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

Charles A. Angell: Times of Disappointment

by Patricia and Edward Shillingburg ©2005


The Shelter Island joined the New Prospect in 1923. Once she was commissioned double ended ferry service between Shelter Island and Greenport became year round except when ice prevented passage. Until then the marine insurers required that only launches be used from December 31 noon to March 15 noon.

    At age 20 in 1894, Charles A. Angell was an enthusiastic wheelman. He was secretary of the 15 year old Brooklyn Bicycle Club. Treasurer was Howard E. Raymond with whom he would later work to revitalize the Heights on Shelter Island. Cycling could be called nothing less than a craze. In 1895, there were 25 bicycle manufacturers in New York State alone; 136 throughout the country. That same year, Mr. Angell was president of the Good Road Association and a member of the Reception and Entertainment committee for the State Meet which would take place in Brooklyn.
    Next we know of him he was representing the Cranford Company in negotiations with the ‘Sandhogs” strike against the contractors building the subway tunnels under the East River in 1916. The workers were demanding a dollar a day.     In 1923, he was serving on the executive committee of the Grand Jurors’ Association which would build a new municipal building for Kings County. That same year he was elected to the board of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. In 1929 he was a stockholder of the Brooklyn Fire Insurance Company, and in 1932 he was a director of the New York Title and Mortgage Company. When he was president of the Brooklyn Contractors’ Association, he was also president of the Cranford Company, a general contracting firm. He and his wife Ida lived for most of their married life at 560 Third Street in Brooklyn.
    But, they played on Shelter Island. In 1908 they purchased a house on lots 107 and 108 on Grand Avenue in the Heights. In 1925, they purchased the house which is now 22 Prospect Avenue.
    Mr. Angell was one of a group of men who bought out the majority stockholder in the Heights, George R. Branson, in 1919. By all reports, the grounds had not been maintained, the hotel was dilapidated, and the ferry Menantic was 25 years old and not well cared for. By the end of Howard E. Raymond’s five year presidency, during which time Mr. Angell was treasurer, the Heights was returned to a state of good repair, with two new ferries, and a first class hotel.
    Mr. Angell took over the presidency in 1926. In his annual report he stated:

    The rehabilitation of Shelter Island as a resort has been so complete in the past five years that it’s future success seems assured. It has regained the high position it held for so many years.
    Everything possible has been done to make the place attractive, road maintained, walks improved and trimmed, ferry service provided to meet every reasonable demand and properties generally maintained in good condition.

    That year, the hotel had its greatest success, financially, in it’s history. Real estate records had been found to be chaotic, and Mr. Raymond had taken on the job of creating order. Insurance was the heaviest item in the budget. There had been much concern about the water supply, especially during drought years and changes had been made to provide sufficient supply and to “eliminate the sucking of air and sand which has been a source of much annoyance in the past.” Because of a mild winter, no ice had been harvested; ice was purchased from the Ice Plant in Greenport. “This, of course, entails much added expense not only in the cost of ice, but lso in the items of trucking and ferriage. When traffic is heavy, especially over the week ends and holidays, the transportation of our ice truck tends to reduce the efficiency of the ferry service.” Ice machines, now possible with electricity, were cutting down on the demand for ice.
    According to the report, the Shiebler family had not paid its water bill in advance as was the custom, and when the Association cut off their water, the Shieblers sued. It was a long and drawn out litigation, but the Court ruled on behalf of the Association.
    The disposal of waste and garbage was another headache. Apparently, “it has been dumped on valuable land belong to the Association.” Plans were underway to “handle this material in a modern manner.”
    The Summer of 1927, however, “was one of the worst ‘Resort’ seasons experienced long the Atlantic Coast in many years. Unfavorable weather conditions prevailed practically the entire summer...” The Winter storms “caused much havoc to our bulkheads and necessitated extensive repairs and replacements.”
    The hotel was an old structure and “constant attention and expense is necessary.” However, “the cuisine is of a very high order and every effort is made to surround the hotel with an atmosphere of refinement, hospitality and comfort.”
    The completion of the incinerator was delayed and not completed for the season. Heavy rains during the summer cause “frequent and numerous washout.” There were no real estate sales and insurance rates doubled. The ferry revenue, however, was greater than ever before. The Shelter Island needed a new motor which was a 75 horse power Diesel engine.
    The weather in 1928 was not cooperative. It rained every weekend in July. No ice was harvested in the winter and it had to be purchased. The New Prospect got a new Diesel engine. There were no sales of real estate, and debt could not be reduced. Much effort and expense went into maintaining the hotel. The kitchen was antiquated, plumbing a constant source of problems.  “Decorations are a constant requirement in order to present as attractive an appearance as possible.”
    Our location is ideal and with attractive surroundings we should receive our share of patronage. Our cuisine is maintained at a high standard of excellence and it is the constant endeavor of the management to so conduct the hotel that families may spend the entire summer with the feeling that they are secure against the invasion of any undesirable elements or conditions that are prevalent in many less conservative hotels.

    A 30 mile sail boat race was held by the Shelter Island Yacht Club on July 28, 1928, with prizes donated by Mr. Angell, Everett T. House, Samuel B. Jones, and Howard E. Raymond.
    The financial picture for 1929 was almost parallel to that of 1928. The results at the Hotel were disappointing, which was a mystery as other resort hotels had a good year. Mr. Angell gave much time and study to the hotel. He traveled to other resort areas, watched the operations, and found it quite evident that “the successful operation of a resort hotel is a most difficult problem.”
    Howard E. Raymond had died in1928, and the executors of the estate of Howard E. Raymond did not renew participation in the second mortgage, and Mr. Angell personally assumed the obligation of $23,268.75.
    At the same time, apparently, offers were being made for stock of the Association. “In view of the financial support as well as the voluntary service rendered by your officers, an attempt by others to accumulate stock could hardly be regarded as a friendly act. Consequently, it was deemed advisable to organize a Voting Trust... The responses were gratifying.”
    The year 1930 was a disaster for all Summer resorts and the New Prospect was no exception. Although new baths were installed in the Annex so that every room was connected to a bath, that is a bath between two rooms, new electric wiring installed, many rooms were decorated, and new hall rugs laid. “Had a normal patronage developed, the results would have been different, but unfortunately the house count was consistently off.” The loss was $27,763.05.
    In 1931, Mr. Angell was elected vice-chairman of the New York State Hotel Association. That year at its annual meeting, Frank Boland, president of the American Hotel Association told the gathering that 90 percent of members of the Association favored outright repeal of prohibition.
    The loss in 1931 was only $5.333.26. “Hence we at least feel encouraged and will put forth every effort this coming season to improve the showing of 1931.” Although the cuisine was highly praised, it was now under the guidance of Horwath and Horwath, capable hotel accountants. They also decided to reduce rates to keep them “within the reach of those of moderate means who wish to spent at least some portion of the summer season out of the city.” He asked stockholders to recommend the New Prospect to their friends.” The Ferry Company was not suffering from hard times.
    He then discussed the bridges:
    Since our last report definite plans have been made for the erection of two bridges at Shelter Island -- one from East Marion to Hay Beach and the other from South Ferry to North Haven.
    Contracts are tentatively made, but at the present writing the legality of the Bond Issue is pending in the Courts. Inasmuch as the Association has been dependent on its Ferry earnings to maintain itself, it seems as if erection of the bridges would in all probability provide a problem for us that would be difficult of solution. We can simply carry on now in a most cautious manner and try and be prepared for what awaits us, In the meantime, there is no use in “Crossing the bridge before it is built.”

    On August 26, 1933, Mr. Angell died suddenly at his home on Shelter Island. He was 59.
    When he died he left an estate valued at $423,988. His widow lda Louise Angell received all residences, jewelry, personal effects and a life income from the residuary estate. Florence A. Angell, a sister, and Elsie DeWolfe Angell, a niece, each received an annual income of $1,000 each and a one-half and one-forth remainder interest, respectively, in the residual estate. The other fourth of the remainder was to go eventually to George A. Shuford, a son-in-law. Mr. Shuford’s wife and their two children had died tragically in a railroad accident in 1926.
    Sources for this story are annual reports of the Heights Association now in the archives of the Shelter Island Historical Society and the New York Times.
    Other Island historical research can be viewed at www.shelter-island.org. Click on the Island History Revisited button.