The Putnam Lake Community of Patterson


Putnam County had long been a popular summer destination for New York City residents looking to beat the stifling heat. Lake Mahopac was a popular tourist destination as early as the 19th century, and was served by a special branch of the New York Central's Harlem Division as well as by the New York Central's Putnam Division. With the coming of the automobile and the building of paved roads in the 20th century, Putnam County was becoming even more convenient to outsiders.

According to the 1867 Beers map, the area now known as Putnam Lake was sparsely populated, except for a hamlet known as Valleyville. The lake itself was created by damming a small branch of the Croton River, which flooded Valleyville.

Construction Begins

The map of Putnam County changed dramatically in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The County was still mostly rural and mostly dairy farms. But the post World War I economy and the coming depression would begin the transition of Putnam away from farming. Failing farms and other large tracts of land were bought by developers, something that is not uncommon even in the early 21st century. McGolrick Realty Co. teamed with the Smadbeck brothers in a scheme to build recreational communities in Putnam County to be used by New York City residents. Warren and Arthur Smadbeck were New York City developers who had taken over their father's realty business, known as Home Guardian Company. The New York Daily Mirror, a popular daily tabloid newspaper, joined the effort, and published advertisements for the projects. Three communities were built beginning in 1928, including Lake Carmel in the town of Kent, Lake Peekskill in the town of Putnam Valley, and Putnam Lake in Patterson. Other nearby Smadbeck projects include Lake Parsippany in New Jersey and several developments in Suffolk County, in Long Island, New York. The projects were targeted towards average middle class families, and were intended to be communities of summer bungalows focused on recreational activities involving the three man-made lakes.

This ad for Putnam Lake property appeared in The Putnam County Courier on June 12, 1931. The New York Daily Mirror published this ad in competing newspaper The New York Herald Tribune on June 5, 1931. The ad notes that the Mirror was offering its readers "the unsurpassed opportunity for securing building lots in this most desirable section - the playground of New York's wealthy." The ad details the clubhouse, tennis courts, and pool.

In 1930, the State Line Golf and Country Club, Inc. joined forces with New York Daily Mirror Holding Co., the land development company run by the Smadbeck brothers and the Daily Mirror. Five Putnam farms were purchased along with some land in New Fairfield, CT., for a total of 1,111 acres. Morlock Brook was dammed to form the 200 acre artificial lake. 11,000 building lots were mapped in the development, to be occupied by summer cottages, general stores, restaurants, gas stations, dance pavilions, and taverns. The first newspaper advertisements for the new Putnam Lake community appeared in the summer of 1931. Construction proceeded annually, and 880 buildings were constructed by 1944. 75% of the lots were sold the first year alone.

An undated postcard shows Putnam Lake, viewed from Murphy's Landing. An early view of Putnam Lake is seen in this undated postcard. An early 1930s postcard shows an aerial view of the Putnam Lake Community. The card was published by Anderson's Drug Store in Brewster. A 1947 postcard shows another view of Putnam Lake.

The building lots were divided into 20' x 100' lots - typical New York City lot sizes - and sold for $50. The lots typically had only enough room for a summer bungalow and an outhouse. The outhouse was sufficient for a summer stay, and eliminated the need for a septic system, which wouldn't fit on such a small lot anyway. The well was hand dug. 2000 homes were built by 1932, making Putnam Lake the most densely populated community in Patterson, if only for a few months of the year. The community was typically deserted after Labor Day with the exception of a few families who built year-round homes rather than the summer bungalow. The community had its own one room schoolhouse in its early years for those few year-round families. The schoolhouse was located on Fairfield Drive where the VFW post is presently located.

A selection of ads appearing in the Putnam Lake Association journal of June, 1932. This was the second edition of the journal. The sample ads include two from home builders, including one that offers a log home for an amazing $795. Another ad is an advisory of the health hazards of septic systems, something that is still a matter of concern to Putnam Lake residents even today. The final ad recruits new members to the Association.

The Putnam Lake Community Council was formed to manage the affairs of the Lake community. Herbert M. Holton did much work in the community in its early years, and became the first president of the Council. Holton was born in Jamaica, Vermont in 1876. At the age of two, his family relocated to New York City. Holton was a graduate of City College, and became a teacher in the New York City school system after graduation. He later became a member of the faculty at City College, where he remained for 40 years. While at City College, he formed the Reserve Officers Training Corp. In World War I, he served with the Signal Corps. In 1949, Holton was appointed justice of the peace for Patterson to fill a vacancy, and remained in that position until his death at age 74 on May 4, 1951. Holton died at his home, the Brimstone Farm.

In August, 1937, a group of residents from the Putnam Lake area met at Love's Log Cabin to organize the first Putnam Lake Chamber of Commerce. Officers were elected, and a statement of purpose and goals was drafted.

A severe winter followed by the spring thaw in 1948 brought much damage to Putnam Lake roads. The Town of Patterson had been taking over control of the roads in the Putnam Lake community, but the transition was incomplete. For those roads under Town control, the severity of the road damage was proving costly, and the Town of Patterson highway budget was running out of money and manpower for repairs. The Putnam Lake Community Council assured residents that it would press for adequate repairs to the community's roads, and also implemented a novel approach to alleviate the repair problem: it asked all Putnam Lake residents and business owners to volunteer to repair the roads themselves. The board declared that it was a "citizen's duty" to help the road supervisor to maintain the roads. A small effort on the part of the citizen could prevent serious damage to the roads, according to the board. Community members were asked to fill ruts that opened after a rain storm or melting snow, to remove debris and obstructions from the sides of roads, and to clean drainage culverts. The board assured community members that such actions would prevent a tax increase in the future.

The Putnam Lake Liquor Store was located on Fairfield Drive. The ad appeared in the Putnam County Courier on April 10, 1947. The Putnam Lake Club House, as seen in an undated postcard. (Philip Mullan) The Putnam Lake swimming pool looking towards the club house in an undated postcard.

In May, 1952, The Putnam Lake Community Council began planning the Memorial Recreation Field, to be located on the site of the old swimming pool opposite the Council's clubhouse on Haviland Drive. The pool had not been used since the early 1930s. The pool was essentially a muddy pond that became contaminated as the area developed and more seepage found its way into the pond. The pond was also notorious for the presence of leaches that made swimming an unpleasant experience. The field was to be dedicated to the memory of the war dead from Putnam Lake. The Council had been reserving funds for the project, and also accepted donations from the public and other area organizations. Because the fund was still short of its goal, the Council voted to begin construction, but limit the initial scope to a small playfield. Henry Sherer, chairman of the Memorial Field committee, supervised the project. By April, 1955, Edward Angerola had become chairman of the committee, and had assumed responsibility for the project. Construction was proceeding, and tiles were being laid to channel the water that was running through the site. Fill was also brought in from the grounds adjoining the firehouse. The Field's baseball diamond is still heavily used during the warmer weather.

In March, 1958, VFW Post 9257 held a fundraising dance in its new building. Music was provided by Frank Woran's band, and the dance floor was one of the largest in the County. Proceeds of the dance went to the maintenance of the Servicemen's Memorial at the intersection of Fairfield and Haviland Drives. Two checks totaling $50 were contributed to the fundraising effort by the Rev. Gerald Cahill, pastor of Sacred Heart Church. The checks were presented to chairman Charles Tanzella by Lawrence Lawlor on behalf of Fr. Cahill.

Sailing on Putnam Lake, from an undated postcard. (Philip Mullan) The intersection of Fairfield and Haviland Drives, from a 1960s postcard. (Philip Mullan) The Putnam Lake Regatta. (Philip Mullan)
Former resident Philip Mullan remembers: "There is one beach scene (colored post card) of Regatta day at Warren beach. This is from the late 1940's. I was at the beach that day, but was probably in the water. But I do recognize my mother, Eileen Mullan, who is the red-headed woman walking from right to left across the beach. Regatta day had swimming races from one float to the other; rowboat and canoe races; and if enough sailboats showed up they also raced. One of the more entertaining events was the jousting contests between contestants in two canoes: one person guided his canoe and his team mate stood up with a long pole and tried to upset his opponent in another canoe. This was a single elimination contest which continued until there was one canoe left...My family had a house on Gates drive from 1945 until 1985."

In 1960, the intersection of Haviland and Fairfield Drives was set for a $127,000 improvement. The Servicemen's Memorial was situated in a small concrete island directly in the intersection, which was at the top of a hill. Putnam County Highway Superintendent Gerald Oram indicated that the Memorial would need to be removed in order for the grade to be reduced. The project called for the removal of the Memorial and its replacement by a traffic circle. The safety of the intersection and the sensitive issue of what to do with the Memorial had become controversial. In September, 1960, the Putnam County Board of Supervisors visited the intersection. After some discussion, the Board decided to instruct Oram to make revisions to the road plan. The revisions were considered minor and included improvements to drainage and sightlines, and a realignment of the intersection. Patterson Supervisor William Millar told his fellow Board members that the Putnam Lake V.F.W. post had asked that the Monument be moved to its grounds, but that he felt that the Servicemen's Monument helped to slow traffic through the intersection and should remain where it was. Carmel Supervisor Robert Smith agreed, and added that the monument was a "silent policeman" and was a useful traffic divider. Board Chairman Harry Silleck of Putnam Valley agreed, and noted that the traffic circle would simply be formed by signs that would be knocked down or stolen. The Board voted unanimously to instruct Superintendent Oram to revise the plan with the Board's suggestions, and present the revisions to the Board of Supervisors at the October meeting of the Board. The work was completed by the Putnam County Highway Department, and extended to Lake Shore Drive. The project included the drainage and sightline improvements recommended by the Board. The pavement was also widened to 22 feet. The Memorial still stands at the intersection of the two roads.

In October, 1961, the Putnam Lake Mission Lutheran Church lost its pastor when the Rev. George Swartz resigned. He was 84 years old. The congregation did not have a permanent home, and used the Community Council facilities for Sunday services and for a Sunday school. With no replacement available from the United Lutheran Church of America, the Revs. Andrew Brandjar and Hans Voss, pastors of the two closest Lutheran churches in Danbury, Connecticut, suggested that the Putnam Lake congregation hold "layman services" until an ordained minister could be located to take charge of the Putnam Lake community. On October 15, Cedric Holze preached the first layman service.

A meeting was held in November to discuss interim plans for the community, since there was a shortage of ministers. The Rev. Hans Voss, pastor of the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Danbury, was joined by two Immanuel Lutheran councilmen, who met with interested members of Putnam Lake's Lutheran community. It was agreed that services would be continued for Putnam Lake's growing Protestant community, and that they would be guided by Immanuel Lutheran. Fred Sievert, a teacher at the Immanuel Lutheran Church School, agreed to preside at the morning service in Putnam Lake. Sievert had some ministerial training. The Rev. Voss agreed to preside at an evening Communion service whenever possible.

A lighting district for Putnam Lake was approved by the Patterson Town Board in September, 1964. About fifty people attended a hearing on the district, and no one spoke against the proposal to create the district. The plan included a five year contract with New York State Electric and Gas, and defined the district as beginning at Barnum Corners at the entrance to Putnam Lake, continuing along Fairfield Drive to the Connecticut Line, up Haviland Drive to Sacred Heart Church, and on to Lake Shore Drive. Seventy-Five lights were included in the plan. The lighting district would cost $5,000 per year, and property owners of the district would be assessed a tax rate $3.04 / $1,000 assessed value. The action of the Board was final unless a sufficient number of dissenting property owners petitioned for a referendum.

The Putnam Lake Fire Department

On August 9, 1946, the Patterson Town Board approved and signed the application for the incorporation of the Putnam Lake Fire Department. Shortly thereafter, the Patterson Fire Department No. 1, Inc. voted to approve the move by the Putnam Lake Volunteer Firemen's Association to form its own volunteer fire department. In January, 1947, a fire siren was installed on top of the Putnam Lake Inn. A permanent home was still needed for the new fire department, and, in April 1947, Dr. Joseph L. Peloso donated a plot of land on Haviland Drive to the Putnam Lake Fire Department. The Warwick Bros. also donated three lots, and the donations were eagerly accepted by Department president Arthur Levy. Other community residents made contributions, such as Jack Lutter, who donated a pair of boots. The Department's first fire truck was a 1934 model Dodge.

Construction on the new firehouse proceeded rapidly including some weekend work, with many of the Department volunteers supplying part of the labor. The floor of the new firehouse was completed barely two weeks before the dedication ceremony that was set for May 30, 1948. Thirty-one yards of concrete was poured for the floor. Councilman Carl Gaebler was the guest speaker at the dedication ceremony. As part of the dedication, flowers were placed on the graves of deceased firemen.

The dedication ceremonies for the new firehouse took place in May, 1948. A parade took place, starting at the Community Clubhouse garage, the original storage location for the fire fighting equipment, to the new structure on Fairfield Drive. In the first photo, members of the community tour the new facilities. The second photo shows part of the parade. Both photos appeared in the June 10, 1948 edition of the Putnam County Courier. The final photo is a 1950s postcard of the Putnam Lake firehouse.

One of the organizers and charter members of the Putnam Lake Fire Department was Kenneth A. Hall, who arrived in Putnam Lake in 1930. For many years he lived in the firehouse and was the resident fireman. He was also a member of the Patterson Fire Department and the Sgt. Ronald Grey American Legion Post in Patterson. Hall was born on March 6, 1885, and was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, fought in 1898. Hall later managed the Empire Hotel in New York City before coming to Putnam Lake. He also worked as a certified public accountant. Hall died on January 4, 1963 at the age of 77 after a long illness. His funeral was held at the Patterson Presbyterian Church, with the Rev. Horace Hillery presiding. He was buried in the Maple Avenue Cemetery.

In June, 1949, a system of fire alarm boxes became operational. One box was located at the firehouse, another was located at the intersection of Haviland Drive and Lacona Drive, a third was located at Jackson Beach and Lake Shore Drive, a fourth was located at Green Chimney Farm on East Branch Road, and a fifth box was planned, but its location was undecided. In the event of an emergency, community members were told to contact the Fire Department by dialing "Brewster 947", and not to use the fire alarm boxes unless attempts to reach the Department by phone failed. In October, 1958, an alarm box located at the intersection of Toronto and Sullivan Roads was repeatedly vandalized, disabling the box. The box served homes in the Hilltop development. Fire Police Captain Lou Gargliardo urged local residents to be vigilant so that the vandals could be apprehended.

In January, 1959, the Putnam Lake Fire Department issued a report to the community. Fire Police Captain Lou Gargliardo, also secretary to the Department, reported the 1958 activity of the Department, which includes response to 7 house fires, 3 brush fires, 3 false alarms, and 30 ambulance calls in 1958. Ambulance calls far outnumbered fire calls. He also reported that that a number of area departments participated in a water pumping relay during the summer to determine how far uphill water could be pumped, should that procedure ever be necessary in an emergency. Patterson, Brewster, Carmel, and Lake Carmel joined Putnam Lake in the test. Phones were also installed in the Department's headquarters and in four private homes, to provide answering points for fire emergency requests. John Pezzullo, Tony Garcia, Harold Foster, and Sal Renzi agreed to host the phones. Finally, Gargliardo urged homeowners to be mindful that water was scarce during winter months, and be vigilant in preventing fires. The water level of Putnam Lake was lowered for the winter, and the surface was encrusted with a thick layer of ice that firemen needed to break through to find water.

With the Lake as the center of recreational activity in the community, The Putnam Lake Fire Department has had to respond to emergencies caused by drowning incidents, which is possibly why the number of ambulance calls exceeded fire calls in 1959. Once such incident occurred in August, 1959, when a Putnam Lake couple responded to the frantic call for help from a young boy who said his father was drowning. The couple was able to pull the man from the water, where they were met by a team from the Putnam Lake Fire Department, and Dr. Samuel Ross from Green Chimneys School. The victim was revived.

A fundraising campaign was launched in February, 1960, with a goal of 10,000 to be used for the purchase of new equipment. The 1934 Dodge utility truck was still in use, and had been used in fighting every brush fire in Putnam Lake since its acquisition. The age of the truck and its small water capacity made it a candidate for replacement. The Department's 1947 ambulance also needed to be replaced. A Ward-LaFrance pumper truck purchased in 1956 had just been paid-in-full. The Department also owned a 1941 International pumper truck.

In October, 1964, a new hospital was built to service eastern Putnam County and replace the obsolete nineteen bed Mahopac Hospital, which was built in 1941. Ambulance crews from the area fire departments made trial runs to the new Putnam Community Hospital, located on the site of the old Stoneleigh Farm on Stoneleigh Road in Carmel. The Putnam Lake ambulance made the trip in fifteen minutes. The crew included James Conway, Mrs. Kenneth Renak, and Thomas Lombard.

In July, 1973, the Putnam Lake Fire Department became the second fire company in Putnam County to own a lime green fire truck, rather the traditional red. The truck carried 400 feet of 1 1/2 inch hose and 1,500 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose. It had a 750 gallon per minute capacity.

The Putnam Lake Post Office

On May 1, 1935, the Putnam Lake Post Office opened in Lackmans' General Store, located at the corner of Haviland Drive and Perry Road, to handle the postal needs of permanent residents and visitors. Theodore and Agnes C. Lackman were among the earliest residents of Putnam Lake, having moved to Putnam Lake in 1931. They owned their grocery store from 1931 to 1947, and a member of the family directly supervised the Post Office for eight years. Mrs. Lackman was also a member of the Putnam Lake Community Church, and a long time member of the Putnam Lake Property Owners Association. Prior to moving to Putnam Lake, she was active in civic affairs in the community of Dobbs Ferry, the Lackman's former home. She died at the age of 86 on May 13, 1962, in Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx.

Lackmans' General Store in c.1939, located near the present Sacred Heart Church. Lackmans' hosted the first Putnam Lake Post Office.

A new post office was built in 1950, located on Haviland Drive across from the fire house. Putnam Lake mail service improved in November, 1953, when mail coming through the New York City gateway was rerouted to provide a more direct route to Putnam Lake. When the Lake community was established, mail was brought north to the Patterson Post Office, and then down to Putnam Lake. Under the new arrangement, a new pickup and delivery was arranged through the Brewster Post Office. Mail heading north would be picked up by the Patterson Post Office, and mail heading south would bypass the Patterson Post Office and be sent to Brewster. The Putnam Lake postmaster at the time was Christopher Newman, who operated the post office from his Lakeside General Store. Increased sales receipts earned the Putnam Lake postmaster a salary increase of $136 in October 1954. The salary for a postmaster was determined according to the receipts of his post office, which included the sales of postage stamps, post cards, and other mail services. In 1953, seven of Putnam County's post offices had increases in receipts, resulting in salary increases for their postmasters. In 1954, only four saw increases. One of those four was the Putnam Lake Post Office, with total receipts of $2,141, up $115 from the previous year. The increase earned the Putnam Lake postmaster a new salary of $3,264, up $136 from the previous year. Putnam Lake was a "third class" post office under the U. S. Post Office classification system. Class three post offices had sales in the range of $1,500 to $8,000, with a postmaster salary in the range of $2,883 to $4,298.

Improved mail service was the result of revised truck and rail routes that took effect June 2, 1958. Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield announced that preferential mail moving within Putnam, Westchester, and Dutchess Counties in New York, and Fairfield County, Connecticut, would be delivered in one day. Putnam Lake postmaster Newman also announced that the work of Putnam Lake post office had been integrated into the post offices in the same four county area. Because of these improvements, local mail traveling within the four counties would no longer have to pass through congested New York City, but would remain within the four county region.

Mail service was one of the topics under discussion at the February 27, 1959 meeting of the Putnam Lake Community Council, held at the Times Square Hotel in New York City. A resolution was passed calling on postal authorities to change postal delivery routes. The resolution noted that in September, 1958, the U. S. Post Office had reclassified the Putnam Lake area, resulting in the mail being delivered by three different post offices: RFD #1 from Patterson, RFD #3 from Brewster, and Putnam Lake itself. The resolution stated that the three mailing addresses for the Lake community was leading to confusion and misdirected mail. The resolution was forwarded to Arthur E. Summerfield, Postmaster General in Washington, D.C., Congressman Robert E. Barry, representing the 27th Congressional District, and to the supervisor and board of the Town of Patterson.

On September 30, 1959, Putnam Lake postmaster Christopher Newman resigned, and he closed the post office that was located in his store. A postal substation known as Brewster Contract Station No. 1 was set up in DeBetta's Surveying Instrument Repair Service, which was adjacent to Newman's store. The substation did not handle the distribution of mail, but accepted outgoing mail and parcels, and sold stamps and money orders. The new service was available weekdays from 9 AM to noon and from 1 PM to 5 PM, and on Saturdays from 9 AM to noon. Anthony DeBetta remained in his capacity as postal clerk.

By October, 1959, the Putnam Lake Post Office had lost its designation as a third class post office because revenues were declining. It was apparent that Putnam Lake residents were using post offices in neighboring communities more than they were using their own post office. The change in designation, however, actually benefited Putnam Lake customers. Under the old arrangement, any mail sent to Putnam Lake arrived at the Putnam Lake Post Office, where it had to be claimed by the addressee. Under the new arrangement, mail would be delivered directly through the Patterson or Brewster post offices.

In December, 1959, Putnam Lake Community Council President Harry Goldhammer and other members of the board met with postal authorities, Patterson officials, and Congressman Robert Barry. The Saturday meeting was held at the office of C. William Rich in Brewster to discuss the mail situation in Putnam Lake. The postal authorities agreed that all Putnam Lake residents residing on paved roads would receive mail deliveries, and that all Putnam Lake mail would be delivered through the Brewster Post Office. All mail could be addressed to Putnam Lake, thus eliminating the need to address mail to one of the two post offices that was currently delivering mail to Putnam Lake, either Patterson or Brewster. In December, 1960, all Putnam County mail was being completely transported by truck rather than rail.

In the May, 1963, Patterson became the first Putnam County town to institute a house numbering program. The plan was instituted to facilitate mail delivery. All houses in Putnam Lake were also numbered, with odd numbers on one side of the street and even numbers on the other. All houses in the Town would be numbered starting at a road's intersection with a main road, with the numbers increasing progressively from that starting point. The numbering began at Lakeshore Drive and Haviland Drive, with the number series increasing around the Lake to Fairfield Drive. All roads off these roads would also be numbered starting at their intersection with the main road. Each house received a notice from the Town Clerk listing the new numbered address for the house, and residents were given sixty days from the mailing to display the number on the house. The introduction of an enhanced 911 emergency telephone system in the 1990s required all of Putnam County to number houses and commercial buildings. Patterson renumbered its buildings to conform to the new 911 system.

The need for a postal substation was once again a topic of discussion in Putnam Lake in October, 1963. Patterson Town Councilman John R. Schlump enlisted the help of Brewster postmaster Jack Larkin in an effort to find a business in Putnam Lake willing to host a postal substation. A notice was placed on the community bulletin board alongside the Putnam Lake firehouse, soliciting bids from Lake businesses to open a substation. Postmaster Larkin agreed to answer any questions a potential bidder may have on the operation of a postal substation. Councilman Schlump expressed the hope that the community would support the substation if one were to open. Schlump also updated the Patterson Town Board on the progress of the house numbering project in Putnam Lake. He stated that street signs were being installed, and that the Putnam Lake Community Council had helped to complete the house numbering project. Since the requirements of the regional post office had been met, the Town was ready to make a formal request for house-to-house mail delivery in Putnam Lake.

In December, 1963, the Lakeside General Store on Haviland Drive began operating a postal substation that was a branch of the Brewster Post Office. Mrs. Jean McGough operated the substation, which offered sales of stamps and money orders, and accepted outgoing mail. Lake community residents were urged to support the substation since its success might gauge Putnam Lake's ability to once again have its own full service post office.

Curbside mail delivery to selected Putnam Lake streets was set to begin in the spring of 1964. Because of the limited sorting space in both the Patterson and Brewster Post Offices, which serviced Putnam Lake, curbside delivery would not be available on all streets in Putnam Lake. Postmasters of the Patterson and Brewster post offices were instructed to create delivery routes in Putnam Lake, and to notify the Town if any roads on the planned routes might not be passable year round, so that they may be repaired.

A mail pickup box was installed in front of the community bulletin board next to the firehouse in April, 1964. The box was installed by members of the fire department, and was secured from the Brewster Post Office pursuant to requests by residents for a pickup box in the Putnam Lake business district. A large pickup box was moved from the front of the luncheonette to the front of Jean McGough's General Store, since it was hosting the new postal substation.

On December 23, 1967, Putnam Lake was once again without a postal substation when the substation in McGough's closed. The post office received three bids from Lake merchants interested in hosting the substation, and in January, 1968, a contract was awarded to Robert C. Carrol, owner of a service station of Fairfield Drive. Postal business would be conducted in a room adjoining the service station.

Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart parish began as a small chapel built in the mid-1930s, with Father Lawrence Costello, and later Father Thomas G. Philbin as pastors. The chapel was built on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. Spencer Hance. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1941. Sacred Heart then moved its services into the Hance residence, which had been purchased from the Hance estate along with seven acres of Hance property by Father Joseph Heaney, on behalf of Sacred Heart. The Hances are buried behind their former home. Sacred Heart Chapel was now operated as a mission church by the St. Lawrence O'Toole parish in Brewster. Priests from St. Lawrence presided at services in Putnam Lake. Father Joseph A. Heaney, pastor of St. Lawrence, was also pastor of the Mission Chapel of the Sacred Heart from 1943 until 1957. As the Lake community grew, more space was needed. In August, 1952, a committee of church members met to discuss a proposal to build a new church. A fund drive was organized. On St. Patricks Day, March 17, 1953, a building fund social was held at the Putnam Lake Inn. The event was considered a financial success. Construction began in the spring of 1954, and by May, a 90 foot by 40 foot shell had been completed. Plumbing and heating had been installed. The structure was expected to be in use by early July, and would seat 350 people. A parish hall was part of the construction project. Volunteers were sought to clean the grounds around the building. The mission church became the rectory.

The Mission Church of the Sacred Heart, built in the mid-1930s. The Mission Church was destroyed by fire in the early 1940s. It was dedicated by Cardinal Hayes in 1934. Another postcard photo of the Mission Church at "Trail's End". A services listing for the Sacred Heart Chapel from the June 9, 1955 edition of the Putnam County Courier. Father Heaney was the pastor of St. Lawrence O'Toole parish in Brewster, which operated the Sacred Heart Chapel and the St. Bernard's Chapel in Towners. Cardinal Spellman attends the dedication ceremony at Sacred Heart Church. The photo was published in the June 27, 1958 edition of the Putnam County Courier.

The Putnam Lake community continued to grow, and, on July 7, 1957, the Sacred Heart community was designated a full parish by the New York Archdiocese. The parish was appointed its own pastor, Father Gerald Cahill. A reception for the new pastor was held in early July, and was attended by 450 parishioners. Father Cahill told his new parishioners of his plans to organize social activities and spiritual groups, such as a church choir.

On June 29, 1958, Francis Cardinal Spellman presided over dedication ceremonies for the new church and parish. Cardinal Spellman blessed the exterior and interior of the new building, and a solemn high mass followed, celebrated by Father Cahill, and assisted by the Rev. Thomas A. Kelly, pastor of St. Thomas of Canterbury, Cornwall-on-Hudson, and the Rev. James Tully, pastor of St Mary's Church in Washingtonville. Over 1,000 people attended the event, and a public address system was used to bring the service to the spillover crowd outside the church. The Rev. Thomas P. Cahill, brother of the Sacred Heart pastor, acted as master-of-ceremonies. Assistant to Cardinal Spellman was Msgr. Terence Cooke, who himself would lead the Archdiocese of New York from 1969 to 1983. The sermon was delivered by the Rev. Joseph P. Moore, pastor of the Catholic Chapel at the West Point Military Academy. Cardinal Spellman complimented the choir of 15 teenage girls who sang at the mass, stating that the choir was extraordinary for such a small parish. Banners, flags, and signs decorated Haviland Drive to greet the Cardinal. Cardinal Spellman was said too have been surprised by the extent of the warm welcome he had received from the Putnam Lake community. A large contingent of local police officers was on hand. Members of the Putnam County Civil Defense Auxiliary Police were stationed along the route of the Cardinal's motorcade and on church grounds to direct traffic and provide crowd control. They were assisted by town constables. The motorcade traveled from NY Route 22 to the church grounds. Local dignitaries in attendance included Putnam County Sheriff Frank Lyden and Patterson Supervisor Emil Buechel. The color guard of the Putnam Lake VFW Post 9257 also greeted the Cardinal.

The "Civil War"

With the construction of the Putnam Lake community, the Town of Patterson seemed to develop two identities. The village of Patterson, now known as the Patterson hamlet, and Towners Station are the oldest portions of the Town, and their history dates back to the early European settlements in North America in the 17th century. Their history was heavily influenced by early industries, such as quarrying and milling, and by the two railroads that built rail lines through those communities. Putnam Lake, on the other hand, was a planned community that was built in the early 20th century. Most of its early residents were seasonal, and had permanent homes elsewhere. As a result they had few ties to rest of the Town of Patterson.

In 1950, members of both communities began to explore a formal split in the Town structure. It was felt that both portions of the Town had different histories and backgrounds, and had different municipal needs. With the growing population in Putnam Lake becoming more permanent rather than seasonal, Lake residents argued that they needed their own government. For example, the town of Patterson was planning to build a new town hall and a community center, to be located in the Village. The Putnam Lake community did not support the plan because the two structures would be located too far from the Lake to be used conveniently by Lake residents. New York State law permitted a division of a township if the township agreed to put the issue before voters and a simple 51% majority voted in favor of the division.

Fred Dill was the head of the Patterson Chamber of Commerce at the time, and he was asked to chair a citizens group to discuss the separation of the two communities. Citizens of both Patterson and Putnam Lake were asked to participate in the group. The group agreed to report its conclusions to the Patterson Town Board.

By October, 1950, the pressure was increasing to get the issue on the ballot for the November general election. At an early October meeting of the Putnam County Board of Supervisors, the former governing body of the County prior to the adoption of the legislature form of government in 1979, a petition was presented to the Board by attorney Willis Ryder. Ryder was representing a group of Patterson residents seeking to get the proposed Town division on the November ballot. The petition was signed by 406 qualified Town voters from the portion of Patterson outside of Putnam Lake. This group represented more than 25% of the Patterson voters in the previous November election. The petition included a proposed map of a new Patterson, which excluded the Putnam Lake Community. The County Board of Supervisors only had the power to permit Patterson to place the issue on the ballot. Recently passed State legislation gave the County the power to approve or deny the division of a township before allowing a vote, but that legislation would not take effect until 1951.

Henry Dale Jr. sold real estate when this ad appeared in the May 29, 1947 edition of the Putnam County Courier. In the 1950s, Dale was the Civil Defense director for the Putnam Lake community, and was also deputy director of the Putnam County Civil Defense auxiliary police.

Attorney Robert J. Crowe, speaking for a group called the Putnam Lake Taxpayers, Inc., raised technical objections to the petition and its accompanying map. The Board was informed that the law required that a ballot initiative must be approved 30 days in advance of the general election, and that a decision must be made by October 7, 1950. During the discussion period, several Putnam Lake residents spoke against the proposed division of the Town. Lake resident Leonard Schultheis accused his secessionist-oriented neighbors of being land hungry people who had paid $2,000 for land that was only worth $100 in 1932. The Board also heard many statistics about the Putnam Lake community. The Board was told that the Lake community contained 3,000 lots on 2 square miles, representing 1/25th of the Patterson township and 1/4th of the voting district. Putnam Lake was assessed at $990,000, or one third of the total Town assessments. Signers of the petition argued that the Lake community was under assessed, and that the Town of Patterson was spending more tax money in Putnam Lake than in the rest of the Town. Lake residents countered that they paid 1/3 of the Town's taxes while only 1/4 of that money was spent within the Lake. County Board of Supervisors member Ralph Outhouse, who was the Patterson Town Supervisor, stated that he needed more information before rendering an opinion on the petition effort. After discussion, Supervisor Joseph Lahey of Philipstown made a motion to refer the matter to the County Attorney Esmond Moriarty for further investigation.

The need to meet the October 7 deadline was the key factor in derailing the division initiative. On October 2, a temporary injunction to prevent any action by the Putnam County Board of Supervisors was filed in State Supreme Court. The injunction was signed by a Supreme Court judge four days later. But on October 6, the Putnam Lake Community Council, Inc. filed a show cause retraining order to block the injunction, and the show cause order was signed by Supreme Court Justice Lee Parsons Davis. A hearing was held on October 9. Appearing at the hearing before Judge Davis were attorney Yvette Sirot, representing the Putnam Lake Community Council, attorney Willis Ryder, representing the petitioners in the Village of Patterson, Esmond Moriarty, attorney for Putnam County, and Robert J. Crowe, attorney for the Putnam Lake Taxpayers Association, Inc. Later that day, Judge Davis lifted the temporary injunction, which gave the County Board of Supervisors the freedom to vote on the issue of allowing Patterson to place the division proposal on the November ballot. The Court decision had no effect, however, as the October 7 deadline had passed and the division proposal could no longer be placed on the November ballot.

A farmers market/flea market operated on Fairfield Drive on Fridays starting on October 25, 1957. This ad appeared in the Putnam County Courier on October 17, 1957. After a successful first season, the Putnam Lake farmers market re-opened for its second season in May, 1958. This ad appeared in the April 24, 1958 edition of the Courier.

While the legal battles were unfolding in court, emotions were running high in the Town. 300 Town residents, including both "old" Town residents and "new" residents from Putnam Lake, crowded Patterson Town Hall to air their views. H. R. Korn, counsel and vice president of the Putnam Lake Community Council, spoke against division, explaining that relations between the Lake community and the rest of the Town were friendly, and that both communities needed each other.

Additional litigation followed at the end of October, and ended up before the Supreme Court in White Plains. Justice Frederick Schmidt heard arguments from attorneys Ryder, Sirot, Korn, and Crowe, with County Attorney Moriarty in attendance. Schmidt denied a peremptory order to force the County Board of Legislators to act, citing the State law that required ballot initiatives to be submitted 30 days before the general election. The only options left for the division movement were to wait until November, 1951, or to force the Town of Patterson to hold a special election. The movement to split the Town lost its energy, and the Town remained united.

Bus Service to Danbury

In 1955, several Putnam Lake residents petitioned for a bus route from Putnam Lake to Danbury, Connecticut. The service was provided by Berkshire Bus Co, in Danbury, and in December, 1957, consisted of a weekly bus that left Putnam Lake on Thursdays at 2 PM and left Danbury at 5 PM. Downtown Danbury was a busy shopping area that attracted many Putnam shoppers. By January, 1958, poor ridership threatened to end the service unless ticket sales improved. While many in the Lake community petitioned for the bus service, few actually used it.

Walters Transit was providing bus service between Putnam Lake and the Consolidated Bus Terminal in New York City when this ad appeared in the Putnam County Courier on June 25, 1964.

In 1959, bus service between Poughkeepsie and Danury, Connecticut, was provided Empire Bus Lines, Inc. Empire provided weekly service on Thursdays. The bus circled Putnam Lake at approximately 10 AM, and made a return trip from Danbury at 2 PM. On February 16, 1959, Empire received permission to provide daily service into Putnam Lake. The bus from Poughkeepsie would travel along NYS Route 22 and turn left onto Haviland Hollow Road, turn right onto East Branch Road to Haviland Drive to the Servicemen's Monument, arriving at approximately 10:15 AM. From there, the bus would travel Fairfield Drive to Ball Pond, and then continue to the Danbury Bus Depot on Main Street. The return trip would reach Putnam Lake at 4 PM.

Putnam Lake Today

The bond between the Putnam Lake community and the rest of the Town of Patterson has grown stronger with time, and the Town remains united. As Patterson transitioned from a farming community to a bedroom community, many bungalows were demolished and replaced by larger homes, or they were upgraded, enlarged, heated, and insulated for year-round use. Small septic systems replaced the outhouses, and deep wells were dug as the water demands of the growing year-round community caused the water table to drop. The community remains Patterson's most populated neighborhood. As of 2013 there were approximately 1230 homes in the Patterson portion of the Putnam Lake community.

The Smadbeck brothers, through their Home Guardian Company, eventually developed projects in thirty states, including 700,000 lots and 75,000 homes, possibly housing as many as 500,000 people. Their development formula was always similar to the one they used in Putnam Lake: buy open land near a lake or railroad station in a community near a major urban center. The land would then be divided into small, low cost, building lots and sold through newspaper ads to the general public. Their first developments were in the early 1900s, and were located near railroad stations. With the popularity of the automobile and with increased highway construction, the Smadbecks turned their focus to suburban areas easily reached by car. The Smadbecks were sometimes compared to Henry Ford, who shared the philosophy of providing a needed product at a price that people could afford to pay.

Dr. Warren Smadbeck died on July 29, 1965 at his summer home in Lake Carmel. He was 80 years old. At the time of his death, his brother Arthur was president of the New York Coliseum. Their partnership had endured for almost sixty years. Warren Smadbeck was born on January 13, 1885 in New York City. He attended New York City schools, and graduated from the New York University School of Dentistry at the age of 19, in 1904. He was a knowledgeable art collector and was concerned about the welfare of children. He was appointed to the first Child Welfare Committee by New York Gov. Alfred E. Smith. He was an avid golfer and tennis player, and a member of the New York Athletic Club. Arthur Smadbeck died on September 6, 1977.