|11. Prospect House Opens
While land purchases continued into May 1872, often on land that had not yet been formally purchased, the place called Prospect was a bee hive of activity. Construction of the hotel and a number of houses began and continued through the Spring. It must have been amazing. Wood and plumbing supplies being delivers to the Wharf and carpenters sawing and hammering to build a grand hotel. According to Duvall, hotel guests were expected at the beginning of the season in early July. Other buildings that were finished by early summer 1872 included the three houses directly in front of the hotel, between Summerfield Place and Willow Walk, and two larger houses facing Dering Harbor. The Restaurant, now The Chequit, to be used as a community dining room, was also completed. The houses must have been built on speculation in order to highlight for potential purchasers what they could build on their lots.
It was not until August 6, 1872 that John E. Searles of Brooklyn and his wife Mary A. (as was the law by this time, husbands could buy, but wives were required to agree to a sale of property) conveyed the land to the Shelter Island Grove and Camp Meeting Association: “Whereas the said John E. Searles in contemplation of the Incorporation of the [Association] and the purposes of the Association has purchased the premises ... from several proprietors thereof for prices mentioned in the conveyance thereof amounting to ... $37,000 (more or less) and he now desires to transfer all his title to and interest in said premises to the [Association] which desires to accept the same;
“Now therefore this Indenture Witnesseth that [Searles] in consideration of $37,000 (less mortgages for the amount of $3,200 (more or less)) to them duly paid have granted ... All that tract in Shelter Island ... Bounded as follows: Commencing at the Southeast corner of the City Road (so called) and adjoining the west line of that land formerly of Moses D. Griffing, deceased, then bounded Southerly by the said road or highway until it comes to the shore of Peconic Bay, then bounded Westerly, Northerly, and Easterly by the said Bay or Ferry until it comes to Dering’s Harbor amd then bounded Easterly by the waters of Dering’s Harbor and by the Creek and (from the head of the Creek) by land formerly of Moses D. Griffing deceased until it comes to the said City Road or place of beginning. Containing about 275 acres (more or less) and the Buildings and Edifices thereon...” (Not all acreage adds up precisely because of different owners at different times and because of various measuring techniques at different times.)
The first lots sold from the Copeland map, numbers 143, 145, 147 and 149 on Spring Garden Avenue (now the property of Slauson), were purchased for $800 on February 10, 1873 by the Honorable Samuel Booth of Brooklyn, one of the organizers of the Association and brother of the Mayor of Brooklyn, William C. Booth. William Booth himself, on the same day, purchased lots 124 and 126 at the northeast corner of Spring Garden and Bay avenues (now the property of Bedford) for $425.
Also, on February 10, 1873, Mrs. Caroline A. Searles of New Haven, wife of John E. Searles, Jr., purchased lots 121, 123, and 125 on Grand Avenue (in 2003, the lots of the late Harold McGee). That same day, her husband purchased lots 65, 67, and 69 (on Clinton Avenue, formerly Hansel, now Sapan/Foley). He also purchased lot 34 (Chequit Avenue, part of the property of the Reilly’s).
On the same day, the Reverend John B. Searles of Brooklyn, according to Ralph Duvall, in his 1932 History of Shelter Island, one of the principals of the Association purchased lot 310 on the north side of Wesley Avenue (now part of the Bissell property). On March 2, 1874 he purchased lots 210 and 212 on Spring Garden Road. (in 2003, the house just south of the Dinkel’s). He also purchased lot 101 on Clinton Avenue (now part of the Hughes/Wallace property).
On April 22, 1873, for $2,750, Rebecca Chase Beebe purchased lots 264, 266, 268, and 270, (now owned by Cunningham) the location of the Chase Family Homestead which still stood. Also, for $1,000, she also purchased lots 267, 269, 271, and 272, (now owned primarily by Mohr) which were north and west of the Family Homestead.
Also, on the same day, her sister, Lydia Chase Boardman, for $585, purchased lots 258, 260, and 262 which are the lots directly west of the Chase Family Homestead. Thus, two daughters of Frederick Chase, when the dust had settled, retained the area on the north side of Chase Avenue from Grand Avenue to present day Cedar Avenue and north to Rainbow Park.
On March 2, 1874 Kate Chase Mosier of the City of Brooklyn purchased lot 993, across Chase Avenue from the Homestead house, (now owned by Lee) which she sold to her sister Margaret Chase Walters on June 22, 1877 for $239. On that same day Rebecca Chase Beebe sold lot 267, one of the lots west of the Homestead, also to Margaret Walters. The family shuffle continued.
On March 2, 1874, John E. Searles of New Haven purchased lots 452, 454, 456, 458, and 460 on the north side of Oxford Avenue. On March 4, he purchased lot 167 on the west side of Spring Garden Avenue (now part of the property of Lake). On September 13, 1875 he purchased lot 223, at the southwest corner of Washington and Waverly. On October 7, 1877, he purchased lots 46 and 48 on Clinton Avenue (now part of the Badger property).
On July 15, 1874, Rebecca Chase Beebe purchased lot 996 on Chase Avenue across from the Homestead (now Langbein).
Frederick’s widow, Rebecca Cartwright Chase died on May 25, 1880 at age 91. In addition to Harriet , she outlived her daughter Elizabeth Wood and her son Albert. She was buried beside her husband in the Presbyterian Church cemetery.
Duvall says that the Chase Homestead served as a boarding house for many years. We understand that Lydia Boardman ran a boarding house in the Heights.
The Reverend John E. Searles died on February 12, 1893, at the age of 74, at his residence in Brooklyn. He had been rector of four churches in Brooklyn over a 50 year period, the last being the Russell Place Methodist Episcopal Church, built with his own money, from which he had retired a year before his death because of ill health.
John E. Searles, Jr., born in 1840, in the 1870’s was a partner in the West India shipping company of L. W. P. Armstrong in New Haven which soon developed a large sugar business. In 1890, in New York, he helped to form the American Sugar Refining Company which became known as the Sugar Trust with capital of $50 million. At the time of his father’s death, he was secretary, but later became chief executive officer of the company. He resigned in December 1898 ostensibly because of bad health, but it was rumored that he was broke. He made a second fortune in cotton and a third in railroads. He died of a heart attack in London on October 23, 1908 while waiting on a platform with his wife to take a train to Guilford.