The E. W. Dewey Cottage on Friendly Island, 1887 – 1947
One of the more obscure summer homes in the Thousand Islands was the E. W. Dewey Cottage located on Friendly Island. I use the word obscure as it was often overshadowed by the likes of Castle Rest, Hopewell Hall and Boldt Castle, all within its general vicinity and opposite Alexandria Bay. Unfortunately, there’s not many photographs to be found of it, either.
The 28 room mansion was built for Edward W. Dewey, Esq. from New York City firm Browning, Ring & Co., in 1887 and never branded a name as with many of the other summer homes in the Thousand Islands. The island itself has gone through a number of name changes, the Watertown Daily Times making note in 1890 of its change from Friendly Island to Dewey Island, though it had been referred to as such two years prior elsewhere.
The Dewey Cottage was characterized by a large, three story turret with an arched passageway running underneath it which made for one of its many unique features. To the left of the turret, a large half-circle piazza (veranda) formed the porch.
The interior of the first floor was graced with a reception hall with a kitchen and pantry off to the right, dining room straight ahead and library to the left in a circular room following the contours of the outside porch.
The 2nd floor was comprised of two galleries above the reception hall and five bedrooms. The third plans weren’t included in the drawing, but included a music room, which originated with Mrs. Dewey who personally oversaw its construction and decor. The Times reported that–
Before her death, Mrs. Dewey requested that all the islanders put up a lighted cross on their islands on Sunday night. This was done for a long time and was much admired by those visiting the river.
Mr. Dewey would be part of the St. Lawrence Real Estate Association, serving as secretary and treasurer. The association was headed in 1895 by William C. Browning of Hopewell Hall, with directors including Dewey, Browning, Charles G. Emery of Emery’s Castle and the New Frontenac, George C. Boldt of Boldt’s Castle, James H. Oliphant of Neh-Mahdin, E. R. Holden of Thousand Island Park, Charles L. Hudson, George Pullman of Castle Rest and Hon. James C. Spencer of Manhattan Island.
Edward Dewey would pass away unexpectedly in January, 1903. As written in the Watertown Daily Times–
A message last night announced the death of Edward W. Dewey of New York, brother of Mrs. O. S. Graves of this city, at Ashville, North Carolina, yesterday afternoon, where with his wife he was stopping a few days on their way to St. Augustine, Fla., to spend the winter.
No particulars have yet been learned.
Mr. Graves received a letter from him at that place last Monday, in which no mention was made of not being in perfect health.
Mr. Dewey was well knownby the dwellers on the St. Lawrence, where he has had a summer home opposite Alexandria Bay on Dewey Island for a number of years.
His death will be lamented by a host of friends.
Edward Dewey’s death would be attributed to acute indigestion, an affliction that was often printed in the era but really didn’t address the underlying issues/root causes of the death itself. As a result, what was referred colloquially to as Dewey’s Cottage would be inherited by daughters May and Ella and their husbands N. F. Hoggson and F. E. Driggs of New York who would make a number of improvements to the interior, exterior and add several bathrooms.
The Dewey Cottage would be rented out over the years, a few of them to J. H. Hammond, president of Superior Steel Company in Pittsburgh, who would later purchase the “Ledges.” In August of 1925, the Watertown Daily Times would report a Syracuse man had purchased Dewey Island–
M. Edwards of Syracuse, bid in the three and one-half acretract of land on Dewey Island, and the handsome twenty room house, located on same this morning at $15,500.
The Island was owned by Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Dreggs of Brooklyn, who arrived recently to open the house for auction. Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, who have been passing the summer here on their yacht “Polly,” expect to renovate, refurnish and redecorate the house before they occupy it.The island and house was hitherto been held by the owners at $75,000 and six years ago $50,000.00 was offered. Three years ago, another member of the villa colony offered them $45,000 but both of these offers were refused.
The ownership would last five years, when, in 1930, Mrs. Frank G. (Julia) Tallman of Delaware purchased the island and renamed it Tallman-Friendly Island, essentially erasing the moniker of Dewey Cottage over twenty-five years after Edward Dewey’s death. Frank Tallman was the retired vice-president and Director of the DuPont Company. The family would pay $40,000 for the island and make many improvements to the estate.
In 1946, eight years after Frank Tallman’s death, the property was taken over by the county for Julia Tallman’s failure to pay taxes after she abandoned it for a smaller property due to its high taxes. At that point, Mrs. Tallman was a prominent member of the Thousand Islands summer colony and a Republican women’s leader.
The Island would ultimately find its way to Charles Ruderman of Gouverneur who also purchased a summer home on St. Elmo’s Island the same year. That island is the next island north of what was once again referred to as Friendly Island and the former Dewey Cottage.
The following year, in 1947, the Dewey Cottage would be lost in a fire. As noted in the Watertown Daily Times August 18th edition–
Fire of undetermined origin swept through the three-story frame Thousand Islands summer home on Friendly Island, opposite Alexandria Bay, Sunday afternoon and completely destroyed the $40,000 St. Lawrence river show place listed on the town assessment roll as belonging to Charles I. Ruderman of Gouverneur.
The blaze broke out around the base of the porch on the front of the 28-room structure and was first noticed at about 3:30 p.m. by fishermen in the area.
Hundreds of small craft swarmed around the blazing island but were soon forced back by the heat of the fire and the danger of sparks and flying embers that filled the air about the island area.
The Dewey Cottage, at that point, was said to have been unoccupied for the last nine years and had, as the Times put it, “become a thorn in the side of both village and town officials” during that span as tax assessments had not been paid and were now totaling over $11,000, including penalties.