Villagers Mourn Eastview's Sale To Rockefeller
By Ishbel Ross, New York Herald Tribune, March 23, 1929
Center of Village To Be Demolished by Rockefeller
They Talk Forlornly at Little Shops, Sad Despite Fancy Prices Paid for Property
Colonial Relics Displayed
Loath to Leave Homes, Some Built a Century Ago
Mrs. Mary Jane Connor, who cut a dashing figure on the Westchester roads a quarter of a century ago with her pacing horses and sulky, stood in her sprigged gingham behind the counter of her shop to-day and dispensed cornflakes, chocolate, and cold drinks with a saddened air.
All of the oldtimers of the little village of Eastview were gathered in clusters, a sorrowful caucus with substantial sums of money from the pocketbook of John D. Rockefeller Jr. to their credit, but sentimental regret uppermost for the time being. It irked them that seventh generation sons of the soil should have to move out so that the railroad henceforth would cut through Eastview instead of Mr. Rockefeller's Pocantico Hills estate.
$700,000 PAID FOR PROPERTY
They have all had notice to move following purchase of their property by Mr. Rockefeller for $700,000, thus enlarging his estate to 8,000 acres. None of them has had official notice that he is the purchaser, although they are all morally certain of it. The transactions were conducted through a real estate firm for an "unnamed client."
The village of Eastview nestles in a little hollow, with scattering of families living in quaint old homes, some of which date back for more than 100 years. The cellars are fashioned of hewn timbers brought straight from the forest, and in spite of its oil stations and hot dog stands it maintains an air of reserved antiquity.
The older families still call it Brown's Corners, and among those who will pack up and move May 1 is John F. Brown, whose family has held a substantial parcel of land in the community for seven generations. His small grocery shop is next door to Mrs. Connor's, and they sell old-fashioned peppermints, lollipops, shoelaces, pens, and whatnots in friendly rivalry, while the village cronies gossip over the old-fashioned stoves that heat their respective establishments.
FAMED AS HORSEWOMAN
Mrs. Connor, who has adorned Brown's Corners for forty years, is still a sturdy figure, with silver hair coiled on top of her head and her cheeks abloom with color. She was always known for her spirit and was the only woman in the community who went in for trotting horses. Her neighbors can remember her flying along the road like a whirlwind, clouds of dust swirling around her erect figure with its white shirtwaist, gusseted blue skirt, and small round hat precariously pinned to an elaborate coiffure.
"You see, it was natural for me to take to horses," she explained, wiping off the counter of her immaculate shop after serving a customer with ginger beer. "My family went in for racing. Come and look at some of my relics."
Briskly, she led the way to a sun porch behind the shop and pointed out her most treasured racing prints. A horseshoe hangs over the door of the old house, which is painted white with green trimmings. Her prints hang in her shop as well as in the private rooms of her dwelling. She loves them and exhibits them with real enthusiasm, although reserved on other subjects.
TELLS OF HER FINEST HORSES
"My best known horses," she said, "were June, Mamie C., and Lady Kelly. We used to have a great time in those days. Look at this picture. That was how we used to race on the snow. And on Saturday nights the shop used to be filled to overflowing. Automobiles have made a big difference, I can assure you."
Mrs. Connor's candid gaze was faintly clouded as she moved among her prints and drew on her memory for items that might be of interest. Her favorite picture is in colors and shows an ancient high-wheeled sulky with "The King of the Turf, Dexter, driven by Budd Doble." It was owned by Robert Bonner, who had a farm in the neighborhood.
Another print was of Sunol owned by Mr. Bonner and sold later for $45,000. The picture was taken at the Empire race track with countless Victorian ladies in stiffly starched shirtwaists escorted by an equivalent number of whiskered gentlemen in attire that Mr. Ward McAllister would have found seemly.
ADMIRED FIGURE ON RACE TRACK
Mrs. Connor used to trot her horses on James Butler's track, which is close to Eastview. She would drive them at the Grand Circuit fair, exciting the admiration of spectators by her dash and skill. The motor car and the asphalt road combined to drive her from the highways with her trotters. The sale of the White Plains track to be cut up for building lots was a contributory factor in causing her to abandon her favorite pursuit.
She has not made up her mind what she intends to do in the future, although it is known that she, in common with the other residents of Eastview who are losing their mellowed environment, have received substantial compensation.
Henry P. Paulding, whose ancestor John Paulding, helped capture Major Andre, frankly admitted that twelve years ago he paid $3,500 for the house he now occupies and has received more than $25,000 for it. Although he has occupied this house for a comparatively short time, as those things are rated in Eastview, his family has lived in the community as far back as he can remember. The owned the property which Mr. Butler bought and converted into a smart estate.
COLONIAL RELICS EXHIBITED
There was his father, De Witt Paulding, and his grandfather, John Paulding, who was named after the more famous Paulding. Sitting in his staid parlor to-day with its trim Colonial furnishings, he showed a picture of the white-wigged soldier who, according to the inscription, "helped to capture Major Andre."
More treasured still is the black felt hat with cockade and silver braid worn by his ancestor. Inside is a faint inscription showing that it was made by Tweedy & Benedict, of Maiden Lane.
Like Mrs. Connor, Mr. Paulding does not know what he will do when he gathers up his relics of Colonial days and moves away from Eastview, where every man knows his neighbor, and their parents and grandparents shared the joys and misfortunes of a closely cemented community.
"Of course when a man gets to be as rich as Mr. Rockefeller," said Mr. Paulding dryly, "I guess he can buy up several communities if he wants to."
The elder Rockefeller is a myth and legend to the residents of Eastview. Few of them have ever seen him and none of his dimes has happened to alight in this little village. His son is known to most of them by sight, although none of them has ever talked to him.
Mr. Brown, whose family originally owned most of the land which has been bought in this transaction by Mr. Rockefeller, and who is related by blood or marriage to most of his neighbors, was away from home to-day and his stepdaughter, Mrs. H. G. MacMunn, was in charge of the shop.
The purchase of their land is a hard blow for the Browns, because of their deep attachment to Eastview. Mr. Brown was born in a house that is more than 100 years old and stands behind his little shop, which is next door to Mrs. Connor's on the main road. The diverted railroad track will cut through his property.
He was in horseracing until ten years ago, when he bought the little shop which is still as old-fashioned as the smallest country store remote from civilization. Although the smart cars of Westchester flash by his doorstep, his stock is still a jumble of such confections as "conversational" sweets and peppermints, lollypops, barley sugar, and licorice strings. The bright-hued calendars of other years linger on the walls and a leisurely air pervades the store.
With the proceeds from the sale of his place Mr. Brown has bought a pigeon farm in Vineland, N.J. and will reluctantly leave the environment that has bred seven generations of his family. He is now sixty-six years old. Like Mrs. Connor, he had some famous horses, the best of which was Sir Arthur Wilkes, which died some time ago of old age.
Others who were bemoaning the new order of things to-day as the buds were bursting on their property in the premature sunshine were Wesley Boyce, who is in the poultry business and has lived all his life on part of the old Brown estate; Edgar T. Baker, who is a guard at the penitentiary, and Mrs. Caroline Crisfield, a relative of Mr. Brown, who now lives in the original homestead of the Brown family. It was remodeled three years ago, when it became apparent that age had begun to eat into its venerable timbers.