Willow Lake Farms has a history as rich as the Hudson River Valley itself, with connections to individuals who helped shape the history of both Dutchess County and the entire United States.
The first buildings to appear on Willow Lake were those built in the late 1800s by Henry Dubois Van Wyck. Mr. Van Wyck was a native son who ventured west, made a fortune in the California gold rush and returned home to Fishkill, NY.
Van Wyck served as the first mayor when Fishkill was incorportated in 1899. He also built Van Wyck Hall in Fishkill as a theater. At Willow Lake, the site of the current main house was formerly the location of a lodge built by Mr. Dubois named Knickerbocker Lodge. The New York Daily Tribune - in an article announcing it's opening dated July 1, 1900 - proclaimed it to be "A restful home in the highlands for the invalid or convalescent. Where health abounds and renewed vigor awaits all comers."
Photo from New York Daily Tribune dated July 1, 1900
The Lodge was featured on old postcards of the day and was considered "the" place to go for special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and family gatherings.
The Lodge burned in the early 1920s and J.H.Noah Slee - a South African inventor of "3-in-1 Oil" acquired the property. He cleared or moved many of the original structures and built a stone house for his wife-to-be, Margaret Sanger.
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Time Magazine once named Margaret Sanger as one of the hundred most important people of the 20th Century.
Fieldstone from the area was gathered to construct the current Main House and Gate House. The Main House was finished in 1924, the Gate House in 1928. Historical lore contends that the water from Willow Lake was, at one time, bottled and sold to cure diabetes. There are many old structures on the property and "rescued" vintage farm implements arranged on one hillside create a current day "mini" museum.
The remains of the Fish Hatchery on our grounds
If you would like to read the full page New York Daily Tribune article from July 1, 1900 announcing the grand opening of the original Knickerbocker Lodge, simply click on the PDF icon below: