Westcott Family Property Since 1803 Becomes Part Of Westcott Beach State Park
Westcott Beach had long been part of the Wescott family, going back to their building a farm on Chestnut Ridge in 1803. In the 1930s, then-owner Charles Wescott would operate it as a private beach charging .25¢ admission per vehicle. Within a few years, an effort was underway by the Thousand Islands Park Commission, then headed by Watertown’s Mayor Charles Winslow, to develop it as a state park. Wescott would pass away at the age of 70 in March of 1945, just one year before the park opened to the public.
Dec. 3, 1940, Watertown city councilman and avid supporter of the Thousand Islands region William T. Field authored an article in the Watertown Daily Times which read, in part—
We have eleven small state parks within the limits of Jefferson County and these should be developed to meet the needs of the tourists, in fact the proposed Westcott Beach park comprising about 150 acres near Campbell’s Point on the shore of Lake Ontario and proposed Wells Island Park of about 2,500 acres should be acquired and developed under the supervision of the Thousand Islands State Park commission.
The following year, the Civilian Conservation Corp camp at Fishers Landing looked like it was going to be closed by federal authorities, drawing a sharp protest from the Thousand Islands Park Commission. The Times would state—
The move to eliminate the camp would preclude the park commission’s proposed purchase and development of the Westcott beach area to the west of Campbell’s Point on Lake Ontario, according to the commission chairman.
By 1944, talk of abandoning the development of Westcott Beach due to costs was rumored. Mayor Winslow said engineering estimates were over $100,000 to purchase and develop the state park at Wescott Beach. Later that year, Winslow and the Thousand Islands Park Commission would recommend, after a thorough study of the Wescott Farm property, the immediate development of the Westcott Beach property as a state park.
On February 5, 1946, the Watertown Daily Times would announce work to start at Wescott’s Beach that summer—
Albany, Feb. 5 — Work is expected to start his summer on the Westcott Beach state park development on Lake Ontario, not far from Watertown, the division of parks, conservation department, announced today.
Plans for the project, which is expected to involve an initial expenditure of $45,000 in addition to $35,000 for the site, are scheduled to go to the Postwar Public Works Planning commission this week for final approve.
Westcott Beach state park will have a Lake Ontario frontage of approximately 3,200 feet. Work which the division hopes can be started this year will include construction of a bathhouse, roads, a parking area, power and water facilities, picnic grounds including fireplaces and tables. There will also be a landscaping program in the first year’s work.
One of the abandoned Fishers Landing Civilian Conservation Corps Buildings would be moved to Westcott Beach that summer and converted into a bath house for swimmers. Also that summer, after ten years of negotiations, the State of New York would finally purchase the beach and 340 acres of land for $30,000 and opened it to the public with a great deal of work left to do in the coming years. Despite its incomplete status, Westcott Beach State Park would be one of the most popular swimming and picnic destinations in the Thousand Islands region during the summer of 1946.
The following year, the state would look to acquire another 120 acres, which would become an ongoing process as the popularity of the Thousand Island Parks would necessitate it. In 1948, the parks would draw 20,000 visitors for the 4th of July weekend, 2,000 at Westcott Beach State Park alone. The figures would represent a 50% increase in prior years and bring up discussions of a new park on Wellesley Island.
In 1950, Governor Thomas E. Dewey would officially dedicate the Westcott State Beach Park, which, at that point, had cost $88,000 ($1,049,807.14 in 2022 value.) The Times would note of the expenditures—
So far, cost of preparing the park for public use has totaled $88,000, with $29,000 of that amount having been spent for grading and construction of the entrance road and parking area and $59,000 for the combination bathhouse, shelter room, and refreshment concession. The latter building has been completed this year.
It was noted the previous year’s attendance at the Westcott Beach State Park was 54,000 persons. A heat wave in July would see record attendance at the park in 1950, with over 800 vehicles in the parking lot with temperatures flirting with the 90-degree mark. Five years later, more than 7,000 visitors came on a single Sunday seeking respite from the heat in what The Times said “the beach was a mass of humanity,” while another 5,000 flocked to the shore the following day.
In recent years, Westcott Beach State Park had completed a $3.94 million project involving the construction of eight new accessible cottages with full kitchens and bathrooms. The project was funded through the NY Parks 2020 initiative. Below is a video from Barton & Loguidice showcasing the new cottages on their Vimeo channel.
Attendance has remained strong through the years as the park is now open year-round and consistently draws over 100,000 visitors yearly (2019 drew 106,000, down from 124,000 five years earlier.) A group of visitors that can be counted on visiting once a year is the Gottman family. 2018 marked the 50-year tradition of four generations making the journey from various states across the country, that particular year brought 130 family members and friends to Westcott Beach State Park.
The organizer for the family tradition told The Times—
“In this day and age, families are spread out far and wide,” Mrs. Christine D. Coval said in a phone interview during a break in a family cornhole tournament at the park. “Personally, as a society, I feel we lost the value of family. This is a gift. I’m so blessed to have a family that’s here to support one another.”
The family says they typically spend a week during mid-July.