Abraham Abraham Summer Home On Cherry Island Had Many Connections, Part Of Millionaires Row (1899 – Present)
In 1899, the Abraham Abraham summer home on Cherry Island was constructed after Abraham and business associate, Nathan Straus, together Abraham & Straus, purchased neighboring properties on the island and razed the existing home to build the palatial summer estate that had been referred to as Ingleside, Manatoona (only referenced in his New York Times obituary) and sometimes as the Abraham & Straus cottage and later that of James H. Dawes.
Abraham’s venture into retail would start in 1865 Brooklyn when he opened Weschler & Abraham. The Straus family, consisting of brothers Nathan and Isidor, would acquire a general partnership with Macy’s Department Store in 1888, would buy out the Weschler interest of Weschler & Abraham and become Abraham & Straus.
Simon F. Rothschild, Abraham’s son-in-law, partnered with the Straus brothers who provided the financing for the deal. Making it an all-family affair of sorts, Isador Straus was Rothschild’s uncle by marriage to Ida Blun. Isador served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives the following two years, but both he and wife Ida years later were amongst the casualties of the Titanic sinking in 1912.
At the time of its formation, Abraham & Straus was maintained separately, though keep close ties, with Macy’s. Nevertheless, Nathan Straus would co-own two of New York City’s biggest department stores. As it was vogue for the time with the likes of the George Boldt and Charles G. Emery building castles and other wealthy financiers from New York City purchasing land in the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River to build palatial summer retreats, so too did Abraham & Straus.
In 1899, Abraham Abraham and Nathan Straus purchased adjoining properties on Cherry Island. Abraham’s share was purchased from the surviving Marsh heirs of Sara S. C. Marsh. The Watertown Daily Times reported in November of that year–
Contracts have just been awarded by William & Johnson, Architects of this city (Ogdensburg), for the erection of two very handsome summer cottages on Cherry Island, opposite Alexandria Bay, for Nathan Straus and A. Abraham, both of New York City. Cherry Island is one of the most handsomely located spots on the St. Lawrence river, overlooking the magnificent summer homes of George C. Boldt on Heart Island, the Pullman and others of the wealthiest. Messrs. Straus and Abraham are brothers-in-law, and their summer homes are to be nearly identical, except for such changes as are made necessary by the island elevations.
The residence for Abraham required blasting of about 9 feet of rock ledges that were described as being “quite jagged.” A complete system for electric lighting would also be installed, along with plumbing and sewage that would make the summer cottage more like a city home in most regards. The estimated costs at the time for both cottages was well over $100,000.
Upon Abraham’s death in 1911, the New York Times reported a tribute to his memory by then Mayor Gaynor–
I never knew a more just and equitable man than Abraham Abraham. He was born and bred and schooled here, but his grand name leads the mind back to the border line where fable ceases and history begins. All of the virtues were so proportioned and balanced in him as to make a perfect man. Always patient, always kind, always just and tolerant, never morose or despondent, prone always to overlook and forgive, every one saw in him the personification of encouragement and good will to all men.
The article also mentioned Abraham’s “larger side” consisting of “endeavors as a leader in all that made for the betterment of Brooklyn and its institutions, and his work as a leader in the civic life of the borough.” Amongst his accomplishments and involvements:
President of the Board of Trustees of the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum. President of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn. President of Temple of Israel in Brooklyn. Vice President of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. A Director of the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities. A Trustee of the American Branch of Baron de Hirsch Fund. An incorporator and Trustee of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. Directory of Kings County Trust Company. Member of the Chamber of Commerce, the Brooklyn League, the Brooklyn Club and numerous other organizations.
Amongst his friends included the late President McKinley, President Roosevelt and President Taft. It was said “His summer home in the St. Lawrence River adjoins that of Nathan Straus, and is one of the show places of the Thousand Islands.”
In 1916, James H. Dawes, a well known general contractor from Philadelphia, Pa., purchased both the Abraham and Straus cottages, though he would sell the Straus one in 1921 to Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Frank of New York City. Along with his wife, the Dawes were very well known and active in the 1,000 Islands community. In 1922, Mrs. J. H. Dawes passed away at the age of 48 in Philadelphia.
It was believed that, after 1931, the two cottages would receive very little usage, if any at all, for the next six years. In 1937, Syracuse scrap-man Abe Cooper, well known in the North Country with a scrap yard located on Factory Street and having razed a number of other older buildings, including in later years the Thousand Island House, would purchase both cottages and raze the Straus one while keeping the Dawes/Abraham cottage for his own personal use.
Nathan Straus passed away at the age of 82 in 1931. After retiring in 1914, Straus devoted the remainder of his life to charity and philanthropy which started back in the 1880s when he served as Parks Commissioner and president of the Board of Health and Commissioner of the Department of Health, virtues that he carried on with for the rest of his life.
In 1916, Nathan Straus would sell his yacht, Sisilina, to the Coast Guard and used the proceeds to feed war orphans and later fed returning American serviceman. In a fateful trip to Palestine, he would break his leg in one of his soup kitchens and be unable to travel back to the U.S. with his brother Isidor. As it turned out, part of the itinerary was aboard the Titanic. It was reported that Nathan would never be quite the same after the tragic loss of his brother aboard the ship they were both to have been on.
Today, the Abraham summer home is part of what is referred to as “Millionaires Row” in the Thousand Islands and one of the featured attractions for boat tours passing by as shown in the photo below from July 5, 2000.