Ponder this:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I have been thinking recently and at odd moments of this building.  
When I was in my mid-twenties, I worked for an insurance company, fixing discrepancies between what the agents paid and what they should have paid. This building was owned by, and housed, an agency with whose monthly statements I spent a lot of time. One day my boss and I took a trip down Route 9 to meet with the agent.

 Payne Horse Barn designed by Julian Burroughs

All I really remembered of its history was that Eleanor Roosevelt had had something to do with it as a school for boys.  Ms. McCord, the Esopus Town Clerk, kindly and speedily responded to my inquiry with fascinating historical information.
She wrote:
"The building which you refer to was part of the Colonel Oliver Hazard Payne Estate and was used to house the horses and chickens for the Colonel’s estate.  The estate overlooks the Hudson River and consisted of 400 acres.  I did research your reference to [the insurance agency you mentioned] and they did own the building on the south side of Rt. 9W in the 70’s and lost to foreclosure in 1976.  This building is now for sale.
The main building on the estate overlooking the Hudson housed a school in 1937 under the Mission as a shelter for neglected Black Protestant boys, eight to twelve years of age, for whom there were no programs other than the State Training Schools.  Twenty such boys [were] sent here to an experimental camp and the response was great so it was decided to operate an all-year school at West Park for such children.  The name chosen for the school was Wiltwyck, the old Dutch name of Kingston. 
Early in the history of the school the Agency helped to secure local legislation to end discrimination against Black children and then opened its doors to children without regard to race, color, or religion.  Floyd Patterson, the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion in 1960-1962, had been at this school; so the building in the city used by the school as a half-way house for boys returning to New York from West Park has been named for him.
 In May, 1942, the Wiltwyck School for Boys was incorporated with the approval of the State Dept. of Social Welfare.  As reorganized, it was administered by an interracial and nonsectarian Board of Directors.  In 1953 the school began to care exclusively for emotionally disturbed children and the program was now reorganized to provide individual case work and direct therapy where needed.  But the location of Wilwyck, eighty miles from New York City, added to the difficulty of recruiting and holding properly qualified staff so a search was begun for a new location.  In 1962 the school site transferred to Yorktown Heights.  The new campus was named for Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who took an active part in the leadership of the School after its reorganization in 1942 and served as Campaign Chairman of a Building and Development fund for the new campus. 
This information is available in a book called the Town of Esopus Story and can be obtained from the Klyne Esopus Museum, P O Box 751, Port Ewen, New York 12466."

This, below, is the ceiling of the part of the building with the clock tower.  
It's the original riding arena, and it was where the Wiltwyck boys played games that needed lots of room.  
Our host and tour guide told us that the basketball hoops had still been in place when he'd bought the building.Photo of 1398 Route 9w

The realtor's blurb: "...create a dream estate..."  That insurance agent had a Dream. His insurance office was in the building (as was his and his wife's apartment, where the oval window is) and he had a vision of filling the whole place with shops and studios. It would be a huge quaintly styled shopping mall.  In the mid-1970s, giant buildings filled with stores were a novel concept. His thinking was ahead of his time, and the dream didn't turn into reality. By the time we visited the place, the bankruptcy process had already begun: my inches-thick file was useless.  The company would get a piece of whatever there was to be had, whether or not it balanced the account.

It is as close as I have come to being in one of the castles that so enchant me. It was only built in the last quarter of the 19th century, but to me it felt much older, its stone walls so thick, the windows so deep-set, the proportions so huge. It even had a kind of portcullis. While we walked through the building, our agent/host pointing out where he had planned to have this and that merchant or artist, I wanted to let the others go on ahead.  I wanted to hang behind and wander around and smell the stone and the dust and dream of what it would have been like long before.

As we were preparing to leave, my boss said to the agent, "Well, Phil . . . at least you had The Dream for a while.  And that's something a lot of people never have."

The building surely was one to inspire Dreams.  It must be, still, although I have seen it only once since 1976. Twenty-some years later, Husband and I were in Esopus as wedding guests and I made him drive back and forth on Route 9 until I spied, down the hill from the road, a corner of the roof. The driveway was chained closed. I was on fire to get out of the car and unhook the chain so Husband could see the place (...so I could see it again), but I didn't do it.
The building still grabs my imagination. I can still feel it. If I won the lottery I might take up residence there. And I would keep the chain across the driveway.


Miss Kim said...

Woaaah! Now that is a beautiful dream :)))

Mac n' Janet said...

If one but had the money!

Jayne said...

Gorgeous structure. Certain buildings to this to me too!

Lord Wellbourne said...

It boggles my mind to think what I could/would do with a place like that.....stone.....deep-set windows and a riding arena large enough for a small circus or carnival or perhaps even theatricals.....boggle-boggle

Rosanne said...

What a lovely building! Seeing it starts my imagination running.
There is a place near where I used to live long ago, that someone had a similar idea. He developed a lovely old barn into shops and a restaurant. I went there once...it was great...lots of quirky little shops.

Barb said...

Hard to imagine it as a barn that actually housed animals! So grand. (Did you hear the muffled shouts of Protestant Black Boys (neglected) when you visited, June?) I hope that you would remove the chain if we all came to visit you.

morningbrayfarm said...

It IS enchanting. It has character. I love it.

June said...

Shall we start a pot to buy the place and have a bloggers' retreat? :-P

#1Nana said...

...but first you have to actually buy the lottery ticket. I always forget to do that!

It's a beautiful building, but if I won the lottery I think I'd look for my castle on a tropical island!

Tracy said...

What a lovely building and goodness, I'd certainly love to buy an old building to restore to its original state...

Pauline said...

That pull of place - it can be very strong, can't it? And the lure of castles equally os. I hope you win that lottery!

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Awe Shucks... Sorry it was chained... I want to know what it is used for now... What an incredible building. That would definitely be a 'dream' mansion for me... ha

You asked how we find waterfalls. WELL-we have lot of waterfall books people have written (usually by state or by area). They give great directions to the falls. AND--we use the internet which also has some great information as to where to find waterfalls.. It's alot of fun.

Carolynn Anctil said...

It's too bad the Dream didn't become a reality. It would have made for a wonderfully unique public space, although I do find it a bit dark and forbidding.

Joe Todd said...

Wow what a neat post. As you know I really like places like that and the history.. Thanks

John-Anthony said...

Im trying to buy it now. I too fell in love

June said...

If you do buy it, please please let me know!

Willow Baya said...

Hello...I visited this place yesterday. I've been driving past it for years and never once thought to stop and look. But with everything closed downs not much to do, I figured I'd check it out. I thought I wouldn't be able to get down there by car, but there were no problems.
I felt just as you did...it seemed.like something from Europe, not USA.
Like an old forgotten castle in the woods. Or a Monastery since it appears to have crosses around many windows and other areas in the stone.
I've been researching it a bit since going there. I didn't have a flashlight so wasnt able to go inside. I walked through any hallway that was lit then around the grounds and took photos.
The place is unimaginably beautiful.
The fact that it is sitting there falling apart is a bit painful. It did however give me the opportunity to walk around and imagine it as it had been long ago.
I didnt realize it had been a school for boys. I'm curious about the time period where it was donated to a Monastic order.
Still looking in to that.
Anyhow, thought I'd let you know that I saw it just yesterday and it still stands...I doubt it will come apart very easily...the stonework is like nothing I've ever seen. Unfortunately many of the windows have been busted out. Surprisingly less graffiti than I would 3xpect for an abandoned building! If you came for a look now you might have an easier time going down for a look.
Thank you for this little tidbit of information!
Hope you and loved ones are staying safe from the Covid.


P.S. I took photos if you're interested I can email them..let me know!