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History of Wayne, New York[edit]

The region was first settled around 1791 by Abraham Hendricks, and it was organized as the "Town of Frederickstown" on 18 May 1796, when the County of Steuben was formed from a part of the larger Ontario county. Early settlers include Ephriam Sanford, Anthony Swarthout, Jabez Hopkins, and Joseph Bailey.

Postcard view of the Keuka Hotel, around 1920.

The town changed its name to "Wayne" on April 6 1808 in honor of the Revolutionary War hero, General Anthony Wayne, and included what is now the smaller hamlet of Wayne, NY. Afterwards, the town was substantially reduced in size by the formation of other towns, including Reading (1806), Orange (1813) and Barrington, and Tyrone (1822). In 1854, the size of the township was again reduced by moving a parcel of land to the town of Tyrone, which included a large portion of the hamlet of Wayne. Also, a former hamlet in the township, further south, was known as "Wayne Four Corners".

Famous natives and locations in Wayne[edit]

Wayne native Jonathan Goble is said to have invented the rickshaw in 1859. He was a Baptist missionary who travelled with Commodore Matthew Perry's squadron which opened Japan to western trade, and was inspired to invent the device in order to transport his invalid wife around the streets of Tokyo.

A famous landmark in the township was the Keuka Hotel, built in 1895 on the shores of Lake Keuka. Hoagy Carmichael was the pianist and vocalist at the hotel for two seasons and local legend has it that his hit "stardust" was written while at the Keuka hotel.

Francis M. McDowell, one of the seven founders of the National Grange and its treasurer for 21 years was born in Wayne, NY. In the 1860s, he returned to Wayne to grow grapes on the shores of Lake Keuka. He was also involved with his brother-in-law Samuel Hallett, in several enterprises. Samuel Hallett is known for building the largest home in Wayne, known as the "Aisle of Pines". It was a 20-column mansion, built in 1854, but it burned to the ground in 1974.

The Aisle of Pines[edit]

The "Aisle of Pines" from which the Hallett estate takes its name
The Hallett House (Aisle of Pines) in the late 1800s

Until 1973 a magnificent house stood on a knoll between Keuka and Waneta Lakes just south of the hamlet of Wayne. Surrounded on three sides by columns with Doric capitals, the three-story building was a prominent landmark.

For the last sixty years of its existence this showplace was called “The Aisle of Pines,” but its first owner, Samual Hallett, referred to the house as “the Lake Home.” Local people called it “the Hallett Mansion” or simply “the Big House.”

The house was built in 1854 for Hallett by John Quick and Jesse H. Foster. Who actually conceived the design is not known. Quick was a carpenter who had a shop in Hammondsport and built houses there.

The elegant house stood for nearly 120 years as a monument to Sam Hallett’s ambitions, and as a testimony to the designer’s architectural taste as well as to Foster and Quick’s solid construction.

The original cost is not known. When it was moved and remodelled in 1912 and 1913 the Hammondsport Herald reported that around $30,000 was being expended on the place. In later years it passed through a number of hands and completely exhausted the resources of at least one temporary owner. The house went through periods of glory and longer periods of neglect. When it burned March 12, 1973, the monument to the fame and legend of its originator and his family was gone.

Samuel Hallett was born into a large family in Canisteo in 1827. He must have been a young man with great ambition and confidence and full of the enterprising drive of the frontier people.

At Alfred University he met Ann Elizabeth McDowell from Wayne, New York. They were married in 1848, when he had graduated from the Albany State Normal School. Some reports say that they taught school for several years. He also clerked for John B. Mitchell, Ann Eliza’s uncle, who ran a store in Wayne.

John Mitchell had other business interests, and young Sam became his confidential secretary acquiring business acumen from his employer.

In 1851 with his wife’s brother, Francis Marion McDowell, he got into the lumbering business in the Canisteo valley around Adrian. They prospered. The next year they set up a bank in Hornellsville and soon a branch in Bath. He even visited Europe at this time to promote the Hocking Valley Railroad. Sam Hallett must have been a person with great persuasive ability to convince people of the soundness, or at least the profitability, of new ventures.

He paused in 1854 when he was only 29 years old and had built for his family a plantation-size summer home at Wayne. Hallett’s new construction was added to an already existing house. The property there had been owned by John B. Mitchell as early, maybe, as 1815.

Samuel Hallett

This handsome new house became the symbol of Hallett’s rapid success. In addition to his impressive house, Hallett had great ideas for Wayne including a girl’s seminary and a railroad. Wayne had been his wife’s home and the place where he began his business career.

In 1856 Hallett’s aspirations led him to run for Congress. He lost this race. Never daunted, the next year, in 1857, he opened a bank in New York City. Samuel Hallett and Company had their offices at No. 53, Beaver Street, NYC. With him were his wife’s brothers Frank M. and George W. McDowell and his wife’s sister’s husband, Nirom M. Crane.

Hallett, the salesman, then went back to Europe selling stocks and bonds for the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad, and promoting the Nautilus Diving Bell. Europeans as well as Americans were caught up in the great speculative enthusiasms.

These were years of great living and entertaining and travelling for the Hallett family. They had a brownstone residence in Brooklyn and this imposing estate at Wayne for their summers where they entertained politicians, financial tycoons, deposed French royalty, and literary celebrities.

In 1863 Hallett’s firm, in association with John C. Fremont, bought the controlling interest in the Leavenworth, Pawnee and Western railroad. This line became the eastern division of the Union Pacific. They soon ran short of money and Hallett went before Congress to get additional funds for the road. Fremont withdrew but Hallett took over and continued construction of the Kansas link of the railroad to the Pacific. Suddenly, on July 27, 1864, Hallett’s phenomenal success ended, when, as the story goes, he was shot down in the street outside his hotel in Wyandotte (now Kansas City), Kansas. Sam Hallett was only 37 years old.

His young widow came to live the year ’round in the summer mansion at Wayne, her home town. The place went into slow decline. Timber and property was sold off and eventually the tenanted farm could barely pay the taxes. Mrs. Hallett secluded herself in the house and lived on until 1893. During the last years of her life her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Robert Leslie Hallett, with three children, lived in the Hallett mansion with her. One of these grandchildren, Margaret Hallett Lang, wrote of her happy childhood there and described the house and its furnishings in a long letter to Lola Austin Morse in 1951.

A Monument to Samuel Hallett, erected near the manor house

After Mrs. Hallett’s death the house was vacant until George K. Birge leased it for twelve years in 1912. The Halletts were unable or unwilling to maintain the house, yet they would not sell nor lease the place for a longer period of time.

Birge was the president of the Pierce Arrow Motor Car Company in Buffalo. His father had started the first wallpaper company west of New York City, M. H. Birge and Sons, and had succeeded. George expanded the wallpaper company and went from making bicycles to manufacturing fine automobiles.

George K. Birge married Carrie Humphrey, daughter of Judge Guy Humphrey of Bath. When Birge saw the Hallett place, he approached Samual Irving Hallett of Denver to buy the property. All Birge could get was a 12-year lease with a written agreement to renew the lease.

In 1912 Birge began extensive improvements to the whole place, first moving and rotating the house to a new position midway in a long double row of Norway Spruce that had been planted years before as a windbreak. The house was now situated so that the front side faced toward Lake Keuka and the dining room side looked toward Lake Waneta. There were vistas up and down the aisle of pine trees. At this time the place acquired the name it is most often remembered by, “The Aisle of Pines.”

Birge carried out landscaping changes, as well, and added buildings, replacing stables that the Halletts had, with garages and accommodations for chauffeurs. He rebuilt gardens, added fountains, and a swimming pool. The Halletts had had a race course; Birge contemplated a golf course.

In February, 1918, George Birge died. His widow never returned to “The Aisle of Pines.” The lease expired October 12, 1923. The Birge family attempted again to buy or re-lease the property but Samuel Irving Hallett’s widow refused. The Birge family sold the adjoining 300 acres they had purchased to Clay Turner who had been a manager of the estate.

The Hallett property was later deeded to New York State with the understanding that it be used for a public institution. The Hallett heirs did give $12,000 for its upkeep. Samuel Irving had made a fortune in mining in Colorado, and his widow left an estate of $700,000 when she died at 86 in 1933.

The state did not use the property and it returned to private ownership, going through numerous hands and absorbing more money in fruitless attempts at its restoration. The fire that burned the house in 1973 consumed the beautiful structure and ended the monument to ostentation.

The Grove Springs Hotel[edit]

The Grove Springs Hotel in the late 1800s

In the era that began shortly after the Civil War and lasted through the first decade of this century, when vacationing at resort hotels was fashionable, people came from New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington to stay at the Grove Springs Hotel on Lake Keuka. The advertising brochures distributed by the hotel listed travel connections not only from the large eastern cities but from Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Louisville, Nashville, and Memphis. The train schedules showed times of departure from these cities and arrival at Grove Springs.

A family looking for relief from sweltering summer city heat could leave New York or Philadelphia, or even Washington and Baltimore in the morning and that very evening stroll the verandahs of the Grove Springs before retiring to sleep in cool comfort that night. Southern readers of the hotel's advertising folder might have been attracted by the statement of "absolute freedom from mosquitos and malaria" at Lake Keuka and its vicinity.

Just getting to Grove Springs was a pleasant excursion. Those who came from the east could ride one of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western trains or the New York Lake Erie and Western's Erie Line to Bath. Those who came from Philadelphia and south could come on either the Lehigh Valley or the Pennsylvania Railroad. People leaving these cities in the evening would arrive at Bath in the morning where they would transfer to the tiny cars of the Bath Hammondsport Railroad. The "yard wide" railway ran through Pleasant Valley to the station at Hammondsport which was only a few steps from the dock where the lake steamers waited to take guests to the Grove Springs Hotel. A half hour's ride brought the vacationers to the hotel's large dock six miles up the east side of the lake. Actually from the moment hotel bound travellers boarded a car in Bath they were guests of the Grove Springs. The railroad, the boats that met excursioners and carried them to the hotel, and the resort hotel itself were all owned by the Lake Keuka Navigation Company. This was true during the nineties at the time of the greatest popularity of the Grove Springs.

The name of the hotel came from the mineral water springs that sprang from the rocks along the creek coming down from higher ground. The water had brought down soil that built a promontory into the lake. A grove of larger trees grew in the fertile sediment of the stream's delta. Wild animals had come there to lick at the salty encrustations on the rocks around the springs, and the Indians had frequented the spot as a hunting ground.

The stream that came down the little gorge came to be called Grove Springs Creek. Along it was a roadway that came down from the road above that ran between Wayne and Hammondsport. Getting to Grove Springs was much easier by water. Lake boats connected it to all the points on the lake and principally to Hammondsport and Penn Yan.

Guests who came from southern and western cities travelled to Buffalo by train and from there either to Bath or Penn Yan. A carriage or an omnibus transferred travellers in Penn Yan from the railway station to the boat docks. The lake trip took ninety minutes to go the sixteen miles to the hotel from Penn Yan. The boat ride must have been relaxing after a long rail journey, and a pleasant introduction to a week or two at the Grove Springs. Located near the center of the lake, the hotel was a hub for excursions on the lake, visits to vineyards, and hikes to see the beautiful vistas from the bluff. The hotel had two steamboats, the George Darling and the Rob Roy that took guests on lake excursions.

At one time the fare on the regular boats was only 10¢ from Penn Yan to Hammondsport or anywhere on the lake. Competition had forced the fares down to this level. The low fares had greatly increased the boat travel, the enjoyment of the lake by vacationers, and hence the popularity of the resorts on Lake Keuka.

Lake Keuka was also a celebrated fishing place that attracted many sport and amateur fishermen. Seth Green, who was then a U. S. Fish Commissioner, wrote a testimonial that was printed in the hotel's advertising, saying, "I think Lake Keuka (is) unsurpassed by any waters in America as a Fishing Resort." He went on to relate that he took with hook and lines on August 28, 19 Salmon Trout, weighing 113 pounds and on October 1, 1881, 33 black bass weighing 106 pounds.

The lake was seldom too rough to go out in one of the rowboats provided by the hotel either for fishing or rowing. And rarely was the lake too calm during the day for sailing. If a guest didn't care to be out on the lake, the hotel had other attractions. There were tennis and croquet courts, 500 feet of verandahs where guests might lounge on the porch chairs and watch the fashionable people promenade. There was even a billiard hall.

One of the features of the hotel was the "Gratuitous use of the Sulphur Waters" in the hot and cold medicinal baths. The original builders had intended to develop the mineral water springs for drinking and bathing but never did so fully. In 1881 the hotel had a large separate bath house. There were entertainments for many different tastes and for all the members of a family.

The advertisements said that the hotel was supplied with "gas, bath-room, electric bells, and all those improvements which are considered essential in a modern and first-class summer hotel. The table is kept supplied with fresh vegetables from the well-kept kitchen garden connected with the house, and the hotel dairy yields an abundance of good milk, cream and butter. Pure water is distributed through the house and grounds.