I’m going to tell you the story of a little cottage that used to sit on the shores of Lake Myosotis in Rensselaerville, N.Y.
In the late 1800s, my great-great grandfather, Francis Conkling Huyck wanted a view from his house on Main Street. The only problem was that Dr. Hyde’s cottage across the street was in the way. So F.C. Huyck did what any gentleman would do. He bought Dr. Hyde’s house, took it down, and moved it to the shores of Lake Myosotis. His family called it Beech Knoll cottage and used it for camping and picnics.
Mrs. Huyck, Sr., loved to go to Beech Knoll cottage and play the piano for her children. They’d have dances up there, too. After her husband died, she loaned the house to the Moldenhowers for several summers. Dr. Moldenhower preached in the Presbyterian Church in town.
Mrs. Huyck’s daughter Emily Niles Huyck loved the cottage, too. After she married David Moffat Myers, the young couple spent their first summer together in Beech Knoll cottage. Emily became pregnant soon after the wedding but sadly she died in childbirth. Mrs. Huyck was so distraught that she wouldn’t let anyone use the cottage for several years.
My great grandmother Laura Talmage Huyck and her husband, Frank, spent three summers at Beech Knoll before they built Stonecrop in 1901. One day Laura found picnickers on the porch and told them that this was a private residence. “Oh that’s all right,” said one of the women picnickers. “We don’t mind.”
Their daughter, Katharine (my grandmother—Katharine Huyck Elmore) and her friends used to picnic at the cottage. Katharine remembers that a 6’4” man would sleep stretched out on the porch. When he awoke, he’d stand up, stretch, and crow like a rooster. She thinks she was 10 years old when this happened.
The Waldron family enjoyed the cottage for 16 summers. I’ll write about them in a future blog.
In 1931, Lake Myosotis and the 500 surrounding acres, became the Edmund Niles Huyck Preserve. At the time the Preserve was founded, there were several cottages on the lake. There was also a swimming area and boathouse for the summer people (they were mostly Huyck family members and their friends); a swimming area for the local community; and a campground where people from the Huyck Mills in Albany would come to spend the summer.
I did a little digging through the Board minutes and discovered several entries about the Beech Knoll cottage.
July 7, 1939: The boathouse at Beech Knoll was so nearly gone last fall that we decided to tear down the building. It has enhanced the shoreline—trees have been planted to fill in the whole space occupied by the boathouse, and garages for cars have been constructed in the woods by Beech Knoll to accommodate tenants there.
July 6, 1945: Dr. John Sayles, president of the New York State College for Teachers, showed interest in the possibility of using some of the Preserve facilities in connection with their courses of instruction. He wanted to establish a field station for postgraduate teaching in biology. It would also serve as a headquarters for undergraduate field trips and study. In a letter to Mr. Eldridge, he suggested leaving the cottage pretty much as is and he mentioned an ice house, which stands behind the cottage. He thought it could be furnished with a floor, windows, and a suitable entrance, and be used as a laboratory and equipment storeroom.
August 24, 1945: The Board approved the use of Beech Knoll cottage by the Biology Department of New York State College for Teachers in Albany, N.Y., for a period of two years from September 1, 1945, at $200 per annum. The Board also specified that any publicity in regard to this arrangement shall be subject to mutual review.
August 18, 1947: The State College for Teachers has found it impossible for their Biology Department to make full use of the facilities at Beech Knoll cottage and they feel it wisest to drop any hope of a biological field station for the college. A petition postmarked July 31, 1947, signed by 20 or so of the summer residents, mostly of the younger group, requested that Beech Knoll Cottage be established as an additional facility for swimming and as a recreation center. The Board offered to study the possibility.
August 20, 1948: The main supporting beams of the house have fallen away. The Board voted that Beech Knoll was unlivable for any family and would not be made available for family living again at any time. Mr. Francis H. Eldridge (Board vice president) is in favor of tearing it down. [Eldridge died in 1949]
June 29, 1952: The Board agrees to have Beech Knoll cottage torn down. Whoever does it would get to keep the lumber.
July 7, 1953: The demolition of Beech Knoll cottage arranged for last autumn with Kenneth Bryan was never carried out. Bryan said he owned no property and therefore had no place to store the lumber.
August 7, 1953: The people at the campground on Lake Myosotis asked the Board if they could take the garage at Beech Knoll for a recreation hall for children on rainy days. The Board did not approve the request because the Preserve’s objective was to have fewer buildings at the campground. The flagstones had been removed from Beech Knoll to repair the sidewalk on the corner plot of Main Street in the village.
August 5, 1954: Beech Knoll cottage had been completely demolished and cleared and the site of cottage would soon become a natural part of the wild side of Lake Myosotis.