Forest Home History

Script for talk given to the Forest Home Embroidery Club by Martha W Hertel

April 21, 1987

Each of us could write a history of Forest Home and each would be different, interesting and full of ideas. About 20 years ago, Art Bloom presented a fascinating history of Forest Home from a geologist’s point of view. This one will be of our more recent past. It will emphasize people and why they came and how they lived.

As one examines Forest Home history, two definite periods emerge. The first began about 1800. The soldiers, who fought with General Sullivan during the Revolutionary War, returned to their homes in Massachusetts and New Jersey with glowing reports of the Finger Lakes area. Massachusetts and New Jersey were considered overpopulated. Add to this the government’s lack of money for pay and thus the granting military land grants and it became an inviting area to settle. Albany, Niagara and New York City areas had been settled for over 150 years. This area was a small pocket, a young settlement.

Water power was a source of energy. It was natural for mills to develop along our Fall Creek. It became a mill town with farms surrounding. By 1860, this growth had practically stopped. In 1865 an event took place which was to affect our village and remains a dominant influence today. Cornell University opened its doors.

About 1923 or 1925, the last mill closed. It was Bool’s Lumber Yard and Furniture Mill. It was located on the west side of the dam, across the creek.[a]

Amy Whetzel (in attendance at this meeting of the Club) moved here as a young girl from Indiana. She remembers some of the mill workers and the events around the mills. For example the mill whistles, mill houses and Halloween pranks.

In 1903 an event occurred with a far-reaching effect on Forest Home. Liberty Hyde Bailey was made Director of Agriculture. Under his tenure the Ag College had tremendous growth. In 1906, Roberts Hall was built. It was the first building on the “Upper” campus (Ag Quad). Until that time, the entire University was on the “Lower” campus (Arts Quad) around Goldwyn Smith Hall. With the building of Roberts Hall, Forest Home was now considered near enough for a professor or student to live, especially those going to the Ag College. Many of the houses on Judd Falls Road and McIntyre Place were built by these young professors between 1908 and 1915. One such professor was Herbert Whetzel, Amy’s oldest brother. He was the first head of Plant Pathology and last month the Plant Sciences Seminar Room was named the Herbert Whetzel Seminar Room.

These young families had young children and Forest Home soon needed a new school. Previously they had gone to a one room school, which is now the McElwee’s 3 car garage. In 1921 the new school was built on University land with a lease for an insignificant fee as long as it was used as a school. Who and how this was accomplished would make interesting history. Unfortunately the school records were destroyed when the Andrew’s house burned.[b][c]

Near the same time a need was felt for a church in the community. In 1915 the Forest Home Chapel was built.

Students moved to the village. Again, these tended to be Ag students. Male students had to find their own housing. Many wanted a room and young professors and their families rented rooms to these students. Some paid cash and others worked for their room and board. There were also boarding houses. Drake’s Boarding House (now the Bouldin’s house) was one. Some students had rooms there and many more ate their meals there (breakfast, lunch and dinner).[d]

Other activities included a Flower Show, swimming, skating and tobogganing on Beebe Lake.

© 1987 Martha Warren Hertel, reproduced with permission.

Acknowledgement: The text was transcribed in 2019 by Lucy Hertel Staley, Martha Warren Hertel’s daughter.

Editor’s notes:
a. Bool’s Lumber Yard and Furniture Mill was between the dam and the downstream bridge, on the campus (south) side of Fall Creek.
b. The old school building became the 3-car garage at 130 Judd Falls Road. The new school building was at 100 Judd Falls Road and now is the Lewis Education Building of Cornell Botanic Gardens. See School Life as a Fourth Grader about 1925, also by Martha Warren Hertel.
c. Floyd and Gladys Andrews owned the original house at the end of the road that is now Halcyon Hill, on the lower fork. Floyd Andrews was the treasurer/secratary of the school and had the record book at home when the house burned to the ground on Thanksgiving Day, 1926. Instead of rebuilding on the same lot, the Andrews had Ralph and Walter Westervelt, Gladys’s brothers, build them a “redi-cut” house at 304 Forest Home Drive. The Westervelts then built the present house at 115 Halcyon Hill.
d. Drake’s Boarding House was at 208 Forest Home Drive.