The History of the McAndrews Estate

This page is a constant work in progress! The 'story' is being discovered as you read this by a small group of volunteers. You could be one of them! If you know something not written here, or have a correction to make, speak up! You can add comments/corrections in the Photo Section or comment in our Historic McAndrews Estate Facebook group. Thanks for your interest and patience.

Cruger Family

The land that later became the McAndrews Estate was "originally" owned by the Cruger family. More details to come soon!

De Graaf Family

Among the famous families to have once inhabited Oscawana-on-Hudson, the De Graaf's played a prominent role. The first member of their family to settle in the area was Furniture and Banking tycoon Henry Peek De Graaf (1825-1896). Land records still need to be verified, but it is likely that Henry De Graaf owned two parcels of land that were part of or associated with the McAndrews Estate.

The first is the land on north side of the estate running along the Jamawisis River. Although the original land records have yet to be uncovered, a 1969 Survey Map produced by Westchester County indicates that Henry and his wife Amanda sold or transferred a stucture on that section of the property called the "Fish House Spring" to their son Garret. A map from 1891 further confirms this by showing Garret as the owner of the land along the Jamawisis. There is strong speculation that Garret ran a Carp Farming business on his property at the aptly named Fish House Spring.

There are also land records showing a sale of property to Guillaume Resuens who would later come to own the entire estate (see below). Although further research into the transaction is required, it is speculated that this property was located between the railroad tracks and Hudson River which later hosted Reusen's Boat House. Although there are no pre-Reusens maps which assign a name to that property, it is adjacent to the land to the south of the McAndrews Estate which was once the main homestead of Henry De Graaf.

Guillaume A. Reusens

In 1860, a Belgian named Guillaume A. Reusens (born November 23, 1837 in Deurne) arrived in the United States for purpose of buying tobacco in Louisiana. Very uncommon for the time, he arrived with a letter of unlimited credit for the New York banks. He returned permanently to the country between 1864 and 1868 (there are conflicting records). On May 5 1886, he became a citizen of the United States. His address at the time was listed as 109 E. 19 Street, N. Y. C.

The 1901 Edition of The Trow Copartnership and Corporation Directory, showed Guillaume Reusens as the President and one of the Directors of the American Belgian Lamp Company. The 1910 US Census lists his profession as "Tobacco Exporter". His 1915 obituary from the Peekskill-based Highland Democrat describes him as having purchased tobacco for "European countries", and at one point, he was the purchasing agent for the Vatican. He was a one-time business partner with Baron Rothschild. He was known to have been an "intimate acquaintance" of many of the big Wall Street financiers of the day, and involved in a number of business enterprises including the Peekskill National Bank and the Mohegan Stove Company. It is also believed that he had business concerns in Louisville Kentucky involving tobacco and likely horse breeding.

From records available we can presume he was a charitable man. He is reported to have been a great philanthropist in the Town of Cortlandt, and we know he donated his large boathouse to the Ossining Shattemuc Club in 1914 after they lost their clubhouse in a fire. We may also presume he was a man of character. In a letter written in 1915 by Karin Johnson (whose family lived and worked for Reusens), she describes his death as "the most sorrowful thing I have ever known".

Around 1888 he started buying up land off of Furnace Dock Road in Oscawana-on-Hudson. This included purchases from:

  • Margaret Merritt on March 30, 1888
  • Redford A. Watkinson (illegible) on June 18, 1888
    • Watkinson appeared to be an author, including titles like Who Was Jesus?. He's also listed as a lawyer with offices at 20 Nassau Street, NYC in business directories from 1857-1859
  • Catharine C. Fox & H on October 1, 1890
  • Henry P. De Graff & W on November 8, 1890
  • Gilbert R. Fox & (illegible) on September 6, 1894
  • Washington Park L'd Co on September 8, 1894

We can also infer by contrasting a 1908 Atlas with subsequent maps that he also purchased land from the "Powers" family.

It's not clear what was built when, but over the course of these land purchases stretching from 1888 to some time after 1908, Reusens had been cobbling together an estate that would eventually encompass at least 75 acres (and as many as 100 acres - records and accounts conflict). The property became known as Reusens Farms or "Long View".

Some of the clearest information relating to Reusens comes to us from the 1910 US Census. By this point he reported himself as 65 years old (although this conflicts with other records) and still working. He had a sizable household staff, all from Sweden, including housekeeper Amanda Johnson (40), maid Anna Vandersleest (20), and laundress Anna Kristesson (31). Eight other individuals lived on the property in the Johnson Household. All of these people indicate a vibrant if not thriving working farm and residential estate.

(Note: In some records Reusens first name is incorrectly listed as "Albert" or the Americanized "George")

What was Long View?

After the 1910 Census, then next record we have is from 1912 - testimony from the Westchester County Supreme Court in the case of N.Y Central & Hudson River Railroad vs. Guillaume A. Reusens (and others). In this we find secondary confirmation of several land purchases (specifically from the Fox and Powers families), and evidence that significant development and building had occurred. Reusens and his surveyor detailed a sizable number of structures on the estate including:

  • A large uninhabited old colonial house
  • A two-story and attic frame "Fox House"
  • A two-story and attic frame "Powers House" north of Hillside Avenue
  • A one-story and attic stable with coachman's house attached
  • A one-story frame building behind the cow stable
  • A racetrack with judge's stand
  • A brick reservoir north of the track
  • A stable north of Hillside Avenue
  • An ice house
  • Small sundry buildings

(Please note: parts of the original court transcript validating this list has been acquired but not fully analyzed)

A primary research task ahead for this project is identifying the location and purpose of every structure on the estate. Some of the structures mentioned in the 1912 Court Testimony are well known - specifically the "Fox House", "Powers House", cow stable, racetrack, and judges' stand. The others - somewhat or not at all. And then there are a number of other known structures (e.g. the Fish House Spring) not listed at all in the court records.

In addition to being home to Reusens and several people he employed, it is believed that Long View was a working farm - although exactly what was produced is not clear. It is certain however that Reusens was a breeder of fine race horses which were trained on his private race track.

The Johnson Family

Another glimpse into Long View in the early 1900's comes to us from the Johnson family, who lived and worked on the Estate during the Reusens era. Originally hailing from Sweden, the Johnson family consisted of Algot Johnson Sr. (Oct 10th 1872 - Oct 2 1918), his wife Hilda, their three children Karin, Algot Jr. and Esther, and Algot's sister Amanda.

Although it is believed that Algot emigrated to the United States some time in the late 1800's, it's not clear exactly when he started working for Guillaume Reusens. The first evidence we have of their association comes from a 1901 letter sent by Reusens' nephew, Stanislaus De Ridder, to Algot.

The next reference to Algot and his family can be found in the 1905 New York State Census. In this we see Algot's profession listed as "Horse Trainer", which makes sense given the fact that Reusens had significant Horse Breeding interests. Hilda's profession seems to be listed as "Housework", although we know for sure from Johnson family records that Hilda later served as the Cook for the Estate. Algot's sister Amanda Johnson is shown as living in and working as the "Housekeeper" in the main Reusens household. Finally there is a reference to Algot and Hilda's three children, Karin, Algot Jr, and Esther - ages 9, 8, and 2 respectively.

The same Census also mentions a "boarder" in the Johnson household, Irishman John James Carr, age 30, whose occupation seems to be listed as "Groom" (Stable Hand). It is believed that the Johnson's and Mr. Carr lived in the aptly named "Johnson House" which is known to originally have been a two-family dwelling.

The final piece of primary evidence linking the Johnson family and the Estate is the 1910 United States Census. This document presents inconsistencies in regard to immigration and other dates (which could be the result of incorrect values in either the 1905 or 1910 census, and/or transcription/analysis errors), but the basic picture is consistent. Algot Sr., Hilda, and Amanda Johnson all appear to still be working for Resusens. The Johnson children are older. John James Carr seems to have departed and been replaced by two new boarders in their early 30's - John Thomas from Sweden and Harry Stewart from England. The Johnson's were also joined by their niece, Anna Peterson, age 24.

Evidence suggests that the Johnson family moved on shortly after Reusens death in 1915 (Algot Sr. died only three years later), although the Johnson children continued to live and work in the Oscawana area for many years to come.

The Struggle for Long View

On January 5, 1915 at age 70, Guillaume Albert Reusens passed away. The property was inherited by his nephews, brothers Stanislaus P.M.C. De Ridder and Eugene De Ridder.

A letter dated 1901 seems to indicate that Stanislaus was involved in the management of Reusens tobacco business in Louisville Kentucky. There are also records to indicate that he served as the the Belgian consul in Louisville in 1902 (and possibly for many years after that).

Little is known about Eugene De Ridder. Newspaper articles from the time and passport records show that he was a refugee in Belgium as a result of the first World War. He died under suspicious circumstances only a year after his uncle on April 2, 1916, the Reusens estate still not yet settled. His death resulted in a claim on the Long View estate in Oscawana by a Mrs. Eloise Walter of The Hague, who was living with Eugene at the time of his death. She produced a version of Eugene De Ridder's will which by one report left her three-fourths of the estate. Stanislaus declared the document a fake, and accused both Mrs. Walter and two other men of foul play in the death of his brother. The surviving De Ridder went so far as to hire two lawyers to travel to Belgium to seek depositions from Mrs. Walter and other individuals. This in and of itself lent to further intrigue when one of those lawyers was captured and interned by the Germans. Another lawyer the other got stuck in Belgium and subsequently England for an extended period of time. Both lawyers successfully sued Stanislaus De Ridder for additional fees based on the hardships they encountered.

It's not clear when (estimated 1922), but eventually Stanislaus De Ridder won his estate claim and became the sole owner of Long View.

Stanislaus De Ridder

Stanislaus Peter Matthew Charles De Ridder was born in Brussels on May 11th, 1862. He was the son of Peter Egbert De Ridder, (born in Belgium in 1818). We can presume that Peter De Ridder was Guillaume Reusen's brother-in-law. Stanislaus arrived in the United States at age 27 aboard the "S.S Pennland" on June 22nd 1889. He was naturalized as a US citizen on March 25th 1895. It is believed he first lived with his Uncle Guillaume in Oscawana. As late as 1896 he was still listed as having an address in Manhattan.

By 1901 he lived in the Louisville Kentucky area where it is believed he managed his uncle's horse breeding/trading and tobacco farming and export businesses. As early as 1903 (and as late as 1909) he was known to have been associated with a property called Gulvallis Farm in Kentucky. He also appeared to have had a business partner in the tobacco trade named Hal Griffith.

The 1910 US Census lists him as living in the town of Harrods Creek in Jefferson County Kentucky, near Louisville. His profession is listed as "Farmer" and he owned his property. He had two employees living with him. The first, a housekeeper Elizabeth Wyatt, was a native Kentuckian of German decent. She was a 41 year old widow with two children. The other employee was Mr. Booth (first name illegible), a single 39 year old man from Illinois who's occupation is listed as "Trainer" (most certainly a horse trainer).

De Ridder owned an impressive collection of Dutch paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Gerard ter Borch, Pieter de Hooch, Gabriel Metsu, Jan Steen and many more. In 1913 the collection traveled from the Staedel Museum in Frankfort to the Kleinberger Galleries in New York City for exhibition and eventual sale. Stanislaus De Ridder seemed to follow the example of his philanthropic uncle Guillaume and donated the proceeds to the New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor and to the Montefiore Home.

On his 1916 passport application he listed his profession as "Stock-raiser" (horse breeding) and provided a business address of 18 Broadway, Room 402, N.Y.C. There are also records of that address associated with Guillaume Reusens, which seem to further indicate that he worked for his uncle. It is likely that De Ridder split his time and business affairs between Kentucky and New York. He travelled twice to Europe in 1916 - first to "visit his brother" and then again six months later to settle "family affairs" related to his brothers death. It is likely that this second trip began the lengthy and litigious process of setting the contested Reusens estate

Five years later in 1921 on another passport application he now referred to himself as a "Farmer & Tobacconist". His failure to mention "Stock Raiser" or anything related to horses could be an indication that he had divested himself of that occupation and was now focusing exclusively on tobacco farming and export. On that same passport application he stated an intention to visit France and Italy to reestablish tobacco trade deals that had been interrupted by WW1 (which ended in 1918). This seems to indicate that De Ridder followed in his uncle Guillaume's footsteps in regard to tobacco trading with European countries.

Our next record of Stanislaus De Ridder comes from the 1930 Census. By this time he was 67 years old and retired, two years older than his Uncle Guillaume had been 20 years earlier when the last census was taken. It is likely that he now resided exclusively in Oscawana, the fate of his Kentucky business concerns unknown. He had not yet married Anne Manning (who later became Anne McAndrews), lending credence to the claim in the History of the Town of Cortlandt that De Ridder "[married] a woman much younger than himself". He must have done so shortly after this 1930 Census was recorded; his obituary mentions they married in October of 1930.

By this point it appears that the estate had only one resident employee, an 38 year old Irish Housekeeper named Mary McDonough. But that's isn't to say Long View was not still a working farm. It's likely there were still a number of people employed to manage the estate.

This 1930 Census also tell us much about the Johnson Family who featured heavily in the 1910 Census of the Reusens Era. Algot Sr. had passed away. Hilda Johnson, his wife, was now 64 years old and a retired homeowner. Algot Jr., now 33 was a Railroad Yardmaster at the nearby Harmon Yards in Croton-on-Hudson. He is listed as a Veteran of the "World War" (there had only been one world war by that point). Sisters Karin and Esther (ages 34 and 27 respectively), were both Public School Teachers. All the Johnson children were single and living at home. None of the Johnsons seemed to have any remaining professional attachment to De Ridder or Long View.

The final account of De Ridder comes from his obituary. It tell us that he served as the Belgian Consul in Louisville Kentucky for 30 years, was decorated by King Albert of Belgium, and at one time owned a brewery in Belgium. Like his uncle Guillaume he was a director of the Peekskill National Bank and Trust Company. He was also a member of many organizations: Bankers Club of Manhattan, Sleepy Hollow Country Club, River Valley Country Club, the Elks, Pendennis Club of Louisville, and the Croton Rotary Club.

The McAndrews

On March 7, 1934 Stanislaus De Ridder passed away at St. Vincents Hospital, Seventh Avenue and Eleventh Street, in the City of New York. He left no will and the estate reverted to his wife Anne. At some point afterward, Anne married Martin McAndrews. Very little is currently known about the early McAndrews years. What we do know comes from Martin and Anne's only son, Martin McAndrews Jr. who is still alive and well living in Connecticut.

Martin McAndrews was one of nine children from a working class family that lived in the Bronx. For the majority of his career he worked in the municipal bond department of the financial firm Hemple Noyes which was located on Broad Street in lower Manhattan. He served on the Town of Cortlandt board during World War 2 and was involved in the civil defense program. While serving on the town board, one of the two town judges passed away and McAndrews was appointed to serve out the final two years of the term and then subsequently re-elected for another full term. In his capacity as town judge, he officiated over legal proceedings related to the Peekskill Riots.

Little is known about Anne McAndrews. We know she hosted large parties on the estate and was loved by members of the household staff. She is reported to have grown up in the Bronx (indicating a possible prior association with Martin Sr.), and described by relatives as having worked for a period of time (likely as a personal assistant or office manager) and possessing a strong personality. She passed away in 1948 when her son was 10 years old, suffering a heart attack in a restaurant on a visit to Canada.

We do know some about the people employed on the property during this time. A leading figure was Umberto "Bobby" Bonini.. Bobby did a bit of everything, and seems to have been the main person in charge of the property (the Algot Johnson of his day). He cooked, took care of the animals, kept a small garden, and did a lot of canning. He lived in the main house. He was described by Martin McAndrews Jr. as a very nice guy, someone who "practically raised" him.

There were several maids/housekeepers, all who lived in Ossining who came up by train. The "head honcho" was a woman named Adeline Johns. When Anne McAndrews passed away in 1948 she resigned. Apparently they had been friends, and Mrs. Johns told Mr. McAndrews that she couldn't bear to work there anymore. But she arranged for a replacement - Tina Connolly - an African American woman who also lived in Ossining. Tina can up to the estate by train twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her duties included cleaning, laundry, ironing, etc. It is believed that she still worked there until the early 1960's when Mr. McAndrews left the property permanently.

Another person who worked on the property full time was Steve Urema, a WW2 veteran who lived in Verplank, originally from Pennsylvania. He did landscaping work - cutting grass, baling hay, etc. When the VA opened in Montrose he left to work as a chauffeur, but he would still come down on Saturdays to help Bobby Bonini out.

Finally there was Claire Nolan who served as Nanny for young Martin Jr. in the early years of his life. Martin remembered taking rides in a little cart hitched to a Pony, and Claire supervising.

At this point in the history of Long View, the property was no longer being used as an active farm. Horses no longer trotted on the race track. The various brick reservoirs and pump houses were no longer in operation. But the McAndrews still kept a wide assortment of livestock for personal use including:

  • Dairy Cows - The "Bell Cow" (which literally had a bell around it's neck) was named Columbine. The cows lived in the upper level of the Cow Stable.
  • A Bull named Mussolini who 'lived outside'
  • Sheep, used for their wool
  • A pony named Moose that pulled a small cart
  • A horse named Chief, the last of the trotters from Reusens horse dynasty.
  • Pigs, used for their meat.
  • Chickens for eggs and meat, kept in the concrete building near the Johnson House.
  • Dogs - Cocker Spaniels and Dachshunds. The Dachshunds lived in the house; the Cocker Spaniels in kennels located on to the northwest of the house.
  • A black cat that wandered onto the property one day who never left. He was named 'Black Sambo'.
  • Honeybees in brick structures located on the rise to the south of the race track.

During the McAndrews Era they also rented out the "Johnson House" (which was originally two family, but converted into a one family) to two different families. First were Isaac (Ike) and Fanny LaGrange who lived there with their son John and daughter Susanne. Fanny's brother worked at the VA. Their son John went to Hendrick Hudson High School and graduated around 1948-49. The LaGrange's were known to be close friends of the McAndrews, especially Anne McAndrews whose family (especially brother Bernard) were also close with Ike and Fanny.

When the LaGrange family left (when is uncertain), the house was rented to Jerry and Dorothy Brewster. Jerry was investment banker, although not at the same firm as Mr. McAndrews. He trained and showed (and possibly bred) hunting dogs, pointers (which type unknown). They left around 1955-56. After that the Johnson House was never inhabited again.

The End

In 1960 Martin McAndrews retired. By this point, the estate must have been a lonely place. His son Martin Jr. had left for college and then subsequently the U.S Army. The chief caretaker, Umberto "Bobby" Bonini, had retired back to his native Tuscany. His wife Anne had passed away twelve years earlier in 1948. Many of the buildings and structures on the property had fallen into disrepair, a process which had begun long before under previous owners Stanislaus De Ridder and Guillaume A. Reusens.

Shortly after retirement, Mr. McAndrews bought a home in New Milford Connecticut. At first he maintained his primary residence in Oscawana-on-Hudson, making only occasional visits to his New Milford home. But in 1962 he remarried and left Oscawana for good. In doing so he not only left behind the various homes and buildings on the estate, but most of their contents as well. We may never know why, but it is presumed he was looking to break from the past and focus on his new marriage and home.

Contrary to popular assumption, Martin McAndrews did not stop paying taxes on the property. He did in fact try for many years to sell, a task made challenging by his refusal to break up the land into small parcels. For a time he was in serious talks with IBM to purchase the entire estate, but the deal never materialized.

During this time, the property fell further and further into disrepair. Local teenagers and other curious residents began to explore the abandoned estate - looting and vandalizing what had been left behind. Sadly, many of the items taken or destroyed had great historical significance, stretching back to the time of Guillaume A. Reusens. A number of fires broke out (presumably set by local teenagers), one of which tragically destroyed the "Fox House" which is believed to have once been the home of Nicholas Cruger and built some time in the 1700's.

It was these series of events and the increasing threat to public safety that led Westchester County to condemn the property. But given the fact that Martin McAndrews had never ceased paying taxes, they couldn't simply seize the property - they had to purchase it. At first they offered $180,000. McAndrews took the matter to court, and won a $510,000 settlement. It was only then that the County officially assumed ownership of the property, only to soon demolish nearly every structure left standing.

Over the next 40 years. the forests reclaimed what had once been open fields, obscuring what must have been stunning views of the Hudson River. The stone remains of a few buildings have slowly started to chip away and have become overgrown with vegetation. At some point, Westchester County formed an agreement with the Town of Cortlandt to co-manage the property, and made it accessible to the public as unincorporated parkland (which it remains to this day).