CALENDAR AND EVENTS
67 SOUTH RANDOLPH HISTORY
We are still researching the fascintating history of our lovely property, but here's some of what we know.
The oldest portion of the building likely dates to the mid-1800s. The original house appears to have had two major additions constructed, all prior to 1880, resulting in an elegant Victorian dwelling that predates any of the other houses in the immediate area, which was developed primarily during the 1920s and 1930s.
The first slide on this page is an advertisement from a local 1911 newspaper, offering "The Ferris Residence For Sale." The text reads:
This handsome country home is situated on Randolph Ave amid the most pleasant surroundings of Fairlawn Heights (formerly the Ferris Estate, Poughkeepsie's new and most attractive suburb. The large Rsidence is surrounded by 3 1/2 acres of lawn and garden equal in size to 15 large building lots, and with a frontage on Randolph Ave of 287 feet. Just outside the city limits and within convenient distance of the South Side car line. There are many attractions which cannot be appreciated without personal inspection.
This fine property is offered for $10,000, which is much less than actual value. An exceptional opportunity for some one.
In the 1920s, the house was home to Margaret Pollard Smith and her four children.
Margaret Adelaide Pollard was born in Keene, New Hampshire on November 23, 1878. She attended Vassar College and graduated in 1902, awarded on graduation with a scholarship for study in English and Latin. She taught at Putnam Hall School in Poughkeepsie (now demolished, but which was located in what became Bartlett Park on Hooker Avenue, not far from the Fellowship). Putnam Hall was sometimes described as Vasaar Preparatory School. She then became an instructor of English at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, from 1905 to 1907, beforing returning to teach English at Vassar from 1907 to 1909.
On July 24, 1909, in her hometown of Keene, she married an engineer, Eliot Nichols Smith, who worked in the Poughkeepsie area for the New York Board of Water Supply. In 1910, they were living at 51 South Clinton Street in Poughkeepsie and already had one daughter, named Prudence Pollard Smith (May 14, 1910). They had two more children while living in the Hudson Valley, David Nichols Smith (March 29, 1912), and, while living in Cornwall-on-Hudson, Lucy Freelove Smith (February 24, 1913). They relocated, in 1916, to Nutley, New Jersey, where Eliot served as the first Town Engineer. He resigned around 1919 and the family moved to Lisbon, New Hampshire, where he "engaged in the wood turning business."
Their fourth child, Harry James Smith, was born on June 10, 1918, and was named for Eliot's younger brother, a relatively famous playwright who died on March 16, 1918 following an accident while he was on a mission for the American Red Cross in Canada, conducting experiments with sphagnum, a moss used by army surgeons as a substitute for cotton, according to the New York Times obituary.
Eliot Smith died on February 17, 1921, leaving Margaret a widow with four young children. A summary of his life and career can be read in Volume 85 of Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers by clicking here. This summary describes Margaret as "a woman of unusual quality."
In the fall of 1921, Margaret returned to Vassar as an English instructor. From several different sources, we know that by 1922, she was living in the house at 67 South Randolph Avenue.
In a book about the life of Catherine Bauer, the famous "Houser" architect, authors H. Peter Oberlander and Eva Newbrun acknowledge that Margaret was a strong influence on Bauer. They tell the following story:
"Margaret Smith was a widow with four small children. She sat on civic and university committees, played chamber music on the piano, frequently entertained family and friends from afar, and still managed to maintain a close personal interest in her special students. One rainy afternoon Catherine and Lib Melone ran into Mrs. Smith in downtown Poughkeepsie; their teacher invited them back to her house for tea. Thereafter Catherine became a frequent visitor and often baby-sat the children. The Smiths lived on the south side of town in a rambling, colonial-style clapboard house surrounded by a large and lovely garden. It was Mrs. Smith who triggered Catherine's interest in architecture."
Pictured on this page is a bookplate commissioned by Margaret in 1927 from famed wood engraver Timothy Cole (1852-1931). He only began designing bookplates in 1903, and spent the last fifteen years of his life in Poughkeepsie, where he likely came to know Margaret well. The bookplate here shows the southern view of the house as it appeared before the Fellowship addition in 1966, with the winding drive, wrap-around porch and shutters still in place. The Fellowship has a copy of this bookplate, found when we first moved into the building in 1958. It is framed and hangs in the Administrator's office.
Margaret's daughter Lucy, named in honor of Eliot's mother, Lucy Freelove Nichols (Smith), was eight when the famly moved into the house on South Randoph Avenue. Lucy was an interesting woman in her own right, graduating from Smith College in 1934, studying at Columbia University in 1935, and obtaining a her Master's degree in Landscape Architecture from Smith College Graduate School in 1938.
Lucy worked at Towpath Gardens in West Hartford, Connecticut, and became Director of the Garden Center Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1939 (the Garden Center became the Cleveland Botanical Garden).
The announcement of Lucy's engagement to a fellow landscape architect, Brooks Wigginton, was published in the September 4, 1940 edition of the Poughkeepsie Eagle News. According to the paper, "The announcement was made by Mrs. Smith who is at her summer home in Keene." To read the announcement and see a picture of Lucy, click here.
On Saturday, February 8, 1941, at 3:30pm in the afternoon, Lucy married Brooks Wigginton. The ceremony and the reception were held at the house on South Randolph. According to the Poughkeepsie Eagle News, Lucy was given in marriage by her brother David, and wore her mother's wedding gown of ivory embroidered satin and rose point lace with a small cap of heirloom lace. She carried a loose sheaf of calla lilies and freesia.
Following the wedding, the newlyweds took "a wedding trip, by motor, through New England." After the trip, they returned to live and work at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, West Virginia.
Lucy had one child, a son also named Brooks Wigginton, on November 9, 1942. She died eleven days later, on November 20, from "pneumonia due to acute pulmonary edema," according to her death certificate. The personal information on the death certificate was provided by Margaret, who appears to have travelled to West Virginia to be with her daughter for the birth of her grandson. Sadly, she travelled back to her home state of New Hampshire with her daughter's body.
Margaret's grandson Brooks went on to become a high school English teacher who was directly responsible for the Foxfire project (for more information on Foxfire, click here).
It is not clear when Margaret stopped living in the house on South Randolph. However, we do know that she continued to teach at Vassar, being promoted from assistant professor of English to associate professor of English in 1938, and taking a leave of absence to study in 1946. By 1953, she had been named Assistant Professor of English Emeritus. There is some indication that she lived in Poughkeepsie until 1962.
Margaret died in Locust Valley, Nassau, NY, in May of 1972 at the age of 93, and was buried in West Cemetary in Keene, NH, on June 3, 1972. She left Vassar College a collection of bookplates (including the one pictured) from important artists that is now part of their permanent collection.
While a student at Vassar, Margaret wrote a poem published in the Vassar Miscellany Monthly that could easily have been written during her residency on South Randolph Avenue. Indeed, it is still an apt description of our grounds in winter.
Through Winter Woods
Gray mottled beech trunks locked in snow,
And a muffled stillness all around;
A stillness cut with the little smack
Of a tiny twig a-springing back
As a ball of snow with a breathy sound
Drops from the iced green pines bent low.
Pale yellow shafts on a snow blue-white
And a molten sun behind the hill;
And thickening shadows under the trees
And the sharp little sting of a sudden breeze,
As up from the crackled crusted rill
Comes the clean-cut breath of the winter's night.
During the 1940's, the house was home to Paul H. Lyle and his family. Mr. Lyle was an executive vice-president with Western Printing, a Wisconsin based printing company with a large facility in Poughkeepsie. Western published the famous "Little Golden" books and juvenile fiction, along with comic books and materials featuring Disney characters.
In 1958, the Unitarian Fellowship of Poughkeepsie, having reached a point where having its own place of worship had become highly desirable, purchased the property. Sunday morning meetings took place in the Assembly Room, now known as the Baldwin Assembly Room.
In 1963, a group of teachers and parents who shared a belief in children's innate desire and ability to learn approached the Fellowship and leased classroom space to start The Randolph Avenue School. Unfortunately, area residents complained to the City of Poughkeepsie that this was a zoning violation, and in December of 1964, the City Building Inspector issued a notice of violation to the Fellowship, ordering the use of the property as a school to cease. In his notice, the Building Inspector indicated that he had a petition signed by twelve neighboring property owners about the operation of the school. The Fellowship was forced to ask the school to relocate, or face legal action. The school did relocate to a beautiful five-acre property - also once a farmhouse - on Route 9D in Wappingers Falls, where it remains to this day, known as The Randolph School, thanks to its origins on Randolph Avenue.
By the mid-1960s, the Fellowship had outgrown Sunday morning meetings in the Assembly Room. Architect Paul Canin was hired to design an addition and in 1966, the work on the addition, which included an office where part of the wrap around porch had been, a new lobby, two new bathrooms, a new kitchen and a sanctuary, was complete. The Certificate of Compliance was issued on April 22, 1966. The stairs to the front entrance shown on the bookplate still exist, as the stairs from the Main Lobby to the Upper Lobby.