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Hearing about Roosevelt Hall’s storied history

Local historian, new exhibit share tales previously untold at SHS meeting

Mary Drescher, left, Petey Drescher and local historian Kihm Winship look at photographs of Roosevelt Hall from the early to mid 1900s during a recent SHS event. The Drescher family has owned the estate since 2007, turning it once again into a private home.

Mary Drescher, left, Petey Drescher and local historian Kihm Winship look at photographs of Roosevelt Hall from the early to mid 1900s during a recent SHS event. The Drescher family has owned the estate since 2007, turning it once again into a private home. Miranda L. Pennock

— When Kihm Winship was asked to give a presentation about Roosevelt Hall for the June 26 Skaneateles Historical Society meeting, he said he didn’t want to talk about the stuff in his book, “Skaneateles: The Character and Characters of a Lakeside Village.”

While putting together information for a forthcoming display on the famed residence nestled on East Lake Road, Winship came across many interesting facts — from who made the furniture to what happened to Eleanor Roosevelt’s sheep.

Originally, the plan was to have a program on 10 things people didn’t know about Roosevelt Hall, but as he continued his research, Winship said the number of interesting tidbits kept increasing. Instead of renumbering everything, he went with the title “Things you never knew about Roosevelt Hall” and shared pieces of the property’s intriguing history with a packed meeting room at the Creamery.

For instance, the furnishings at Roosevelt Hall, built in 1839-40 by Richard De Zeng, were made at Auburn prison. De Zeng spent $11,000 on furniture with Spencer Parsons of Skaneateles, who had a contract for the labor of 150 prisoners, Winship said.

The estate originally included 220 acres. However, in 1841, one year after the building was completed, De Zeng sold 108 acres for $9,000. In 1849, John Legg, for whom Legg Hall is named, purchased the estate for $10,000. He immediately sold all the furniture, Winship said.

In 1850, Legg sold the home and remaining 112 acres for $10,500 to Peter Whittlesey, who then sold another 100 acres for $7,000, keeping the house and 12 acres.

After eight previous owners and several years later, in 1899 S. Montgomery Roosevelt took ownership of what would later be known as Roosevelt Hall, but in 1903, just four years after buying and naming Roosevelt Hall, the manor nearly lost its namesake while he was sailing in Long Island Sound.

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