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 Reminiscent. 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 SHERLOCKS, the ROONEYS, the MANNINGS, the MONAHANS, the CROKUMS and others 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 RETURN to PEOPLE MAIN RETURN to BROOKLYN MAIN