Homes in the Mountains, 1888

The summer cottages, hotels and boarding houses thickly planted on the mountain slopes and by the lakes and living streams of Sullivan, Delaware, and Western Ulster Counties, are now tenanted by a larger throng of city visitors than ever before.

…Sullivan County alone offered accommodations at the opening of this season for 8,000 guests, against 6,500 last year, and as a rule every available place of entertainment is filled with New York, Brooklyn and Newark guests.

Taking together Sullivan, Delaware, and the adjoining regions in Ulster west of the Catskills, the number of visitors now being entertained will exceed 15,000…

In the rugged, picturesque, and healthful highland region in question, which has a mean altitude of 1,500 feet above sea level, many city people of means have built for themselves handsome country seats or cozy cottages for Summer abodes.

Perhaps the most magnificent and costly of these country homes are those owned by Mr. George R. MacKenzie, President of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, and Mr. William F. Proctor, Treasurer of the same company, both situated in the town of Lumberland in Sullivan County.

In the same town, Mr. Leon DeVenoge, importer of New York, has a handsome Summer mansion and an estate of 2,000 acres…—The New York Times, “Some of the People Summering in the Catskills,” Middletown, N.Y., August 11, 1888.

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7 Responses to Homes in the Mountains, 1888

  1. Stan Okin says:

    My wife is Arden Craig Kahlo whose grandmother was Isabella, daughter of George Ross MacKenzie and was married to Dr. Burdett Post Craig.

    I’ve been trying to unearth some history for her and would appreciate if you’d be able to offer some direction.

    My wife remembers GlenSpey as a child, going there with her mother, Isabelle Kahlo and believes it was Isabelle who disposed of the property to the Ukranian settlement as well as to the girl scouts.

  2. theresa arbogast says:

    I am researching this area since my Great-Great-Grandfather George Ross Mackenzie was fascinated by the history and hope to see what’s left of the property someday! That fire sounded sickening, so sad. We have an incredible picture of the original mansion, it looks like the white house to me!

    Louise: Thanks so much for stopping by Theresa.

  3. Ziggy Goryn says:

    Finding this site has been a highlight of my day. I currently have lived in New Jersey my whole life and would spend my summers since I was born at BelAir. I have searched high and low to try and find information about the property and what it was before it became Bel Air Meinsk. I have heard endless stories on how it used to be a resort for wealthy famous people and how there used to be tennis courts, fountains, and all high end amenities including a restaurant on the lake.

    I remember being little and walking all over the property trying to find clues to what BelAir used to be. I recall there being a Mansion on the property that burnt down it was called the Green House among all the people at BelAir.

    I would love to hear more about this if you can provide information.

  4. Jeanne says:

    Nice story!
    I’ve once again started to do research on the McKenzie mansions, specifically the mansions within the Ukrainian resort “Verkhovyna” (now Mountain View), Bramble Brae and Ardmore being two of them.

    My late grandparents were two of the many founding members of the original Verkhovyna Ukrainian resort, and I spent many a childhood summer exploring and playing in Bramble Brae. I was an avid shutterbug as a child (still am, lol), but sadly, I never took any photos of the inside of that grand, beautiful mansion. I don’t think any interior photos exist to this day..although I pray that my internet research discovers some.

    It was heartbreaking when Bramble Brae fell victim to fire in 1975, all because of the carelessess of a squatter. Now it is gone forever, and only vague memories remain. The older Ukrainian members who could provide valuable information on additional McKenzie buildings on Verkhovyna’s property are long gone…the younger resort guests most likely have no idea what once stood there, and how majestic that mansion once was.

    Questions remain..what was the tower used for? When I was a child, it was a storage building, and we were warned not to venture inside. What about the two other buildings that stood nearby to Bramble Brae…they were used to house Verkhovyna employees for the summer…but were those buildings carriage houses or housing for the McKenzie servants back in the day? No one seems to know. And what of the old bungalow across the road and down an incline from Bramble Brae and Ardmore….a bungalow that my grandparents summered in for 25+ years…it was rumored to be an old farmhouse, but again, no one knows for sure. I can’t even find a photo of that little building that was so beloved to me.

    But thank you for allowing me to ramble about my memories…I suppose I miss Glen Spey and the way Verkhovyna once was, including that beautiful mansion. And I live too far away to get back to visit the area as well.
    Again, I thank you for posting your story as well!

  5. Mom-Mary Austin says:

    My Dad used to get acquainted with the caretakers of some of these estates in Glen Spey, and then we were able to visit them.

    I can remember fishing in the little pond in front of one of the homes, not sure which one.

    Then My Dad, brother and I walked around one of them. It may have been Proctors, not sure, but they had a great covered foot bridge which was really interesting.

  6. Louise says:


    Thanks for your comment.

    There is some mention of the MacKenzie Family and their Mansions in “Echo Hill and Mountain Grove.”

    My great uncle Lon Austin worked for William F. Proctor and William Ross Proctor, so there is more about the Proctors.

    There are letters to Uncle Lon from both William’s in the book. There are photos in the book that were shared by the Proctor Family, including scans of some glass negative slides of townsfolk in the early 1900s.

    My understanding was that William Ross Proctor built Brookwood.

    Neat that you were able to interview neighbors!

  7. judy gumaer testa says:


    Don’t forget Wm. Ross Proctor’s father Wm. Fash Proctor who was an employee of Singer who moved up the ranks and married the Boss’s (Isaac Singer) daughter Vouletti.

    Wm. Fash Proctor built LochAda and Brookwood.

    The MacKenzie Family had Homestead, Thornliebank, Bramble Brae, Bonnie Brae, Ardmore, BelAir, Burn Brae and at least one other.

    I grew up in Glen Spey—used to walk around and interview my oldtimer neighbors.

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