If it wasn't written down, it didn't happen ...

Howard E. Raymond: A Heights Savior

by Patricia and Edward Shillingburg ©2005


Howard E. Raymond was a significant presence in the Heights from his retirement as vice-chairman of the B. F. Goodrich Company in 1920 until his death in 1928. He moored his boat the Anna in a slip on his property between Clinton Avenue and Dering Harbor. The slip is still there, though in disrepair.

    By 1919, the Heights had been run down to a state of disrepair under the ownership and management of George R. Branson. Fed up, a cabal of Heights men wrenched control from him. It actually took six years.
    A leader in this rebellion was Howard E. Raymond who became president of the Heights Association and the Shelter Island and Greenport Ferry Company in 1920. He was a single gentleman, who owned a house on Clinton Avenue and kept rooms at the Union League Club in New York City. He was a Brooklyn man.
    His life was filled with his enthusiasms which began in the mid-1890s with the cycling craze. In 1893, he was president of the American League of Wheelmen. Besides being an avid wheelman, he helped to write the rules for bicycle races. In 1894, after a banquet in his honor given by the wheelmen in New York City, he moved to Chicago to work for the Sterling Bicycle Company. While there he was a charter member of the Chicago Athletic Club. The following year he joined the B. F. Goodrich Company in New York City as sales manager. During his 25 year career with the company he directed the expansion of its business both domestically and abroad, including London, Paris, and Tokyo. The company became the largest producer of automobile tires in the country. When he retired in 1920, he was vice-chairman of its board.
    Howard Raymond was no stranger to Shelter Island when, in 1905, then working in Akron, Ohio, he purchased lot 62 on Clinton Avenue in the Heights with its house and its furnishings. He was forty years old.
    Those from whom he purchased the property were all heirs of his grandmother Susan B. Gardner.  His uncle Joseph K. Gardner had originally purchased the property in 1885 (when Howard was 20) from the estate of Jesse Barker who had purchased the lot in 1872 from the Shelter Island Grove and Camp Meeting Association, one of the very first to invest in the new development.
    In the 1880 Census, Howard E. Raymond, age 15, was living at 118 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn with his step-father William Swalm, a physician, his mother, his grandparents, David and Susan Gardner, and their daughter Margaret. Down the street were his mother’s brother and his wife, Joseph and Anna Gardner. Both his uncle and his grandfather were manufacturers of sashes and blinds. In 1910, Howard’s mother Anna Swalm and his uncle Joseph Gardner were living at 118 Lafayette Avenue with his uncle Charles Raymond, his wife Henrietta and their daughter, his cousin, Nettie.
    There is no question that this was a very close-knit family, and one can conjecture that while he was traveling the world for his company, he would find time to visit his family at their summer cottage on Shelter Island.
    It was only a matter of time before Howard Raymond would purchase the lots surrounding the house on lot 62, in order to create a proper gentleman’s summer estate. In 1911 he purchased the two lots directly across the street. In 1919, he purchased the lots with house to the south and east of his property that had belonged to the Cook family, and in 1920, he purchased the two lots to the north and the four lots to the north east. In 1921, he purchased the alley to the east of his property and in 1923 and 1924 two small slivers of land next to the path called Bay Avenue. Also in 1924, he completed his estate by buying the land from the alley to the Bay from the Heights Association.
    When Mr. Raymond retired in 1920, he brought his management skills and enthusiasm to running the Shelter Island Securities Corporation, the holding company of all Heights enterprises, including the Association property, the ferry company, the hotel, the ice company, and the Sihaqua Company which managed the beach club. He was the president of the Board from 1920 to 1925 and a member of the Board from 1920 until his death from pneumonia on October 8, 1928. He oversaw the reinvigoration of the entire operation. This included the complete 1920 renovation and renaming of the hotel from the Prospect to the Poggatticut, the retirement of the coal steamer double ended ferry the Menantic and the building of two new double ended ferries, the Poggatticut in 1920 and the Shelter Island in 1923, the rebuilding of the hotel after a fire badly damaged it and the bathhouses on August 11, 1922, and in 1923, the renaming of both repaired and refurbished hotel and ferry boat from the Poggatticut to the New Prospect.
    In 1920 the Heights hotel and Dering Harbor had power, but the rest of the Island did not. So, Mr. Raymond helped to organize efforts to create an electricity authority, and in the Heights annual report for 1922, he wrote “We have emerged from the darkness.” Electric lights were now on the Island. He was the president of the Shelter Island Light and Power Company, of which C. Pliny Brigham was vice president, and David Harries Young was secretary. On March 27,1922 the Town Board granted the electric franchise to the company.
    In the Annual Report of the Shelter Island Heights Association in 1928, the then president, Charles A. Angell, wrote:

    On October 8th, 1928, we suffered an irreparable loss in the death of our former President, Howard E. Raymond. No one ever gave more generously of their time or effort than did Mr. Raymond. He was a man of outstanding ability and for five years worked day and night with untiring energy to restore both physically and financially the properties of The Shelter Island Heights Association. Every day reveals more and more the tremendous amount of work that Mr. Raymond did. It is almost unbelievable, even to us who have worked with him for so many years, that one man, almost unassisted, could accomplish so much. No history of our Association will be complete without a chapter devoted to Howard E. Raymond and his work, not only for the Association but for Shelter Island as a Community.
    Your President enjoyed the friendship of Mr. Raymond for over 37 years, and no one will miss him more.
    My regret is that words fail in adequately expressing my high regard and appreciation of Mr. Raymond as a friend, an executive and a man.

    A resolution passed by the Board on December 8 stated that “... he gave untiringly of his effort and counsel -- made notably valuable by his experience in the upbuilding of a great business -- and contributed in great measure to the present excellent condition of their properties.
    “He was alert of mind, sagacious, zealous, persistent and farseeing.
    “In his intercourse with his fellow workers he was a source of cheer, and helpfulness and he inspired in each a feeling of personal friendship.”
    Mr. Raymond was also an avid yachtsman and owned the Anna, which he kept in a slip on his property. He was commodore of the Shelter Island Yacht Club during the 1922-1924 seasons.
    In his will he left use of the property on Shelter Island (worth $45,700) to his aunt Margaret Gardner Walker, and his nearly $2 million estate to his cousins, Nettie Raymond and Bessie (Walker) Gateson.
    Sources for this story are the archives at the Shelter Island Heights Association, the Shelter Island Historical Society, the New York Times online at the New York Genealogical Society, and deeds on file at the Suffolk County Center in Riverhead.
    Other Island historical research can be viewed at www.shelter-island.org. Click on the Island History Revisited button.