. Baker for this house. The only Dr. Baker in the medical lists is a Dr. Eugene Baker, president of the county Medical Society from 1891 to 1903. He was at that time a resident of Dryden.
The house at 136 Forest Home Drive is a plank house. Some of the subfloor planks in this house are twelve inches wide and two inches thick. The house has a “George Washington Entrance” and was called the “Colonial House.” It was purchased in 1925 by the late Harry Bush, superintendent of the machine shop of the Baker Laboratory on the Cornell Campus, and his wife Grace Bush. (39X)
The next house is considered by many to be the finest example of Greek Revival architecture in the village. The reeded columns at the front of the house, as well as much of the interior trimmings, are very distinctive. (40X) The public well or town pump was on the northeast corner of this lot. Harding Horton, the son of Jennie Horton who owned the house in 1914, was the only Forest Home casualty of the first world war. The maple tree on the front lawn was planted in his memory by the neighbors. David Cowan, superintendent of buildings and grounds at Ithaca College, and Jane Cowan, who owned this house for many years, were both very active in the community and in the Forest Home Chapel. David Cowan was also the zoning officer of the Town of Ithaca, and Jane was one of the charter members of the Forest Home Cooperative Play School. The school was organized for the preschool children in the community in 1952. The first year, classes were held in the basement classroom of the Forest Home School. When this space was needed to accommodate the school children from the student housing developments, the play school was moved to the basement room of the Forest Home Chapel, where it is still operating.
Across the road, on the west side of the bridge, lies a house set back from the road and the creek. (41X) This was built about a hundred years ago, and was surrounded by farm buildings and farmland reaching into the present Andrew McElwee property. The Cradits were the first owners, and later the house was occupied by other operators of the turning shop and furniture mill. When Anson Wright Gibson, professor of personnel administration, and his wife Dorothy, purchased the property, they remodeled the house, planted maple trees and a garden. Cornell University, which owns the land from the Gibson’s line to the road, constructed a stone retaining wall along the creek. In 1927, some old residents recall, a small house stood on the hillside behind the Gibson’s house, near the garage of the white house on the hilltop. This odd little house was occupied by Charley Perce, who worked in Dryden, and Mrs. Francie Perce.
The Forest Home Improvement Association, under the leadership of Anson Gibson, Doc Wright and Ralph Wheeler, helped establish the Forest Home Home Water District. Before that, water was obtained for cooking and drinking from the “public well” on the 140 Forest Home Drive property. Most houses had cisterns and pumps for washing water. The last potable well in the village was on the Goodman property.
In 1929 the Forest Home Improvement Association canvassed the property owners in the village to see if they would install running water if it were available at a reasonable cost. There were 65 potential users, including five houses owned by the university and not canvassed. A total of 47 said they would install such a system for full or particular use. Many hoped to keep their soft water cistersn for their hot water supply. The State Department of Health tested five wells at the request of the Association. All but one were polluted . . and both a public water supply and sewer17 system were strongly recommended. The Association found that the University was willing to sell water to Forest Home from its system, but this would require an amendment to the State Education Law. Such an amendment was introduced by the Honorable James R. Robinson, a member of the Assembly. It appears that it passed in 1931. A water district was formed and money was borrowed to install the water mains. The district was operated by local trustees until it was taken over by the Town Board and eventually combined with all other districts into one Town of Ithaca Water District 18
17 The community is still, in 1973, negotiating for an adequate sewer system.
18 Submitted by John Hertel from correspondence in the files of A. W. Gibson.
This was the first P.W.A. (Public Works Administration, one of the agencies set up during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt) project in the state; 45 percent of the funds were provided by P.W.A. and the rest by water bonds. The ceremony to mark the opening of the water system was an exiting occasion in October 1935. It was marked by speeches and a gun salute.
The first bridge, also called the Judd Falls Road bridge, was constructed in 1904. Before then a wooden bridge crossed the creek at this point. The steel bridge is a Warren type pony truss bridge. It was repaired in 1955 and again in 1972-73. When a poll was taken in 1970, a majority of the Forest Home residents approved a resolution that both bridges should be closed permanently to reduce the heavy through traffic in the village. The state had proposed that both bridges should become two-lane bridges, that the approaches should be widened, and that Forest Home Drive between the two bridges should be widened. The Forest Home Improvement Association, on numerous occasions, supported motions requesting that a by-pass be built around the Forest Home area. When both bridges required extensive repair in 1972, the state had no funds available for new highway and bridge construction. The bridges were repaired and remained one-lane. The Judd Falls Road bridge was closed for repairs for over a year. Some residents were inconvenienced by the closed bridge and no longer felt that the bridge-closing proposal was wise. Many believed that the threat from the state to widen the roads and bridges had been averted for the present. The community may be divided over the way to deal with these problems, but is united in its desire to save Forest Home from the destructive effects of the heavy through traffic.
Across the bridge, the first house on the north side of Forest Home Drive at the foot of Pleasant Grove hill is a large pre-Victorian style house. David McKinney built this for his daughter and son-in-law, Alfred Hasbrouk, about 1850. The house was surrounded by a large farm, part of which is now the university golf course. The Hasbrouk’s son, Charles, who received a Cornell degree in civil engineering in 1890 and who was employed for many years by the American Bridge Company, was the only person born in Forest Home during the nineteenth century who was listed in Who’s Who.19 Mrs. Hasbrouk committed suicide by jumping off the first bridge. After the death of his wife, Alfred Hasbrouk employed Nellie and Francina Drake to care for his house. The Hasbrouk house was willed to Cornell University as a “residence for female students as long as it should be practicable”. It never was, and Hasbrouk Lodge was rented for many years to young Cornell couples. The house was also one of the sites of the Gamma Alpha graduate scientific fraternity. In 1943 the university sold the house when it was unable to evict the tenant. In 1960 Dean Burnham Kelly, of the College of Architecture, and his wife Jean, purchased the house and remodeled it extensively. (42X)
19 A plaque in Charles Hasbrouk’s memory can be found on a bench, which is located on the creek-bank across from the former Hasbrouk house. It reads: “In memory of Charles A. Hasbrouk of the class of 1884 — a Forest Home boy who gave Cornell University his home and 70 acres including this ground to be put to such use as would best subserve the welfare of the woman students.” The civil engineering degree of 1890, mentioned in the text, was Charles Hasbrouk’s second Cornell degree.
The house at 206 Forest Home Drive was built in the mid-nineteenth century. It is labeled “Smith Estate” on the map of 1866 (46). Charles Cole, who purchased the property in 1874, was a grocer and the first postmaster of the village. He was a disabled Civil War veteran and drew a pension of 72 dollars a month, more than that of any veteran in the area. (11) His wife ran a select private school for a short while. Joseph and Gertrude Whetzel retired from their Indiana farm and moved to this house in 1914. Mr. Whetzel brought with him his white horse, Kit, and built a barn for her behind the house. With the help of the horse he plowed gardens, hauled student trunks, or took village youngsters for rides. During this time, the two porches were added to the house, the smaller one by Jim Bush Sr. and the larger one by William McElwee, Sr. (43X).
The next house was built in 1904 for Miss Nellie and Miss Francina Drake by Charles Hasbrouk (44X). The Misses Drake operated a boarding house for students, and their fine cooking was known beyond the confines of the village. They were both active in the chapel and in Sunday School activities. The house at 210 Forest Home Drive was built in 1910 by Judge Kent. The Dunn family, who had been operating the Ag Boarding House on Judd Falls Road, purchased the house in 1920, and in 1923 opened the Forest Home Lodge tourist home. (45X)
The next house, a lovely small Greek Revival style house, is known as the “Hart house”. Amos Hart owned the house from about 1900 until the early thirties. The first recorded owner was Miles Cook. Ruth Davis and her son lived in the house in the 1940’s. She was a teacher at the Forest Home School, well liked by many parents and children, but not by those who thought her methods too strict and old fashioned. Professor Wolfgang Fuchs, Department of Mathematics, and his wife Dorothee, who owned the house from 1955 to 1963, added two rooms to the house and remodeled it considerably. (46X) The house next door is of the same period. It was owned by the Fletcher family in 1866, and then by the Bantams. Mrs. Bantam was employed as a housekeeper at Sage College. Later the house was owned by the Misses Helen and Sarah Knox, who kept a beautiful flower garden on their little plot. (47X)
The property at the corner of Forest Home Drive and Warren Road at one time consisted of the present house, a large barn, and the village store. The house was built just before the Civil War by William Van Valkenberg. Mr. VanValkenburg was injured in the war, and, on his return, the people in the village built the little store for him. This was torn down shortly after World War II, and the property has been used for residential purposes since then. (48X)
Across from these houses was once a built-up, bustling section of the village. Now only two houses remain on a parcel that boasted at one time two mills, a store and at least four other houses. The information given here has been pieced together from available pictures, documents and interviews. Next to the bridge, hanging over the creek’s edge, were the cider and the saw mill. According to Charlotte Edwards,20 who describes the Forest Home of 1870, Arthur Edward’s barn was located just above the two mills. Mrs. Philip Manning’s meat market was located in front of the barn across the road from Mr. Cole’s grocery store. (10)
20 “Grandma” Edwards, wife of David Edwards; Arthur, Walter, Robert, and Fannie Edwards were her children.
One [house] was occupied by Grandmother Edwards, the widow of the weaver, and her son Art who was a plumber and such a character. I heard this story about either Art or his brother Walt who was also a character. It seems that Louis Fuertes, the bird artist, was a frequenter of this area that was Forest Home … when he was a boy. I suppose studying the birds, fishing, swimming in the stream back here as all boys did. And he was walking through the village one day and Walt was up on the roof putting in a few shingles that needed repair. Louis stopped to talk to him and he noticed that the hitching post was filled full of nails. Louis says, “Walt, how come all these nails in the hitchin” post? and Walt says, “Well, Louis, I’ll tell you. Everytime I tell a lie my mother makes me drive a spike in that hitching post.” And with that, Walt very deliberately climbed down off the roof, walked across the yard and drove a spike in the hitching post. (13, pp. 77-78)
Nellie Drake, in a description of the village in 1906, lists the following dwellings on the creek side of the road: after the meat market, the Bowan house, later occupied by Mrs. Edwards, then the DeRemer house built by R. A. Edwards, the Manning house occupied by Jut Hunt, the large long house owned by Poppenwell, the small house in front of this owned by Mrs. Browning, Clara Goodman’s grandmother. Then she lists the Bantam21 and the Hasbrouk tenant house. (9) We know from other sources that there was a house near the present chapel parking area. The steps to the creek can still be found in the undergrowth. This was the “elevator house” that a number of old residents referred to and that can be seen on the 1890 photograph. It was not really a very tall house and, of course, did not have an elevator. It was built like a rectangular box and one story was below road level, open to the creek side of the property. Lily Ann Newbury remembers living in the elevator house as a child. She tells about the wandering gypsies, who came through the village in their wagons and stopped at the store, and says that the cows used to walk freely about from yard to yard. They frightened the children and knocked over baby carriages. (31) Bonaparte Niver probably lived in the house that Nellie Drake called the DeRemer house.
21 This is not the house at 216 Forest Home Drive but the former “elevator house” on the creek side of the road. Mrs. Bantam was a Fletcher by birth, and later moved back to the Fletcher house at 216 Forest Home Drive.
Across the road, in a little house backed up to the creek, lived one of the most colorful characters in the village. He was Bonaparte Niver, a skinny little fellow who had gone to war and played in a fife and drum corps. Warm summer nights Bony would bring his fife and sit on the flag-stone steps and play to my grandparents, and tell them yarns about the war. Grandfather, like so many young men with growing families, had been drafted and had bought a substitute to go in his place. (12, p. 12)
The Manning house was purchased by the Westervelt family from Miss Mabel Cornelius around the time of the World War I. Mabel Cornelius played the organ for the church services in the old school house. She was also a seamstress and made fine children’s clothing. The house is an original Greek Revival style house, except for the addition in the back. (49X) The small house next door was at one time Jack Smith’s Service Station, and later a coffee shop and ice cream parlor. Chattie Mattingly and her family operated the business for awhile. The Mattinglys were probably the first black residents of the village. About 1927, Cornell University sealed the Mattingly’s well because someone in the family had tuberculosis. The family moved down the road to the present Cotton house, but soon afterwards were evicted by the sheriff. (50X)22
22 Mr. Walter Edwards (11) lists the following houses on the creek side of the road: the Bantam house (which he describes as the ”elevator house”); across from Northrup’s store a tenant house owned by a Civil War veteran, who had lost a leg in the war and who later ran the village meat market; a house occupied by an actively anti-Catholic Protestant Irishman who carried the mail between Ithaca and Forest Home; the Manning house, which he says was old when he was a child; the house owned by his brother Robert; and next to this the small house and barn that Robert Edwards built. It is possible that Manning owned two houses in this section and that the older one is not mentioned in the other manuscripts because it had been torn down. It is not clear whether the Civil War veteran was Bonaparte Niver. According to Edwards, there were quite a number of veterans in the village. Houses changed owners so frequently during the early history of the village that a name associated with a house may apply to only a short period of ownership or residence. Some families, e.g. Hasbrouks, Mannings, Preswicks, Edwards, owned a number of houses.
The parsonage is on the northeast corner of the Warren Road and Forest Home Drive intersection. (51X) No historical material is available for this house. The first house in the village was probably on this lot, and later the neighborhood pump.
It seems strange perhaps, that one hundred and twenty years passed by before a church was built in Forest Home. Services were first held in the original house in the village, the home of a “saintly old lady”, which stood at the site of the present parsonage. But for at least fifty years, people in Free Hollow attended either the Presbyterian or Methodist churches in Varna. … By 1900 the Sunday-school was very active. Prof. Riley, an entomologist, was the superintendent and taught the adult class. The well loved sisters, Francina and Nellie Drake, taught the children. Some of us still have the old, brightly-colored cards which were passed out each Sunday for the following week’s lesson. Church sociables and Christmas exercises with a shining tree, were events in those days. Preachers from Varna conducted services in the evening, Mr. Lane and Mr. McConnell being the best remembered. When Marion Kline led off the singing in her clear soprano voice, and Mabel Cornelius pulled out all the stops of the little parlor organ and everyone joined in with a good heart if not a melodious voice, the humble room rang with “There shall be showers of blessings” or “Onward Christian Soldiers” or one of the old hymn tunes. Edward S. Guthrie and Charles M. Chupp, perhaps more than any others, stimulated an interest in building a church for the growing community …. After much discussion as to what denomination the new church should be, with a good deal of sentiment in favor of a community non-secretarian group, the past affiliation with the Methodist Church and the fact that this church organization would bear a part of the financial burden, tipped the scale in favor of that denomination.
So it was that the Forest Home Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated on December 5, 1915 . … The building was designed by Dean C. A. Martin of the College of Architecture along Colonial lines, modified by the use of modern materials. (12, last page)
Rev. Carl G. McConnell was the first pastor of the Forest Home Chapel.23 The fiftieth anniversary celebration took place on December 5, 1965. The sermon was preached by Rev. James McConnell of Batavia, the son of the first pastor. The congregation celebrated with an anniversary dinner at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Ithaca. Rev. A. P. Coman, who served the church from 1957 to 1963 wrote in the Fiftieth Anniversary booklet. (15)
23Pastors who have also served the chapel: (35 p. 6)
1914-16 G. C. McConnell
1916-19 M. L. Hallock
1919-21 I. G. Whitchurch
1921-22 Frank Dickinson
1922-23 Roy S. Smyres
1923-25 O. M. Frazer
1925-28 D. D. Wilson
1928-29 Frank Dickinson
1929-31 E. C. Van Keuren
1931-37 Roy S. Smyres
1937-38 I. T. Sanders
1938-41 Rob. Stevenson
1941-42 R. N. Helverson
1942-43 Allen C. Best, F. C. Traveille
1943-45 Gifford Towle
1946-49 H. A. Alsdorf
1949-53 B. E. Pierce
1953-54 W . F. Price
1954-57 R. G. Kennedy
1957-63 A. P. Coman
1963-64 Boyd Little
1964-68 Lloyd Moffett
1968-70 Roy S. Smyres
1970- John W. Annas
Though Methodists, Presbyterian and Friends had most to do with the founding there was a unique and precious blend of faiths and denominations, and absence of credal statements and dogmatism. Baptists, Congregationalists, Christian Scientists, Episcopalians, Hebrews, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and Unitarians have had a notable part in Forest Home Chapel.
It is also worthy of note that from this little community and from this little chapel missionaries and teachers have gone to Latin America, the West Indies, Central America, Africa, Albania, Iran, Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand and Japan. A few names suffice to suggest others: Barrus, Otto, Hertel, Smyres, Konvitz, Knapp, Cassidy, Price, Roe, Gamble, Towle, Travaille and Alsdorf.
The building has remained much as it was originally. There have been a number of interior renovations and additions of furnishings and decorations. Many of these were memorial gifts. About ten years ago a steeple and bell were added.
The large white house southeast of the chapel was originally a plain mill building and the site of the Hazen knitting mill. It is said to be one of the older buildings in the village and was built before 1830. It was apparently renovated extensively some time after 1850 in the Italiante-Victorian style, and the fine staircase and interior woodwork were added after the building ceased to be a factory. (52X) The house across the street, the former paper mill rag room and mitten knitting mill, has had a varied history. Besides being a factory building, the house has been used as a lodge by the Good Templars and as a residence. (53X) Laura Slaght bought the property in 1906. She kept pigs, like many of her neighbors, and fed them with garbage from the Cascadilla School. When some years later Glenn Palmer was removing the old chicken house he found some Cascadilla School “silver” in the dirt under the chicken house, where the pig pen had been.
The remaining clapboard houses before the second bridge were built between 1900 and 1913 by Eugene Preswick, who also built two houses on Judd Falls Road. (54X) (55X) (56X) (57X)
The second bridge, also known as the Caldwell Road bridge, crosses the creek at this point. This is a three-truss bridge, built in 1902 and repaired in 1973. From this bridge, looking downstream, a large boulder can be seen lying in the creek bed. It is an anorthosite, according to John Wells, emeritus professor of geological sciences. It was transported to the Fall Creek Valley by continental ice and came from the Adirondack area where this rock type underlies the highest peaks. It was moved to its present position by an extra large ice jam in 1908.
The road forks as it leaves the bridge. The left fork is the continuation of Forest Home Drive and goes to Varna in the Town of Dryden. The right fork is Caldwell Road, formerly the Bool Town Road. It leads to the Cornell Veterinary College. The first school in Free Hollow, called the Hen Roost, stood on this hill.
Albert Force writes about his great-grandmother sending her children off to the Hen Roost School:
When they were little, and started off for school on a zero morning, she baked each child a big pan-cake to carry in his mitten to keep his hands from frost-bite. (12 p. 8)
The first Sunday school classes were held in this little schoolhouse.
As Caldwell Road leaves the bridge, it passes on the right the entrance to the Rockwell Field Laboratory of the Cornell Plantations and then the Cornell filtration plant. At one time a house and a cottage stood on this land. The larger house was part of a farm with a barn, a lovely locust tree and an orchard. The farm and the houses were the property of Mr. Preswick a well-to-do farmer. Next it was owned by his son Eugene Preswick, an 1884 Cornell graduate in chemical engineering, who later became a builder. The large house was also occupied by the Walter Tailbys and the Georgias. The houses were torn down to make room for the filtration plant.
The white house on the left fork of the road is one of the oldest houses in Forest Home. It was built by Mr. Criddle in 1837, and remained in the family until 1921; a family ownership record even for Forest Home (58X) Mr. Criddle had three daughters: Ida, who graduated from Cornell University in 1893, Clara, who was a teacher, and Lucy, who lost her life in a tragic accident in 1861:
Lucy Criddle, 17 year old daughter of Mr. William Criddle, a cabinet maker residing in Free Hollow, had been going with Montgomery Cornell, 19 year old son of Elijah B. Cornell and nephew of Ezra Cornell. The Cornell family lived a mile and a half east of Ithaca on the Dryden Road, probably near the corner of what is now known as the Bool Town Road which connects Bool Town and Forest Home.
On the night of June 25th, Lucy crept from her bed and went buggy riding with Montgomery. Early next morning, the horse and buggy were found outside the Cornell house. In the buggy was Lucy — dead by gun fire. Montgomery was no where to be seen. A search begun, and late that afternoon Montgomery’s cap and shirt were found on the bank of Fall Creek, where upon searching the creek, the boy’s body was found at the foot of the falls, a half mile below the Criddle home. Speculation had it that Monty and Lucy had made a suicide pact.24
24 Contributed by Frank S. Chupp of Binghamton, New York.
The next house along Forest Home Drive was a “Redi-Cut” house built in 1927 by Ralph and Walter Westervelt for their sister Gladys Andrews, whose house on Halcyon Hill had been destroyed by fire on the previous Thanksgiving Day. (59X) The house at 306 Forest Home Drive was built in 1929 by Ortho Strong on land he had purchased from Ernest Sundell. Sections of a demolished house were used to build this house. (60X) The next three buildings belong to the Sundell family. The property was originally part of the Hungerford farm. The large dwelling house was built in 1929. (61X)
The Pendleton property includes four houses. The first was originally one of the temporary buildings in the Tower Road housing project, located where the Veterinary College now stands. (62X) Hungerford was the first owner of the next house, built in 1908. It was owned for many years by Harrison and Sarah Williams, who moved to Forest Home when their oldest child was old enough to enter Cornell University. All four children eventually graduated from Cornell. (63X) The next house was also at one time part of the Hungerford property and was also built in 1908. (64X) Professor of civil engineering Claude Pendleton and his wife Miriam purchased the house in 1923. One of the Pendleton children was drowned in the creek below the house in 1925. Tragedy struck again when Mr. Pendleton died at a relatively early age in 1943. Miriam Pendleton worked for many years as a practical nurse, mainly helping families with newborn babies. She was in such demand that families that had moved away from Ithaca to other parts of the country or even overseas, paid her way so that she could help them with a new baby in the new, far off location. The adjoining house was constructed from two of the Tower Road project houses early in the 1950’s. (65X)
The last three houses in Forest Home along Fall Creek were built by William Mitchell with stones left over from Cornell University construction jobs on which he had worked. (66X, 67X, 68X)
… this is the Billy Mitchell who lived beyond the second bridge in that little stone house … And the little one had an inscription on the outside in tribute to his first wife. And he was furious to think that they had taxed him for that building. He said, “It’s a monument to my wife. You don’t tax the stones in the cemetery, why should you tax my little house that’s a tribute to my wife.” He was a wonderful man and a marvelous craftsman in stone. He did all the finest stone carving at the University, inscriptions and all that kind of thing … Scottish people who came over here with nothing and made a career for himself at the University … He used to enliven the school meetings by his loud protests against everything (13, pp. 51-52)
And he did indeed. Professor Guthrie, who chaired the annual school meetings during the last decade of the school’s existence, often had to admonish newcomers to Forest Home and parents from the student housing projects and to remind them that Mr. Mitchell had a right to discourse at length about his views on educational matters or make motions to raise the janitor’s salary. When the old school house number 2 was still in operation and church services were held there Billy Mitchell was the sexton.
. . . and Billy used to fire up the old pot-bellied stove … even in the midst of a sermon, if he thought it needed some attention he’d rattle the poker or open the doors or ventilate it according to what he thought best; and he took up the collection, one hand behind his back, in a little wicker basket. (13, p. 15)
Warren Road rises steeply from the Forest Home Drive intersection. The first two small houses were built in the late 1930’s by Sally Dunn as rental property. (69X) (70X) William McElwee, Jr., and his wife have done extensive remodeling in the first of the two houses, and have turned the three car garage into living quarters. The next three houses on the west side of Warren Road were built about the same time by Earl Northrup. (71X) (72X) (73X)
Across the road to the north are the Hertel house and barn — the former center of the large farm that belonged to Professor George and Mary Warren. He was a well known economist in the Department of Agricultural Economics; Warren Hall on the Cornell Campus was named after him. At one time the Warren Farm extended from Fall Creek on the southeast to the Cornell University Golf Course on the north. The original fifty acre plot was purchased by William Chamberlain in 1832. Here he built a 28 by 18 foot plank house ” … with a one story addition on the east end. It was built in the Greek Revival style and is now the northwest corner of the present Hertel home. It has three frieze windows on the north, the inside pine doors and windows are carefully paneled with fancy mouldings while the east and west ends have typical cornice returns.”25 David McKinney, brother of Mills McKinney, Albert Force’s great grandfather, purchased the house and most of the land from William and Elizabeth Chamberlain. Over the next fifty years, land was added to the property until it had increased to 86 acres. David McKinney made the first recorded addition to the house in 1851. In 1920 the Warren family removed the cupola over the bay window, and added the present east entrance and kitchen. In the first decade of the century, the land, which now includes the Halcyon Hill parcels, was sold to Professor Samuel Boothroyd. In 1948 the seven lots on Crest Lane were surveyed and laid out by Clarence McCurdy for Mary W. Warren (wife of George Warren) . The remainder of the land, except the present Hertel house (74X) and seventeen acres, was sold to Cornell University in 1937. Both John Hertel, professor of personnel administration, and Martha Hertel, daughter of George Warren, have been leaders in the Forest Home Community. For many years Martha Hertel was the advisor for Girl Scout Troop 8. The Forest Home troop is one of the oldest in the Ithaca area. Martha Hertel, like her sisters, was a member of the troop and later, when her own girls reached scouting age she became one of the adult leaders. For many years the girls’ group carried on activities jointly with the Forest Home Boy Scout Troop, which also was Troop 8. The Girl Scout group was inactive during World War II. In the late forties the Brownies and Scouts were reactivated. Forest Home boys have joined scout troops in Varna and Cayuga Heights in recent years.26
25 From “History of Warren Home Land”, submitted by Martha Hertel.
26 Some of the Girl Scout and Brownie leaders were: Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Mabel Heuser, Mrs. Welch, and after re-activation, Martha Hertel, Jean Sunderville, Jane Cowan, Liese Bronfenbrenner, Bobby McElwee, Hope Kirkpatrick, Sue Cotton, Barbara little, and Edith Thompson. Active in the Boy Scout program were: Stanley Warren, Charles Chupp, H. H. Whetzel, F. H. Grover, R. S. Grover, Fred Herholt, Edward Guthrie, Wayne E. Willis, and Richard Pendleton. Many mothers led Cub Scout dens, among them Charlotte Shaw and Marion Cutting.
The next house is occupied by Jean Warren, formerly professor of household economics. This house, a National prefabricated home, was built in 1954 on part of the Warren land in the old orchard. (75X) Also built at this time in the orchard was the house designed and constructed by Lambert Brittain, professor of human development, and his wife Becky. Many of the old apple trees still remain in the yard around the house. The contemporary style house was designed so that flying golf balls from the adjoining golf course could not damage the large glassed in areas of the house. (76X)
Shortly after the turn of the century, Professor Samuel and Mrs. Boothroyd built a large house on the land they had purchased from George Warren. They named the hill, on which the house was built, Halcyon Hill. Otis F. Curtis, Professor of Plant Physiology, and Mrs. Curtis purchased the house in 1922. They planted elms, oaks, arbor vitae and maples on the hillside. A windmill pumped water to the house until 1964. (77X)
Professor Boothroyd divided the hill into five additional lots. Closest to Warren Road stands the old “Boicourt house”. (78X) About 1910 Jacob Bogardus, a cabinet maker at Bool’s Furniture Mill, built a large house on the hill in an old apple orchard. (79X) When he found a piece of wood to his liking at the mill he would incorporate it into the house. Much beautiful dark oak and chestnut were used for the interior woodwork, including the fire place. Gustave Heuser, Professor of poultry husbandry, recalls that his son built an unusual tree house in one of the apple trees during the Heuser ownership of the house. For many years Mildred Heuser held the Embroidery Club May luncheon at her house.
Professor Roy Wiggans, Department of Plant Breeding, and Mrs. Wiggans purchased the house at 108 Halcyon Hill from the Hungerford family in 1924. It had been built about ten years earlier. (SOX) Alfred M. Pridham, Department of Floriculture, and Alice Pridham, built a Lustron house, the only one of its kind in Forest Home. This house also was built in an old orchard and among grape vines. (81X) The house at 115 Halcyon Hill was built in the late twenties by Ralph and Walter Westervelt. (82X) The vegetable plot marks the site of the Andrews house, which burned in 1926.
The seven lots on Crest Lane, the newest street in Forest Home, were once part of the Warren farm garden and wheat field. Mary Warren (Mrs. George Warren) built the first house in 1948. It was the last house William McElwee, Sr. constructed before his retirement. (83X) Another National Home stands next to this house. (84X) The four houses on the north side of the street were constructed between 1951 and 1957. (85X) (86X) (87X) (88X)
These were the last houses to be built in Forest Home. 180 years ago Joseph S. Sydney built the first mill in the hollow. In due course Sydney Mills became Free Hollow, and Free Hollow, Forest Home. Albert Force ends The Story of Free Hollow:
Life remained slow-paced and peaceful in Free Hollow throughout its first one hundred years. There were no poor and there were no rich. No famous man was born here though hundreds of useful men and women have gone out into the world in all sorts of professions. Free Hollow has always been a place where every man was as good as his neighbor. . .. There have been neighborhood spats and family feuds, but that is only natural among people who have spunk. When real trouble comes such petty feelings are forgotten.
The end of Free Hollow’s first century showed a few changes from the earlier days. There were perhaps a few more houses and a few less cow-stables and pig-pens in the backyards — and life was much more comfortable and even luxurious. The establishment of the postoffice brought about the last change in name, perhaps because of a conflict with other similar place-names, or perhaps because the old name did not seem very high-toned. At any rate the old rugged, meaningful name was abandoned and so came to an end the village of Free Hollow — and so comes to an end my chronicle. (12, p. 13)
This is the final chapter of the history of Free Hollow. Much of the material is taken from The Story of Free Hollow and from the two transcribed tapes Albert Force made for the Cornell University Oral History Program. Additional information from numerous other sources has been added, and the history of Forest Home has been updated and expanded to include all of the village.
© 1974 Liese Price Bronfenbrenner, reprinted with permission