One of University Settlement's most important gifts in its earliest days was the donation of approximately 100 acres of bucolic property at the foot of Mount Beacon, 60 miles up the Hudson River from our home on the Lower East Side. It was 1910, and the Settlement quickly established its renowned residential camp facility there, a haven for generations of New York City children, where thousands fled urban life and experienced nature for the first time. Part of the camp's philosophy was to spread a message of hope, tolerance and community building.
Brush up on your University Settlement trivia with this interesting read on the history of the land that was donated to us for the Beacon Summer Camp!
Dateline: Wolcott Avenue parcel was first settled in 1700s
Clearwater property was once summer camp for disadvantaged NYC kids
By: Anthony P. Musso
For the Poughkeepsie Journal
November 28, 2012
BEACON — While the Clearwater Foundation now occupies the main structure of a former camp that hosted disadvantaged youths, the initial development of the property dates to the late 1700s.
Through the years, the parcel at 724 Wolcott Ave. (Route 9D) was home to a Revolutionary War lieutenant, a Civil War general and a renowned abolitionist preacher.
For 90 years it was the University Settlement Camp, a New York City-based organization established in 1886 to assist children of immigrants in lower Manhattan.
Daniel Annan, a Continental Army lieutenant during the Revolutionary War, was the first to settle on the site. When the war ended, Annan established a farm and built a home on the property.
His son, a surgeon during the War of 1812, also lived at the home and is credited with naming it White House.
"Daniel Annan bought the property from Madam Brett's heirs," said Bob Murphy, president of the Beacon Historical Society. "The large parcel spanned both sides of Route 9D down to the creek."
In 1857, Henry Ward Beecher, an abolitionist preacher from Brooklyn, purchased the property as a summer home.
He enlarged the structure and renamed it Mountain Rest. Beecher is famous for having delivered a fiery sermon against slavery in 1861 at the city's Dutch Reformed Church.
Politician, philanthropist and Civil War general Joseph Howland acquired the property in 1859. He built an ornate mansion named Tioronda on the west side of Route 9D.
Howland died in France in 1886 and his grief-stricken wife, Eliza, never returned to Tioronda.
In 1911 she donated the 250-acre estate to University Settlement.
Establishing a summer camp there, the organization originally housed children in the Howland mansion.
Simultaneously, the New York Women's League for Animals contracted with University Settlement to use the Mountain Rest portion of the property to house horses from New York City that were too old or sick to work any longer. They were transported to Beacon by the Central Hudson Steamboat Co.
In 1915, finding it difficult to maintain the expansive property, University Settlement sold the land west of Route 9D to doctors Clarence Slocum and Robert Lamb, who opened Craig House, a psychiatric hospital, in the Howland mansion.
The horse farm closed and the summer camp was relocated to the White House and its 89 acres.
Charles Stover, who helped found University Settlement, lived on the property, oversaw the camp and built its large pool in 1927.
Additional cabins were added to accommodate the camp's 700 summer guests, among them future composers Ira and George Gershwin and New York City Mayor Abraham Beame.
In 2008, University Settlement sold the camp to New York state, with the City of Beacon managing it as a park.
The following year the Clearwater Foundation moved its operation into the White House.
"The property is a state park and open to the public dawn to dusk," Beacon Councilman Justin Riccobono said. "It has great hiking trails and we've installed a Frisbee disc golf course."