2016-11-10 / Columnists

Raised in the Shadow – PART 3 Sanitarium Staffing & Dr. Wilsey’s Horse

by Sandi Brewster-walker

By the turn of the century, Louden Hall and the Long Island Home were becoming major sanitariums, large employers, social gathering places, and residences. Their superintendents were influencing and impacting the economic development, growth, and politics of the Village of Amityville, Hamlet of North Amityville and the Town of Babylon. As Dr. Wilsey, of Long Island Home, traveled around the County by horseback, Division Avenue (now Louden Avenue) was in the “spotlight”!

At Louden Hall, the 1900 US Federal Census listed the sanitarium in the Town of Babylon, as well as the Village of Amityville with John Louden’s extended family living on property.

John (Sr.) and wife Sarah were enumerated with their sons George (1868) as supervisor, John, Jr. (1875) as house physician and William (1865) as treasurer. Along with William was his wife Carrie and their daughter Grace Bonheur Louden (Burns). Additional household members were John, Sr.’s brother Robert, as well as his nephew Edward, who was listed as an attendant.


United States Hotel (postcard), Litchfield, CT United States Hotel (postcard), Litchfield, CT Others enumerated living on the Louden property were: Annie (Johnson) Choate (1860-1920), an attendant.

Minnie Power (1854), a cook, Sarah McGrath (1854), a laundress, and Maria Campbell (1864), a washwoman, were all born in Ireland, single, and had not been nationalized. The 1915 NYS Census would enumerate Maria as a scrubwoman; then in the 1920 US Federal Census as a waitress.

Harry Howard (1864), an attendant, was born in England and immigrated in 1899. Lizzie DeSota (1857), an attendant, born in Maine might have been a relative, or a friend of the Loudens.

Catherine Hicks (1845-1909), a scrubwoman born in New York State, was the only person of color. She had married in 1890 giving birth to one child. Nine years later, her obituary appeared in the Amityville Record on May 7. Still others might have worked at Louden Hall, but lived off property in the surrounding community.


World War II – Draft Registration World War II – Draft Registration Louden Hall also had 57 patients, and one boarder, Nathalie Misell, the 13-year-old daughter of Beulah Misell, a patient. It was indicated that Nathalie was “at school.” Beulah had been married for 15 years, and gave birth to four children, however only Nathalie had survived.

Like Louden Hall, the Long Island Home was a place for local social gatherings, as the Feb. 17, 1900 issue of the South Side Signal informed readers, “The ladies of the Afternoon Encore Club will be entertained by Mrs. Wilsey, at the Long Island Home on Friday afternoon”.

To pull the carriage that would bring the patients from the Long Island Railroad Station, Dr. Wilsey purchased horses from Upstate New York to be added to the stable, the reporter of the South Side Signal told its readers on July 20, 1901.


Babylon Rural Cemetery Babylon Rural Cemetery Wilsey had Alanson Haff, a contractor to work on the new residence at the corner of Division Avenue, announced the June 14, 1902 issue of the South Side Signal. Division Avenue seemed to be the place to live, work and give social gatherings!

As a member of the Republican Party, Dr. Wilsey was a popularfigure for the local Long Island newspapers.The Suffolk County News (Sayville) on Oct. 3, 1902 mentioned that the doctor was attending a Republican Party meeting, and “his saddle horse, which was left tied outside, kicked a big hole in the plate glass front of the bank building.”

The following month “The saddle horse of Dr. O. J. Wilsey, of the Long Island Home, manifested his disapproval of the excellent music furnished by the Amityville band on the occasion of the Republican Rally…kicked a hole through the west window of the post office.” It would be interesting to find out how long the doctor kept this horse!

With the growth of Long Island Home and Louden Hall, their superintendents were in positions to influence many people, and advice on community policy!

The South Side Signal, April 16, 1904, ran an article stating that at a Saturday evening meeting of the Amityville Club, among the new elected officers were: Dr. Orville Jay Wilsey (Long Island Home), president; and William T. Louden (Louden Hall), vice president.The outgoing treasurer read his report, stating that as of April 1, the Amityville Club had a liability on their first mortgage for their club house in the amount of $3,000, and assets totaling $8,500. Other new officers were: Samuel Hildred (secretary) and Harry Inglee (treasurer) including trustees, G. Albertson, Charles Wood and Alvan Haff.The club had 88 residents and 13 non-residents as members

Other local news was reported in the same column. “An auction sale of stock, farming implements, wagons and household furniture of the Anette Hotel Farm, North Amityville, will take place on Tues., April 26, at 10 a.m. sharp.The offering is very extensive and will be sold without reserve. Terms cash, Hartt, Griffen & Willmarth are the auctioneers.” Today, a Hotel Farm would probably be known as a “bed & breakfast,” however the location has not been found.

The Amityville column, South Side Signal, October 7, 1905, continued to including information about the sanitariums, and how they catered to their rich patients. “A handsome low phaeton and gentle easy gaited horse consigned to Martin Dwyer, the once famous horseman, who is a patient at the Long Island Home, arrived here this week. Everything possible is being done to make the last days of the noted turf man as happy as is possible.”

As the number of employees grew at the local sanitariums, so did the frequency of accidents.The Aug. 17, 1906 issue of the South Side Signal covered one accident at the Long Island Home, where a temporary employee, Mrs. Erastus Green, was assisting in light housework and “fell down a steep flight of stairs in the rear of that institution on Saturday evening and broke her neck. Her lifeless body was found by Mrs. Wilsey, wife of Dr. O.J. Wilsey, superintendent of the home.”The deceased was 68 years old, and her only survivor was her husband.

While traveling, Dr. and Mrs. Wilsey reported Oct. 14, 1910 from the United States Hotel, at Litchfield, CT, “You may imagine our satisfaction when we arrived at Litchfield last evening to find Governor Weeks and staff ready to receive the Mayor of Amityville…”

Early spring, “The second and third stories of the hotel were destroyed.The blaze started in the attic from the chimney or from electric wires,” as mentioned in the New York Times on April 25. “It is quite a coincidence that Mayor (Samuel) Hildreth and Governor Weeks, two important dignitaries, should arrive in Litchfield the same day,” reported the South Side Signal.

When the 1915 New York State Census was taken Dr. Wilsey was still superintendent and physician of Long Island Home with about 55 employees. At least 17 employees were enumerated as lodgers living on the Long Island Home property.The number of lodgers, and their occupations were: two assistant physicians, seven attendants, one farmer, one gardener, one cook, two kitchen helpers, one painter, one watchman, and one person listed as a useful man. We can assume that “useful man” meant handyman!

Some thirty-eight (38) others living off-property made up the large staff of: physicians, assist. physicians, attendants, registered nurses, night nurses, clerks, waitresses, waiters, pantry workers, cooks, kitchen helpers, gardeners, farmers, watchman, painters, stewards, seamstress and a chauffeur, James Wendell (Wandell).

“Contractor Howell Has Two Big Jobs” was the headline for a story in the South Side Signal on April 23, 1915. Elmer Howell was awarded the contract to build a new fireproof annex building of “brick, reinforced concrete and tile” for the Long Island Home.The building would be constructed near the home of Dr. Wilsey, superintendent.

Was the contractor, Elmer Winfield Howell, the father, who was superintendent of a builder’s office, or his son Elmer Brown Howell, an architect and builder, of Babylon?

The column continued, “There will be 22 bedrooms, seven bathrooms with the usual kitchens, pantries and other general rooms required in such an up- to-date institution.” Howell was also handling the construction of a home for Ethel and Arthur S. Alexander, at Bulls Head, near the Wheatley Hills section of Roslyn.

During these years, Louden Hall and the Long Island Home had become major sanitariums, large employers, social gathering places and residences. Their superintendents exercised influence with an impact on the economic development, growth and politics of the Village of Amityville, Hamlet of North Amityville and the Town of Babylon. In another article, what was happening at Brunswick Home, and for a brief moment over at Dr. Reed’s General Hospital at 52 Park Avenue, will be discussed.

The writer is an independent historian, genealogist, freelance writer and business owner. She is the chair of the Board of Trustees and acting executive director of the Indigenous People Museum & Research Institute and served in President Bill Clinton’s Administration as deputy director of the Office of Communications at the United States Department of Agriculture. Readers can reach her in c/o the Amityville Record at acjnews@rcn.com.

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