Tuxedo Historical Society introduces its legacy mural

| 22 Feb 2012 | 02:01

    Fourteen are honored for their influence on the history of Tuxedo and Tuxedo Park TUXEDO - Fourteen people who have had a permanent influence on the history of the Town of Tuxedo and the Village of Tuxedo Park have been immortalized in a special mural based at the Tuxedo Historical Society. Called the “Tuxedo Legacy Mural,” the colorful work of art created by Ron Peer of Design Function, Inc. portrays the selected individuals in the context of their contribution to area history and serves to introduce broad topics relevant to the history of the town, region and nation, according to the historical society. “We took great care to make the mural geographically diverse,” said Deborah Harmon, Tuxedo Historical Society executive director, noting the mural was made possible through the donation of Tuxedo Park residents John and Sara Cassis. “We have included characters from all parts of the town. We are the historical society for the whole town, not just Tuxedo Park.” Tuxedo residents may be familiar with names like George F. Baker and George Grant Mason, as the school district’s two schools are named after these men. Then, there are perhaps lesser known names such as Juliet Morgan Hamilton, who was a benefactor to Tuxedo’s Eagle Valley community. There are even composite portraits in tribute to the area’s stone workers, gardeners and domestic workers who, Harmon said, were instrumental in the establishment of the community. Their inclusion recognizes “the skill and dedication of many who built and served in Tuxedo Park,” according to a historical society statement. Being ‘famous’ not enough to qualify There were three criteria for Legacy Mural inclusion: The individual must be deceased; and must have made significant contribution to the history or culture of what would become the Town of Tuxedo and the Village of Tuxedo Park. Merely being “famous” did not warrant inclusion in the mural, according to Harmon. Lastly, the individual and his/her endeavors must serve to introduce other topics relevant to Tuxedo history and to the collections of the Tuxedo Historical Society. Several of the portraits were unveiled by descendants of legacy honorees, with some family members traveling long distances to be part of the ceremony. Charlotte Backlund of Plymouth Mass., the granddaughter of Charles S. Patterson, attended the mural’s unveiling. “His whole life was Tuxedo,” said Backlund. “He was town supervisor for 37 years. He was with the fire department. He was just called for anything that needed to be done. He just had something to do with every part of life in Tuxedo.” Historical society officials described Patterson as the property manager for Pierre Lorillard IV and a lifelong public servant in Tuxedo. In today’s world, Backlund likened him to be the project manager for the development of Lorillard’s property, overseeing the work done by immigrants who built the roads and houses in Tuxedo Park. The property that Patterson managed in what is now the village, and the areas immediately surrounding it, was developed as a resort for high society in 1885 by Lorillard on property acquired by his grandfather, Pierre Lorillard II in 1790. ‘He would have been humbled’ At that time it became known as Tuxedo Park. Lorillard organized the Tuxedo Club and the Tuxedo Park Association, as a hunting and fishing preserve, and surrounded the property with a high game fence. This fence marked fairly accurately the present boundaries of the area restricted to use of the residents of Tuxedo Park. In 1924, the Tuxedo Securities Corp. acquired from Lorillard’s estate all of the stock of the Tuxedo Park Association. “The town meant so much to him,” said Backlund, who noted her grandfather’s portrait depicted him as a firefighter. “He died when I was four. I have heard so many stories about him from my mother.” Backlund was thrilled to be a part of the mural’s unveiling but felt her grandfather would have been more modest about the honor bestowed upon him. “He would have been very humbled about it,” she said. “He was a very reserved person, they said. But this is a fitting tribute to him and everybody else who was in that mural.” 20th Century representative Monroe resident Evelyn Marshak had similar observations about her father Reuben Freed, the longtime owner and operator of the Red Apple Rest, the cafeteria-style eatery which opened in 1931 along Route 17 North in the Southfields section of Tuxedo. The restaurant, known for its iconic red apple on top of the building (which Marshak noted has now mysteriously disappeared), was noted as a stopping point for people traveling upstate from the New York City area. It was considered the halfway mark in the trip and in its heyday was “ the roadside place.” However, The New York State Thruway, built beginning in 1953, bypassed the restaurant, and vacationing in the Catskill Mountains also became less popular after the 1960s. The restaurant went through several changes of management and eventually closed in 2006, and was condemned in January 2007 because of roof damage. Passersby will see a for sale sign on the premises. Marshak, who was joined by sisters Elaine Lindenblatt of Rockland County and Marylin Scherzer of Lake Worth, Fla., noted with pride that Freed was the only person selected representing the 20th Century. “It’s such an honor and such a recognition,” said Marshak. “It’s a personal legacy for my father. He was the one contemporary person to be included. This recognizes his role and the role the restaurant planed in the life of Tuxedo. It was a traveler’s stop. No one grew up in Tuxedo without working there. It was a rite of passage for those growing up in Tuxedo.” Marshak said the Red Apple Rest evolved into having a dual role for the area. “It was truly a community place,” she said, “as well as it was important for the people who didn’t live there. It’s isn’t so much the building as it is the notoriety of the place. It’s what that business did for Tuxedo. It wasn’t just an isolated place on the road.” Freed, Marshak believed, would have been as humbled as Backlund felt her grandfather would be. “I believe he would have been taken back,” she said. “He was very modest. He did not seek public attention or the limelight. He probably would have looked at all these names and said, ‘What am I doing among these names?’” Yes, Washington slept here One deceased person miraculously made an appearance: “George Washington” in his Revolutionary War attire. The faux Washington stayed in character throughout the entire event, but his appearance caused Marshak to have a humorous reflection. “Washington spent three nights in the Southfields area, right next to the Red Apple Rest,” she said with a chuckle. “He was about 200 years too early. If it had been 200 years later, he could have had a hot dog at our Red Apple.” Who are the ‘Tuxedo Legacy 14?’ George F. Baker, who funded the high school that bears his name as well as many other projects Reuben Freed, long-time owner and operator of the iconic “Red Apple Rest” along Route 17 North Juliet Morgan Hamilton, benefactor to Tuxedo’s Eagle Valley community E.H. Harriman, a major landowner and employer Alfred Lee Loomis, instrumental in the development of radar in World War II Pierre Lorillard IV, “the founder” of Tuxedo Park George Grant Mason, a benefactor to many Tuxedo organizations and citizens, and the namesake of the Tuxedo School District’s George Grant Mason School Charles S. Patterson, Lorillard’s property manager/agent and a lifelong public servant in Tuxedo Bruce Price, the founding architect of Tuxedo Park and many buildings in the hamlet Emily Post, best known for her best-selling book, “Etiquette,” which she wrote in Tuxedo Park George Washington, who ordered the building of the Continental Road through present-day Tuxedo and commissioned frigates for which locally-forged iron was used. Additionally, in an effort to recognize the skill and dedication of the many who built and served in Tuxedo Park, the mural includes three composite portraits in tribute to stone workers, gardeners and domestic workers. What’s next for the Tuxedo Historical Society? TUXEDO - Tuxedo Historical Society Director Deborah Harmon feels the unveiling of its legacy mural revitalizes the work and purpose of the organization. “This was the beginning of a new chapter for the historical society,” she said. “We’re on the map again. We’re open and here and we have many things for you to look at and we’ll be doing many more public things. Now, everything seems to be coming together.” Next up is the development of a permanent men’s formal wear, or tuxedo, display. The organization is working with a menswear company in London as part of the behind-the-scenes work to create the exhibit. Black tie dates from 1860, when Henry Poole & Co. created a short smoking jacket for the Prince of Wales to wear to informal dinner parties as an alternative to white tie dress — the standard formal-wear. In the spring of 1886, the Prince invited James Potter, a rich New Yorker, and his wife to Sandringham House, his Norfolk hunting estate. When Potter asked the Prince’s dinner dress recommendation, he sent Potter to Henry Poole. Returning to New York in 1886, Potter’s dinner suit proved popular at the Tuxedo Park Club. Men copied him, soon making it their informal dining uniform. The evening dress for men now popularly known as a tuxedo takes its name from Tuxedo Park, where it was said to have been worn for the first time nationwide by Griswald Lorillard at the annual Autumn Ball of the Tuxedo Club founded by Pierre Lorillard IV. It became popular for formal dress in the U.S. Legend dictates that it became known as the tuxedo when a man asked another at the Autumn Ball, “Why does that man’s jacket not have coattails on it?” The other answered: “He is from Tuxedo Park.” The first man misinterpreted and told all of his friends that he saw a man wearing a jacket without coattails called a tuxedo, not from Tuxedo. - Nancy Kriz