Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Brush’

 The Town of Huntington recently acquired twelve acres of open space in Greenlawn.  While valued as a natural habitat, the property also has a long history dating back to the early eighteenth century when it was owned by Charles Saxton, who sold a portion of his land to Jeremiah Smith in or about 1719.  An easement to allow Saxton access to Smith’s property to clear a drainage ditch refers to the earlier land transfer.[i]

But the property is known for its connection to the Brush family.  Thomas Brush was a farmer in West Neck who, in addition to his farm at West Neck, owned land in Old Fields (now Greenlawn).  When he died in 1862, he bequeathed to his son Samuel the large farm in Old Fields “where he now resides.”[ii] The 1858 atlas lists “S. Brush” in that location.  Samuel’s brother James owned the farm to the east across Old Field Road.

Samuel Brush was born in 1807 in Huntington.  He married Elizabeth Sammis in 1835.  Two years later, he acquired six acres from Moses Rogers on the west side of the road leading from “Centre port to the Old Fields” bounded on the east and south by the road, on the west by land owned by someone whose name is illegible and on the north by land of Henry Lewis.[iii]  Six years later he acquired from William Smith 20 acres of partly enclosed arable land and partly timber land near Centerport bordered on the south and west by an old road, on the north by the timber land of Henry Lewis and on the east partly by other land Brush already owned and partly by the highway leading from Centerport to Old Fields.[iv]  From the descriptions given in the deeds, these two tracts would appear to include at least part of the current 12-acre subject property.


The Brush Homestead

An inspection of the original part of the house indicated a construction date in the 1830s, which is consistent with the date of Brush’s marriage and his acquisition of the property described above.

Samuel’s son Samuel Brush, Jr., who was born in 1845, and his wife Anna lived with him on the farm when he was widower (his wife died in 1864).[v]  Father and son were both farmers.[vi]  Samuel Brush Jr. inherited the farm when his father died in 1881.

In 1905, Samuel Brush, Jr. sold the 116-acre farm to Frederick A. Phelps of Brooklyn.[vii]  Phelps was a land speculator who acquired hundreds of acres of land in the Centerport-Greenlawn area as an agent for Dean Alvord, the developer of Prospect Park South in Brooklyn and Belle Terre in Port Jefferson.  Locally, he subdivided land overlooking Northport Harbor, known as Cedarcroft.  Part of that subdivision became the Grace Estate, and a part of that property including a log cabin, is now Town of Huntington parkland.

Phelps did not intend to live in the house and his acquisition of the property saw its transformation from a working farm to a wealthy gentlemen’s farm, where horses, sheep and show dogs would be raised.  Two years after he acquired the property, Phelps sold it to Harrison Gilmore of Utica.  Gilmore was a successful coal dealer in western New York[viii] and did not intend to live in the house year round—it would be a summer retreat.  Gilmore hired William A. Davis to work as foreman on the farm.[ix]  In 1912, Gilmore sold 12½ acres at the southern end of the farm to Claire A. Knapp of Bellport;[x] and the northern parcel of about 80 acres to Francis C. Hicks of Philadelphia.[xi]

Claire Knapp, who was only 23 years old at the time, was from an old Fairfield, Connecticut family.  Her grandfather made a fortune in the printing business in Brooklyn and was one of the founders of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.  Her father Joseph Palmer Knapp followed his father in the printing business, merging the family company with others to form American Lithograph Company, later known as ALCO.  Joseph P. Knapp also acquired and started several newspapers and magazines, including Everyweek magazine and Collier’s Weekly.

According to one account, Joseph P. Knapp purchased the Greenlawn property for his ex-wife, who divorced him in 1903, and his two children; and spent $75,000 fixing it up. [xii]  The work included adding a large wing to the west side of the old Brush farmhouse.  An article in December 30, 1914 editions of The American Architect shows the historic house with the new west wing forming an L shaped house.  The new wing contained a spacious living room and dining room on the first floor and a large master bedroom on the second floor.  The original deed was to Claire Knapp; but within a year, she transferred the property to her father.


The Brush Homestead with West Wing added by Joseph Knapp

Miss Knapp, operating under the name Clairedale Farm, raised show dogs—and cats.[xiii] She apparently moved the operation to Mastic in 1916, where she later eloped with her chauffer (but that’s another story).   The same year, Joseph Knapp leased the farm to Baron de Stackelberg of Russia for the summer.[xiv]  A year later, the Knapps sold the 12½-acre property to Annie Brinley, the widow of Captain Edward Brinley of Greenlawn subject to a $15,000 mortgage held by Joseph Knapp.[xv]  Edward Brinley, a member of the Annapolis class of 1880, had died just six months earlier.

The property then changed hands several times over the next thirty years.  Brinley sold the property to James G. Hall of Garden City in 1924.[xvi]   Just three years later Ida Bell Hall of Coronado, California (presumably the heir of James G. Hall) conveyed the land to Waldron and Rey Belknap of Manhattan.[xvii]  The Belknaps also acquired a 76½-acre parcel to the north reuniting the property to close to its original size.  Waldron Belknap was a vice president of the Bankers Trust Company.  As a young man, he had been a member of Manhattan’s Squadron A Cavalry unit, whose Brooklyn rival, Squadron C, had a summer farm in Huntington.  He re-enlisted in 1916, at the age of 43, to serve in World War I.

Knapp Barns

Stables, Water Tower and Kennel Building

In 1946, Rey Belknap, now residing at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, sold the 12½-acre southern portion of the property to Henry Sanford of Smithtown Branch for $50,000.[xviii]  Two years later Henry Sanford conveyed the property to Anne N. Sanford.[xix]

Anne Sanford married Dr. Walter T. Carpenter and transferred ownership of the property to him in 1977.[xx] Dr. Carpenter was the first board-certified pediatrician in Suffolk County.  He was born in Brooklyn in 1911.  After graduating from Cornell Medical School, he volunteered as a ship’s surgeon during World War II and later joined the Office of Strategic Services.  After the war, he set up his pediatric practice in Greenlawn.  He enlarged the east wing to the house in the 1950s for his medical practice.

Dr. Carpenter died in October 2008.  His estate had the house and outbuildings demolished in 2010 in order to save the expense of insurance and taxes.

[i] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber X, page 85

[ii] The Descendants of Thomas and Richard Brush of Huntington, Long Island, compiled by Stuart C. Brush, Gateway Press, Inc., 1982, page 115

[iii] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 28, page 121

[iv] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 39, page 205

[v] Brush, page 244

[vi] Brush, pages 244 and 429

[vii] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 567, page 314

[viii] History of Oneida County, New York
From 1700 to the present time
of some of its prominent men and pioneers.
By: Henry J. Cookinham
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1912

[ix] The Long-Islander, March 15, 1907, page 6

[x] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 798, page 220

[xi] The Long-Islander, October 4, 1912, page 4

[xii] See http://www.spoonercentral.com/2011/Talk.html for an account of the Knapp family in Mastic.

[xiii] The Long-Islander, September 29, 1922

[xiv] New York Times, June 2, 1916

[xv] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 959, page 353

[xvi] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 1116, page 135

[xvii] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 1270, page 149

[xviii] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 523, page 68

[xix] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 2835, page 106

[xx] Suffolk County Clerk’s Office Deed Liber 8261, page 123

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