History of Westminster Park, New York

This place of resort for the summer months has been inaugurated by the Presbyterians, on the lower end of Wellesley Island, in the St. Lawrence river, in the confines of the town of Alexandria. The association under whose auspices the park is maintained is incorporated under the Act of the Legislature of New York passed in 1853, being chapter 117 of the session laws of that year, and the acts mandatory thereof. The articles of association were dated in 1875, and filed in the proper offices, of the Secretary of State, and county clerk of Jefferson County, wherein the association is styled “The Westminster Park Association of the Thousand Islands.” The capital stock of the association was originally fixed at $50,000, divided into shares of one hundred dollars each; but was subsequently (1877) reduced to $30,000.

The association has purchased five hundred acres on the island, having nearly five miles of water front in the meanders of the shore. In addition to this purchase there has also been made another, of Isle Mary, or Picnic Point, of twenty-five acres area, separated from the park by a narrow channel of a few feet in width, to be connected with the park by a bridge, but still to be reserved exclusively for excursion and picnic parties; thus saving the quiet and privacy of the dwellers of the park from disturbance and inquisitive crowds. The purchase price of the five hundred acres was $14,000. The enterprise, though inaugurated under the auspices of the Presbyterians and those of like faith, is, notwithstanding, not intended to be strictly denominational. It has received the hearty endorsement of the Presbytery of St. Lawrence, within whose bounds it is located, and of the Synod of Central New York. The capital stock has all been subscribed and paid in, from which the land has been paid for, and a balance of several thousand dollars left, which has been, and is being, expended for the improvement of the park. Over four miles of roads have already been made in the area, and the improvements are still going forward. Lots are sold upon certain conditions, sanitary and otherwise, and the proceeds applied to still further improvement and adornment of the park. An enthusiastic visitor to the park, during the season of 1877 (a Chicago lady), thus discourses of the scenery of the grounds of the association:

“It was my good fortune, a few days ago, to be invited with some other friends by one of the trustees to make a tour of inspection of the new park. I had been in the midst of the enchanting Thousand Islands for several weeks. I had basked in the beauty of the magnificent St. Lawrence; I had seen sunrise and sunset, moonlight and starlight, upon its beautiful waters. I had visited many of the green isles that gem its broad bosom, was delighted with all that I saw, and felt that there was not much more for me to see. What, then, was my delight to find that Westminster park held for me a new surprise. Here is to be found scenery of every variety, from the most quiet to the most wild and romantic. Our path, as we first entered the grounds, skirted along the edge of a meadow, odorous with the breath of new-mown hay. Then we came to sloping uplands; a turn to the left, a fence to be leaped, and we are in the shadow of a great forest; an ascending broad path is before us, the interlacing branches of the trees overhead permit but a golden thread of sunlight here and there to fall upon the mossy sod at your feet; the vista which opens before us is most charming, and one of our party at once names this lovely forest aisle ‘ Cathedral Avenue.’ A turn to our right, another broad path, but here the growth of oak, maple, beech, and ash is more dense, and although the sun is still high in the heavens it is twilight bore under the shadow of the great trees; a holy hush seems to pervade the whole atmosphere, the very birds and insects seem affected by the place, and join in a low, sweet chant of praise.

“Another turn, and we ascend a broad, beautiful wooded hill, said to be the highest point in the park. (It is here the observatory is to be placed.) It probably rises from a hundred to a hundred and fifty feet above the level of the river. We have reached its summit; a lovely view of forest scenery meets our eye on every hand. Still filled with a spirit of deep contentment, and of high and holy aspiration engendered by the scene around us, we name this spot ‘Mount Beulah.’ We descend a long, sweeping hill on the opposite side from which we came up, lured on by glimpses of sapphire waters through openings in the trees. At last we come out upon a sloping sandy beach, and the lovely and placid waters of the ‘Lake of the Isles’ is lying at our feet, and just opposite, seemingly within a stones throw is ‘Lorne Island,’ in the Canadian channel. We retraced our steps by a circuitous route, our path becomes uneven, rocks jut out on every hand, the aromatic order of pines is wafted to us on the summer breeze. Again do we behold glimpses of the blue St. Lawrence through the trees; we enter a narrow gorge; massive rooks, piled one upon the other, tower far above our heads; the chaotic manner m which they are placed, and the gaping fissures between them, which kind mother Nature, with all her sweet art embroider of moss and lichen, has not been quite able to hide, shows that at some time a great upheaval of nature must have taken place here. We sit down on a mossy rook shaded by dark pine-trees to cool, and as we rest ourselves, and admire our romantic surroundings, it seems as though we are transported to some wild Scottish glen, and we look around to see the fairies trooping out to meet us. After admiring the ferns, the exquisite mosses and lichens, we resume our tramp; passing through much more of the same sort of wild scenery, we at last came out on a high, bold bluff, overlooking the river on the American shore, its side a solid perpendicular rock projecting almost a hundred feet above the water. The view is superb: above the azure sky, with soft, floating, silvery clouds; beneath the clear, blue water, ‘gemmed by a thousand emerald bowers.’ The point we named ‘Hungerford Outlook.’

“Passing on again for some distance, we find ourselves on a high projecting point reaching out into the river. This we named ‘Prospect Point,’ as it gives a magnificent view of the river and Alexandria Bay, with the beautiful Thousand Island House just opposite, perched so romantically upon the rocks.

“At last we turn our steps, most reluctantly, to our yacht, but not until we have determined to become the owner of a lot in this beautiful park, and we would advise all weary denizens of cities to go and do likewise.”

The original board of trustees named in the articles of association were: Hon. Andrew Cornwall, of Alexandria Bay; Hon. Seth G. Pope, of Ogdensburgh; S. B. Van Duzee, of Gouverneur; John D. Ellis, of Antwerp; R. C. Collis, of Theresa; George Gilbert, of Carthage; William S. Taylor, of Utica; Timothy Hough, of Syracuse; and Dr. J. D. Huntington, of Watertown.

The present board of trustees and officers are as follows: Rev. P. H. Fowler, D.D., of Utica, president; Hon. Andrew Cornwall, of Alexandria Bay, vice-president and treasurer; B. C. Collis, of Theresa, secretary; S. B. Van Duzee, of Gouverneur, George Gilbert, of Carthage, Judge Phelps, of Binghamton, P. H. Agun, of Syracuse, Gen. S. D. Hungerford, of Adams, and Dr. J. D. Huntington, of Watertown. The executive committee is Messrs. Fowler, Cornwall, Collis, Hungerford, and Huntington, under whose direction the improvements on the park are being vigorously pushed, preparatory to the opening of the grounds and sale of lots, which is proposed to take place about the middle of May next (1878).

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