Oakdale Artists Colony
Forum Magazine SEPTEMBER 1981
The Artist’s Colony
are reminiscences of years ago at the former William K. Vanderbilt estate, Idle
Hour, at Oakdale. About what became the Artists Colony, the Mews; all the
charming buildings Vanderbilt built and the homes that came later. I followed
the sound of the fire engines through the narrow, winding roads and over a
bridge on my first visit. My family had moved into our new home, now #144
Connetquot Avenue, in the summer of 1929.
The alarm for the fire equipment was because of a blaze in a large, brick barn
that was a portion of the rectangular mews of the Idle Hour estate. The barn was
then serving as the Idle Hour Playhouse and Art Gallery, behung with all manner
of flimsy drapes. The then current performance was "Gawpy, a puppet ballet
in four acts, and a smart Marionette Review" presented by the Guigol
Studios, Paul Martin, executive producer.
There being no local source of water pressure, the fire ran its course. The heat
of the flaming cordwood stored there caused the moisture between the finish and
the rough cement of the floor to explode, sending fragments through the roof
with a dull roar. The building was completely gutted, with only the scarred
walls standing to serve for the outdoor storage of assorted vehicles. As with
any calamity, it made for ready introductions and starts of future friendships.
destroyed facility had housed farm wagons and large agricultural equipment with
a hay mow above. Across the road in front of (now) # 60 Hollywood Drive was the
remains of a wagon scale beyond which, in the meadow between curves and the
intersection of Hollywood and Idle Hour drives, was a simple three‑hole
golf course. This was an Artists Colony enterprise.
At the north end was the William Kissam Vanderbilt (WKV) laundry, by now a
Thompson property that had become the "Headquarters of the National Society
of the Colonial Mother", with Mrs. Lucy Pritchard Sawyer Thompson as
Founder and President General. At Studio Eleven, 54 West 74th Street, New York,
the Art Studio offered memberships from Life at $109 to Junior
at 50 cents. Included in its "Object" was establishment of a
Headquarters at Oakdale, including a Library, School, Art Gallery and living
application for membership set forth Mrs. Thompson's credentials for office from
some 20 national and regional societies, and her accomplishments, from being
founder of the "Colonial Daughters of the 17th Century" to erecting a
World War I hero’s statue in Groton, N. H.
For a time
the building served as the local school, that building having burned down in the
late 1930s, and as the Oakdale Republican Club, Sawyer Thompson, president. It
had been purchased by Mrs. Thompson along with the Artists Colony, some lots on
Montauk Highway, acreage at the site of the WKV farm gardens in Idle Hour, as
well as property in Minnesota, New Hampshire and Stony Brook.
Mrs. Thompson's late husband, William Andrew Jr., had been vice-president of the
Texas Oil Company (Texaco) and president of the Texas Shipping Company, which
included the American Steel Barge Company. At his death in 1922
he left an estate of more than a million dollars.
As the sons, Sawyer and William A. "Bill" III, grew the father had
given them increasing shares of Texaco stock. Later their mother had them sign
them over to her to aid her in an extended realty position after the crash of
'29. She had disposed of her own inherited stock to company executives at their
urging and invested in shares offered by a promoter that quickly proved
A folded clipping of Sept. 1926 announces a "Street Fair and Carnival Barn
Dance & Frolic with Bronco Charlie plus 20 free attractions and more."
An attendance log of July and August 1927 lists 1,000
attending an Art Fair at the Art Colony. A similar event in 1928 drew some 400.
That list is a local "Who Was Who".
1928 circular sets forth the Artists Colony attractions and aspirations:
"Holland brick, blue stone, a bit of old Normandy transplanted on Long
Island, the Water Tower, its wrought iron clock and bell call for a chapel,
library and look‑out. Members promise an active season ‑ sculpture,
painting, sketching, weaving, pottery and jewelry making, dancing, dramatic art
"Sports: tennis, clock golf, boating, fishing, swimming, riding, whippet
racing, archery, duck shooting, skating and ice boating. A yearly Fair and Dog
Show. Address, 282 East 17th Street, Brooklyn, and Truddington Road, Weybridge,
Elsewhere we read, "Not a financial venture, but an experiment in
art." It was at best an experiment. Bill told me the Thompson’s first saw
what later became the Artists Colony on a Wednesday. When they arrived, the
following weekend to take possession, most of a large stock of portable tools
and equipment they had seen was gone.
The only other building on the golf course area was a small, new brick structure
that is now #30 Hollywood Drive. It was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Tuttle. She was
the former Elaine Golding, champion swimmer of 1912 who taught in a New York
City high school for girls.
Coming back across Hollywood Drive to the Artists Colony, there is another high
barn, identical in style to the one that burned that has now been converted to
some eight condominiums. A printed artist's rendering of some 50 years ago shows
a proposal for a similar adaptation. The barn was separated from the burned one
by a long brick wall along Hollywood Drive, which was cut to permit an extension
of Petticoat Lane northward.
The building originally stabled farm horses, with their associated tack. As part
of the AC it became a general storage area, an antique shop under Arthur Cooper,
and the site of at least one elegant costumed barn dance. It later housed the
Oakdale Supply Co., wholesalers of plumbing, and some other similar enterprises.
Each new try to revitalize the place, or a part of it, called for new
stationery: "Thompson & Miller, Building Architects",
"Thompson Village", etc. Bill also became, briefly, the local agent
for "graphited oil" and other products, as remnants of unsold stocks
Don Dickerman was a pre Sherman (Stork Club) Billingsley night club entrepreneur
of such places in Greenwich Village as the Blue Horse, the Pirates Den, Country
Fair and the Village Barn, and uptown the Heigh-Ho Club where Rudy Vallee is
said to have first unveiled his Connecticut Yankees.
Dickerman was induced by Betty Miller to consider the barn but after a brisk
on-site exchange of introductory patter with Mrs. Thompson he left abruptly and
for good. In 1953 the barn was the "Thompson Management Building."
At the east end of the barn is a brick-paved entrance arch to the rectangle of
buildings, and the beginning of Jade Street. The roads within the AC were closed
a day a year to ensure private title. In addition, Bill stated that a one-foot
strip completely around the AC had been reserved for a similar purpose.
The residence on the west side of the arch, according to the Nassau Daily Review
of the day, became the "Gypsy Tea Room" where Fannie and Emmet,
"real Southern darkies served delicious home-cooked food." An old
photo at hand shows Emmet apparently doing as much for Bill and Betty. The
location is best remembered as the Tally-Ho Inn. For a summer it was run by the
Himmelman family, with daughters Judy and Ellen pitching in. it enjoyed some
success under Maurice Landre, about which time it was known as "Chez Paree."
Landre had Prohibition-era tavern experience, and New York associates, while at
the Three Deuces Club, a "speak" in Manhattan's West Fifties. In the
Inn the house cocktail was a "Zaza" concocted of gin, absinthe or
Pernad, Grenadine and the white of an egg. We local Lotharios learned some basic
French (Donna ma du vin rouges) or would order a green mint frappe with two
short straws, or even a Ginger Beer for the timid.
At the time, it fell to the enterprise of the clientele, including Johnny
McNamara, "Gaw" Smith and Ed Roser, to engage musicians for the Inn.
They were provided by George Osk, a professional of wide experience, who was
heard to comment that it was the first time he'd ever heard of the customers
hiring the music for a night spot. As with most places of similar nature, there
were a few brawls, or confrontations between irate or tipsy customers.
Directly behind the Inn to the east on "Gold Horn" was the home of Ed
and Florence DePotter, among the earliest settlers. She is listed as an early
salesperson; he worked in the photo engraving department of the phone company.
They were a conservative couple, participating only in the more sedate
activities. I enjoyed many evenings of chess with Ed, a fellow commuter to New
Moving clockwise around the interior of the Mews, adjacent to the Inn on Jade
Street, was the Forge with its huge bellows. Here Bill, by a c1930 printed card,
asked "How about a little food and drink this Saturday night at the Forge?
It's my party, are you coming? 7:00 P.M. Bill Thompson." Featured were
fried chicken and roasted ears of corn.
Elmer Roser had the unit next door, now 25 Jade Street, of converted wagon
sheds. Mrs. Roser's mother, Mrs. Murray, and sister, Mrs. Maxwell, also had
homes in the colony. Elmer Roser joined in communal activities and enjoyed a
steady position with, I believe, a utility company. Something noteworthy during
the Depression, particularly among AC folks.
The artist best known to me was Carl Nordell who had a studio immediately south
of Rosers. Although he walked with a cane due to paralysis he was very active. I
bought several of his etchings, but gave them all away. He gave a large work to
Joe Nagy, a local carver of memorial statuary, whom Bill employed in various
capacities. Carl's speech was usually quite mystical and seemed to me just so
much sophistry. But he was pleasant company, even if he did loudly, and
repeatedly, render "Wagon Wheels" in his deep bass voice when only
slightly in his cups.
While still under the double shadow of the Depression and Prohibition, Carl,
Bill, and I were at Tuttle's home on one occasion, enjoying highballs of bottled
soda pop and alcohol, when Carl answered the door to a young lady who announced
that she was the town's Dog Enumerator. Carl was by then in fine voice and
demanded to know what right the Town had to distinguish man from dog. "We
are all God's creatures," he proclaimed. When she pointed out that Tuttle's
dog, which had hastily been put in the kitchen, was barking Carl dismissed the
yapping as "Music of the Spheres" with such vehemence that she backed
out and sped off.
Carl moved to Connecticut and the studio was taken over by a French lady and her
son; later by Irene Thatcher, a close friend of Bill's. Across from Carl's
studio was a "dirt" tennis court without backstops that got much
action. I undertook the rolling and marking in return for privileges. Further
along Jade Street, and facing Frog Lane, was the Vanderbilt "Duck
House", a unit which never seemed to want for tenants: Ed Williams, who
soon had a fine house on the Grand Canal, a William Thompson (no kin), Nettie
Bette Rollins and son, and a Mr. Myers were some of them.
Myers, whom I met often in my work at the tennis court, was pragmatic in regard
to daily problems. He came out to work on his unique car wearing a hairnet which
saved him combing his hair in the morning. He told me that an eye mask and ear
plugs assured him sound sleep. His car, a coupe, was fitted for travelling. The
back of the front seat folded down to where a rumble seat might have been,
making a Pullman-like berth, with net hammocks for clothing. A tank on the
running board, under air pressure, delivered water to a clip on basin on the
The car had a narrow removable cushion between the two large seat cushions which
made for a latrine, albeit over the drive shaft. These are the features I can
recall. Mr. Myers told me about secret locks that took 15 minutes to unlatch,
including hidden valves in the gas line that he would not discuss, and a wedge
fitted under the steering wheel horn button to avoid unintentional honking.
Down Frog Lane and facing the canal was the picturesque log cabin of
"Bronco Charlie Miller," a colorful pony express rider of the Old
West. The cabin bore the name "Four Aces" although Charlie used the
term "Swash Jargon" when referring to it. This puzzled me when I later
learned that the latter was a Lingua Franca of the midwestern Indian. The
building was rented to various tenants until it rotted away. To better display
his carvings, such as Totem Poles, a smaller and simpler cabin was erected on a
Thompson lot on Montauk Highway which later grew to become Bronco Charlie's
Restaurant under Various Owners.
known simply as the "Log Cabin", as per a small 1930 typewritten Bill
of Fare, it offered Ice Cream at 55 cents a quart, eggs at 30 cents a dozen,
Penn Jersey Motor Oil crankcase service (free) at two gallons for $1.20, as well
as "Ciggs", sandwiches, etc. Another printed card of the "Idle
Hour Log Cabin" touches all bases, from Information Bureau to Bus Stop,
Lucy P.S. Thompson Broker; and the co-tenants, James A. and MarieA.Tafe offered
"Inn Accomodations, vegetables and Pyroil."
Charlie had started to hollow out an immense oak log as a canoe but abandoned
the project and later it was cut into firewood by Joe Seymour, the caretaker of
Vanderbilt's former mansion.
Further south along Golden Horn was a barn with a one-man racing scull, and a
small converted building often used as a home by Betty Miller. While fishing in
the canal here Bill Thompson dredged out a bottle of Old Grand Dad. Some found
the contents salty but he didn't. In the canal and ashore thereabouts were
various craft, such as a sailboat and a dory with a two cylinder engine.
Of more interest was a World War I relic that had been a submarine chaser. Much
superstructure had been removed, so that it could pass under WKV's turn bridge,
which no longer turned, near Snapper Inn. About 30 feet long and with a very
narrow beam, it required daily hand pumping by Joe Nagy to keep it afloat. Much
labor and material originally procured to create rentable units, was expended by
often inept employees to make the Flag Admiral seaworthy.
In spite of it all, Mother Thompson never got angry at Bill, to my knowledge. I
was happy to join him and friends on daylight trial runs of the Flag Admiral,
that usually turned into moonlight sails, during which grog more than bad
seamanship led to crashing through fishing installations, and the throwing over
of unsecured anchors.
Returning back up Frog Lane toward Jade Street, it passes "Hounds
Ditch" and a few simple buildings in which Bill had bushels of apples and
grapes fermenting, none of which had been deprived of such natural companions as
twigs, leaves and insects. I joined Bill on some of his inspection tours, when
he used a rubber tube to draw samples from the casks. A Cider Mill at West Islip
pressed the apples but I can't recall who trod the grapes. Alcoholic proof
rather than clarity and bouquet was the goal.
ON Jade Street, and turning south, was a long, wooden structure that had served
as a general service and animal hospital building. The first unit, called
"the Fish Bowl" because of its many windows, was then occupied by Miss
Florence Greenwood, a weaver of tapestries and reproductions of old rugs. She
also taught the subject. Later it was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Lieber. He
was a career man with the Long Island State Park Commission.
Past some unused sections at the south end was a unit occupied by Mr. and Mrs.
Elisha Miller. He was a neat, spry gentleman with a white goatee; a retired
highway supervisor from one of the eastern Long Island towns. When the Burke
brothers sold off the lots in Idle Hour they undertook such municipal
prerogatives as issuing fishing permits, setting minimum building costs and
sideyard widths, and requiring hedge and road maintenance. Miller was hired to
supervise road work by the developers. He lost one hand in a car accident while
inspecting, but was quickly back on the job.
The last building on the east side of Jade Street was known as the "Queen
Ann", originally a supervisor's home occupied successively by the DePotters,
Lucy Thompson who installed a pleasant rock garden and pool, and then by the
John J. "Kitch" McNamara family. Although he required two crutches,
due to infantile paralysis, McNamara became the purchasing agent for the early
L. I. State Park Commission.
Across Featherbed Lane and in the "Summer Colony", a neighboring
development south of the Artists' Colony, was "Eagle House", built by
William K. Vanderbilt to frighten hawks away from the chicken pens. It was
remodeled into #44 on the lane. Opposite the "Queen Ann" was the
brooder house, at the beginning of a long row of brick chicken houses. A scrap
of blueprint found there indicated that the building contractor, or designer,
was a Mr. Green of Sayville. (Isaac Green was a highly regarded architect and
builder who designed the east and west wings of Sagtikos Manor at Bay Shore c
Here was the special woodworking machinery for making doors and window frames,
electrical wire, cement, plaster and similar goods procured to make the Artists'
Colony units habitable. Much more than was ever used was diverted, spoiled or
pilfered. At one time much effort was made to start production of "pumpkin
seed" duck hunting scooters of canvas covered oak planking. Only two were
finished and they proved too heavy for the purpose and were never used. The
building and grounds were eventually elegantly finished as a residence by James
and Hilda Bunting.
Further west along the row was a unit prepared for Robson Gore, a kin of an
actress named Robson, either Mae or Flora. I didn't know which. He had an
olive-green Chrysler Imperial coupe which he traded to Bill Thompson against
some debts, after Bill tore the bottom out of his Stutz Black Hawk while driving
over a stump at field trials. "Roby" gave me a pair of snowshoes which
I learned to use after I taught myself to let them swing free at the toe. At the
far end of the row was the unit prepared for Mrs. Murray, the mother of Mrs.
Maxwell and Mrs. Roser.
Returning to Jade Street, and just south of the "Duck House", is
Princess Gate, a thoroughfare which on its south side has another long brick
structure. The east end became, after remodeling, the home of Mrs. Flora
MacDonald, the mother of Betty Miller, and later of Betty's then divorced
husband, Austin H. "Butz" Miller, until his death. "Butz"
told lurid tales of backstage life where he had worked in non-acting capacities.
Betty and "Butz" only lived together briefly in the City and they
spent much time as separate persons at the Colony.
Betty once told me of a Thanksgiving dinner they gave in Brooklyn. The drinking
started early and when one guest decided he needed a walk and some air he was
asked to take along a bag of garbage. Later when the turkey was to be roasted it
was discovered that an error in bags had been made. The culprit couldn't
remember where he had dropped off the "garbage" so the whole party
took off until someone found it in a nearby rubbish barrel.
Next door was the comfortable home of Florence and Stanley Maxwell. He was an
active chap and avid tennis player. At the western end of the building was the
atelier of Olga Meerwold, a custom designer. Across Princess Gate going
northerly was Petticoat Lane, then terminating in Quality Street.
Through a wide barn gate and west along Princess Gate on both sides were
parallel brick buildings. On the right were, successively, the apartments of Mr.
Hunter an architect; the Robert family, kin to Christopher R. Robert of nearby
Pepperidge Hall, and later of Mr. Edwin Forrest Murdock, a retired patent
attorney for the Franklin Motor Company who had maintained a studio at Carnegie
Hall. At his death I bought stacks of art prints and clippings from the estate.
Living in the Robert household was a lad, a few years younger than I was who
attended Phillips Exeter Academy. We played chess on their fine inlaid Turkish
games table and made lunches of S. S. Pierce gourmet viands. Further along the
building, Miss DeMeuton, a writer, had a unit.
At the west end of the building summered Carl Miller, a victim of some infirmity
that affected his speech and muscular coordination, who rose to an important
post in the advertising business. One fall, with Bill T's cooperation, he set
grapes to ferment in the unit with Bill's assurance that he would tend it. It
was early winter when Bill happened to recall his promise and suggested that we
look in. we were greeted by myriad flies and sticky juice awash on the floors.
Bill nonchalantly suggested we leave lest we become involved in the mess.
Across Princess Gate from Carl Miller's was the west end of a row of what had
been sties for prize swine. The first unit was occupied by Nell Zimmerly Bryan
and later by her son. The next occupied unit was that of Carol and Francis Gow-Smith,
an admirable couple. He was a member of the Explorer's Club in New York. He had
prospected for diamonds in the Matto Grosso region of Brazil and had a great
store of wilderness and Indian stories. He had also searched for the now
legendary Colonel Fawcett, lost there years before. The Depression brought a
dearth of expedition sponsors but a member had helped him get a job as public
relations counsel for Consolidated Edison.
In the area behind these former piggeries was a clearing where croquet was
played at night under lights, surrounded by fruit trees such as "Maiden's
Blush" and Russet. Beyond the croquet court was the circular hog wallow,
transformed into an aquatic garden. it was here that I was more formally
introduced to Betty Miller and Bill T. when the couple arrived to watch a game.
She was the great granddaughter of Sir John A. MacDonald, a Conservative Prime
Minister of Canada (1867-73). She had been active in various art projects in
Manhattan and was a key figure in the development of the Artists' Colony. Her
brother, Lt. James Leslie, born 1898 in Waterbury, Conn., was a World War I
aviator decorated by the French and Italian governments, according to the Nassau
Daily Review. He was active in organizing local aero groups and a local patrol
of vacant homes.
One November a group of car sales personnel, of whom the Thompson family had
bought in the past, sent word that they would be out to go duck hunting. Having
no means or inclination to accommodate them Bill asked me to take over. They
arrived at the Inn on a stormy evening, with the usual tins of alcohol popular
during Prohibition. They were barely able to follow me at dawn down to the shore
behind Pepperidge Hall where I rigged out sets of decoys for two groups on
points of bog about 150 yards apart. The weather quickly cleared, the warm sun
putting some to sleep. Others, staring at the decoys and imagining life among
them started shooting. Shot dropped on the opposite point and was returned. I
was thankful when they called it a day and I could pick up my peppered stool.
To return to the piggeries, Carol Gow-Smith gave me a photo of her husband in
the wilds of Brazil roasting a bit of pig or picarry over an open fire, which
may have prompted his plan for a pig roast in the Artists' Colony. My
stepfather, who commuted to New York with him and was in the meat business,
provided instead of a piglet, a fullsized prime porker. A large pit had to be
provided with a heavier spit, which promptly sagged under the weight after a few
turns, exposing only one side of the pig to the fire.
But everyone was tolerant by then, with ample hard cider and other relaxants.
The many dogs within the scent crowded around. Finally, the porker was carried
to Gow's kitchen and between the burnt and the raw, which went to the dogs, some
edible morsels were salvaged and enjoyed.
Gow died about 1938 at 46 of emphysema, and complications from his jungle
experiences. He had been held captive by bandits and gone from 200 to 112
pounds. The Museum of the American Indian published some of his notes in 1927.
Carol later married Lynne T. Morgan, an artist. Both suffered progressive vision
defects to their deaths. My notes indicate that a Mr and Mrs. LeSeuer and a Miss
Bertha Fleck were also residents of this row, in the easterly end unit.
remains now to start north, up Tower Mews to where we started. The first unit on
the left was that of Mrs. Church and her son, Arthur Briggs Church. She was
loudly indignant of her imagined, or the allegedly observed conduct of her
neighbors. Some screamed back in kind to the entertainment of those within
hearing. She had a pompous visitor with the given name of Confucius who, it was
said, inherited her property.
The next north unit was taken by a fencing master teaching at LaSalle Military
Academy a bit to the east. After a few moments of crossing epees with him I
found my untrained arm about to fall off.
Harold Brown, the son of George Elmer Brown, the illustrating artist of the then
popular Literary Digest lived here for a season.
A larger unit, now #10 Tower Mews, followed and contained much fine furniture
from many homes that the Thompsons had in New Orleans, Brooklyn and the Mid
West. A Mr. and Mrs. Adams moved in for a season and later the Gilberts, he a
newspaperman associated with the stage. Their daughter, Ethyl Joyce, was a
A bevy of boys: Burt Kelly, George Farnese and Charlie Cheyney had the unit for
a season with constant weekend guests. One guest was a chap who conducted a
children's program on a Brooklyn radio station as an "Uncle Bob" who
replied on the air to notes from his young listeners. This was before television
when all the youngsters had from the airways was radio. His hosts sent in an
appropriate note which he read over the air as coming from "little Sarah
Cheyney way out in Oakdale." I enjoyed the gossip of their backstage lives
as it was novel to me.
Returning through the Artists' Colony one chilly afternoon in early fall from
hunting a reported pheasant in the Summer Colony, I noticed a group of boys
pointing excitedly to a small blaze at the ridge of the roof near the chimney. I
later learned that kerosene had been thrown to start the fireplace. The flames
shot up the chimney and curled down to the tinder dry shingles. There was some
fevered evacuation of furnishings, at least in units where someone was at home.
A burly local volunteer chopped through the sideboards of a heavy carved antique
bedstead so that he could throw the head and foot boards from the upstairs
window. A dresser that was put on the balcony railing was taken back onto the
balcony, the mirror removed and then thrown on the road below. A local brigade
arrived to find no adequate source of water, as had been the case in the
previous fire mentioned.
A "jumper" truck was sent across the property of the
"Monkey" Clarks, so called locally for their choice of pets to
distinguish them from other local Clarks, to the end of the canal where floating
leaves hid a few inches of water over a yard of silt. The suction line promptly
buried itself and much of the pump's mechanism in muck. The operator then
methodically dismantled the apparatus for cleaning. The wind being northerly A.C.
units in that direction were spared, all to the south were reduced to cracked
brick walls. Where the fire had started was rebuilt and Alice Johnson lived
there until she was killed in a car accident in 1953.
Beyond the units that burned was an unconverted cow barn. At the northerly end,
including above the entry arch was the elegant residence and studio of Marna and
Harry Van Weston. She was a sister of Carol Gow-Smith and he a successful
artist, particularly in water colors, of which, happily, I have retained a few.
The first floor was paved with facience tile and furnished with heavy Spanish
The pile of candle drippings beneath a wrought iron pedestal candelabrum was
never disturbed in cleaning the floor but allowed to grow, which I assumed to be
quite chic. There was a miniscule kitchen and an ascending stairs, without
balustrade, to sleeping quarters and studio with skylight over the arch. Under a
Spanish shawl was a grand piano on which a nephew of Marna appropriately played
selections from "Carmen" while we entertained a guest or two.
A glorious atelier was destroyed by a third fire after I had moved from Idle
Hour. The portion other than the arch was rebuilt in more modest fashion. The
bare brick arches remain without the studio above. Weston's car, a brown custom
Packard convertible coupe with leather top, was usually parked below.
In the northwestern corner of the Artists' Colony was the small creamery that
had been converted to living quarters after the fire. At this writing it is the
property of Mrs. Florence Bezrutczyk, a design consultant. At the easterly side
of the arch had been the Water Tower, now referred to as the Clock Tower, for
while the mechanical apparatus is gone the face of the clock remains, as does an
exterior bell that is still tolled at times. Among the owners of the Tower were
the pianist, Claude
Gonvierre and later his protege Gary Towlen.
In appreciation of the efforts of those bygone masons who took pride in the
craftsmanship of the massive brick structure, Ms. Bezrutczyk reversed the all
too usual practice, uncovering the brickwork and removing installed partitions.
Her successful efforts have been the subject of numerous newspaper and magazine
articles. She also acquired the Pompeii-like remains of the art studio and
theatre where our tour started, which have been softened to pleasant garden
The Artists' Colony became an Islip Town Historical District in January of 1976.
The only other such district so designated by the town board is Sagtikos Manor
purchased from the Indians in 1692, with its manor house begun soon after.
Bill T., who was pleasant to a fault, served in the South Pacific during World
War 11. He died at 45 in Brooklyn soon after the war. Betty Miller died shortly
afterwards. The quaint street names of the Artists' Colony were taken from
"the literature of London."
Material for this article was generously supplied by Betty Kuss, Joseph Nagy,
Richard Osk and the late Thora Lund Thompson.