WOOLSEY Mansion - Destroyed by Fire Early This Tuesday Morning.
25 July 1898
Daily Star (Greenpont)

One of the Oldest and Finest Landmarks in This Section of Long Island.
The old house on the Shore road universally known as the WOOLSEY mansion was
destroyed by fire early this Tuesday morning.  The fire was discovered by F.
T. HALLETT, who was out on his bicycle.  He rode to the burning building and
smashed some of the windows to arouse the inmates, if there should be any,
and then sent in an alarm.
The blaze had made great headway when the engines arrived.  Astoria Engine
No. 62 was the first to reach the scene and was stationed at the corner of
Hoyt avenue from where 1,500 feet of hose were laid to the burning building.
Engine No. 63 from Steinway went down to the water¹s edge for the purpose of
pumping water from the East River.  In spite of the efforts of the firemen
the building was soon all ablaze and they could do little except allow the
fire to burn out.  The tide came in and the engine down at the river¹s edge
had to be moved.  It was dragged up to the street by means of horses with
the assistance of men and boys who took hold of the ropes.
The house was a total loss.

There are various reports as to the contents of the house.  There was one
report that it contained valuable pianos, paintings and other furnishings.
Some of the spectators looked through the windows at one end of the burning
building when they first arrived on the ground and said there was nothing in
those two rooms.  From this it seems probable that the furnishings had been removed.
Mrs. Kate T. WOOLSEY who, after the death of the late Edward J. WOOLSEY, her
husband, lived in the house until a few months ago, is now spending the
summer season at Center Moriches.

The cause of the fire is unknown.  There was some talk that it was of
incendiary origin and the purpose of covering up a robbery, but the police
take little stock in such rumors.  It is doubtful if the house contained
anything worth carrying away at the time of the fire.  The police estimate
the loss is $25,000, and they say it was covered by insurance.  This
estimate is a very liberal one.

The old WOOLSEY house was one of the landmarks of Astoria.  It was erected
about 1726, over 170 years ago, and had been in the possession of the
WOOLSEY family for several generations.  The cut herewith presented is from
the "History of Long Island City," published last year, and is a very good
picture of the historical old structure.

30 July 1898 ­ WOOLSEY Manor and Astoria History
Former Splendors of WOOLSEY Manor House.
The burning of the WOOLSEY manor house out on the Shore road has aroused
much discussion of course among the old residents of Astoria, and one after
another they have much to tell of the times when the manor house was kept up
in state, as were other mansions of the neighborhood, the homes of the
BARCLAYS, the POLHEMUSES, the POTTERS, HOYTS and others.  It appears that a
man named POTTER was the keeper of the old manor house when it  was burned
down this week.  Attention is called to the burning of the WOOLSEY house at
the Casina farm a number of years ago, when Edward J. WOOLSEY lived there.
And later on his great barns out that way were burned.  Great changes have
come since those old families now remain hereabouts.  Henry BARCLAY is
living somewhere in New York.  From this old family came the name of Barclay
street.  Mr. BARCLAY kept blooded horses at his place on the Shore road, and
also out at his race course and farm at Train¹s Meadow.  Great pride was
taken in keeping the Shore road in splendid condition, and every year there
arrived boatloads of blue stone, which was used to keep the sea wall in good
condition.  Mr. and Mrs. BURDOCK at one time had charge of the manor and
grounds and resided in the gate house.  Then Mr. DUNCAN had full charge of
the place, and lived in a handsome cottage  on the place, and he kept the
greenhouses in splendid condition.  The mansion house was kept up quite like
a baronial hall, and there were troops of servants; and in the house was a
great collection of bric-a-brac and curios gathered from Europe and all
quarters of the globe.  There were paintings that were valued at $10,000 a
piece.  Probably the paintings alone were worth $40,000 say some old
residents.  Then a quarter mile beyond the manor house was a lake from which
tons of ice were gathered, and out on the Casina farm was another lake, both
gone now.  Edwin HOYT lived in the big manor house.  He is dead and gone,
and is said to have laid out $40,000 in the improvement of the house. Mr.
FISK, of Fisk & Clark, lived there, and now Dr. KINDRED has his sanitarium
there.  The POTTER mansion, north of the WOOLSEY manor house, was burned
down one night twenty years ago.  A man named HINCHY had charge of the
POTTER mansion then and he is now dead.  The first change in the appearance
of the region came with the cutting down of the Woolsey Woods and the
building of houses there.  Many who were in the employ of the WOOLSEY family
bought land of them and built in the region north of William street and St.
John¹s place from Willow street to Van Alst avenue which was at one time
called Emerald street.  And the greater number of those residents are now
buried in the old graveyard of Mount Carmel Church, which stood on Van Alst
avenue between St. John¹s place and North Washington place.  There the Rev.
Father PHELAN preached for years, and now the church is deserted and is
crumbling to pieces.  Families out on the Shore road had troops of
retainers, and every morning carriages and coaches rolled to the foot of
Main street where the owners took the boat for Peck Slip, and in the
afternoon, along toward night, the carriages and coaches were at the boat
ready to take the owners home again.  The Montana was the name of the first
steamboat to run from Main street, Astoria, to Peck Slip.  There was lavish
hospitality, and a certain state in the social customs to which Astoria is
now well nigh a stranger.  Fires appear to have been frequent in the region,
and usually the building was burned because there were no nearby facilities
for the extinguishment of fires.  The old HALLETT homestead was burned in
1861, and then another house was put up by Stephen HALLETT.  For years the
homestead was utilized as a school house, and now it is a tenement.  On this
old HALLETT farm of twenty acres are now probably 200 dwellings representing
an aggregate valuation of half a million dollars.  Then the old-timers, to
whom the burning of the WOOLSEY Manor house has a significance, greater no
doubt than to new ­comers, remember the stone wall, loaded in season with
immense quantities of the finest of blackberries ever seen.  And the stone
wall ran from Hoyt avenue to Main street, to Flushing avenue to the
Crescent, and thence back to Hoyt avenue.  In fact the old ­timers have much
to say this week about long ago, and the reminiscences are all of them
pleasant, in regard to the families that lived in such handsome style one
after another out on the Shore road, with others, on the shore of the East
river, down Ravenswood way.  There was never any other people like those in
the opinion of certain of the old-timers, and even the dock, 100 feet long,
is dwelt on, that jutted out into the river in front of the WOOLSEY manor
house, and now the dock is gone, like much else and the old-timer walks out
on the Shore road on a bright summer Sunday afternoon and thinks that there
never was any such good times as the old times.  "Fruit!" said one of them.
"You could get all the fruit you wanted for the asking if a boy was seen
skipping over a stone wall.  Everybody was sociable and good-natured like,
and there was no squeezing of a half dollar to make it do double duty, if
possible.  Men who went to work for a day or so in one oft the mansions were
set down at noontime to elegant lunches and the end of a week¹s work would
often culminate in a parting good by handshake and a $5 gold piece left in
the workman¹s hand, not for the boss, but as a present intended as
appreciation of a man who had done good work.  Where, "said one of them on
Wednesday afternoon in a desultory talk that had the WOOLSEY manor house for
a starting point, "where now are the CARROLS, the KELLYS, the BARNESES, the
whom I used to know all living out that way?  Dead, buried and forgotten
well nigh, many of them.  John MANNING is living with his son-in-law,
Captain CORRIGAN at North Beach.  Captain CORRIGAN was at one time the
manage out at North Beach.  John MONAHAN is moved away, and there was Mr.
CROKUM, the father-in-law of the celebrated LEECH, the florist.  I remember
the MICHELLS well, the father of the late Sheriff and the Rev. Father
MITCHELL," and so the old-timer talked on and drew charming pictures of the
mind of the period gone by, when there was state at the WOOLSEY manor house,
as became its name, and the father of Edward J. WOOLSEY lived there and the
carriages and coaches rolled to the steamboat dock in the morning and back
again at night, carrying their freight of business magnates and professional
men who were powerful in the great city, misty and dim as seen from Astoria
far down the East river, for the imperial Manhattan did not always sweep up
this way so far, and for a long time, the houses across the water did not
look much grander than the village houses of Astoria.

Transcriber: Mimi Stevens