A Pumphouse on Hawkes Avenue

87 Hawkes Pumphouse distanceDid you ever noticed this stone structure?  It was tucked behind 87 Hawkes Avenue.  When I first moved here, I would notice it ever so briefly through the Deerfield condos when I drove north on 9A.  I wondered what it was, but never bothered to pursue it.

One of my faithful readers contacted me last month to say that she thought that it had been demolished.  I quickly went over to take some photos and good thing I did because soon after, the pump house was no more.

House and Pumphouse

I’ve been told by people who grew up in the area that before Deerfield, the Woods and Fox Hill were built, Hawkes Avenue was really empty.  One person told me that he used to ride his dirt bike and shoot deer around the woods here as a teenager.   And I can imagine that this abandoned stone building was a cool place to hang out.  I mean,  take away those three developments, and all you had was acres of overgrown farmland and a few houses dotting the landscape.

In the 1860s, when I think the recently demolished farmhouse was built, 87 Hawkes and environs would have consisted of over 100 acres of working farmland.  Horses, cows, oxen, and swine pastured here.  Rye, oats and Indian corn were grown here to feed the livestock and sold at markets.  At the time, much of the land including and surrounding 87 Hawkes Avenue was farmed by Benjamin Buckhout (1825 – 1912).  (Fun fact,  he served as Ossining’s Justice of the Peace in 1863.  I wonder what sort of peace he had to keep?)

Now Buckhout has left quite a footprint, at least on Ancestry.com, and I have fallen down an Internet hole of everything Buckhout. So sit back, pour yourself a glass of New York State ale, cider or whiskey and enjoy what I’ve uncovered:

In 1852, twenty-seven year-old Benjamin married a nice twenty-two year-old Quaker lady (possibly a cousin) named Phebe Birdsall (1830 – 1879).   They had three children:  Frank (1853 – 1907), Edwin (1855 – 1921) and Lena (1864 – 1920.)  Interestingly, Benjamin’s mother was an Ann Louisa Birdsall and Phebe’s mother was a Rachel Birdsall – hence my assumption that they might have been cousins.

Also, because I have really fallen far, far down this hole, I was interested to learn that Benjamin Buckhout’s grandmother (stay with me here) was Hannah Underhill, daughter of Abraham Underhill of the Croton Point grist mill-brickmaker-vintner Underhill clan.  Here’s a link that goes into more detail on that part of the family if you can stand it. But the upshot is that thinking in 19th century terms, Benjamin came from “good stock.”

Now, according to the census in 1860 and again in 1870, he seemed quite prosperous and important.  Benjamin was listed as a farmer with real estate holdings worth about $25,000 and personal holdings of $6,000.  (That’s over half a million dollars today!)

But the 1870s were hard on him, and he lost his parents, brothers and wife.

I found a copy of Phebe Buckhout’s will from 1879,(see here: Will1Will2) and it interestingly doesn’t mention Benjamin at all.  She bequeaths everything to her children — mostly silverware and real estate it seems –  and because Lena was a minor, a Special Guardian was appointed.   But where was Benjamin??   What happened in the years between 1870 and 1879?  The Internet (and Ancestry.com) are mum.

After Phebe Buckhout dies, Benjamin and daughter Lena appear in the 1880 census, listed as “Boarders” with the Abrams Townshend family.  Clearly things went awry for poor Benjamin.

Benjamin next surfaces in 1908, and it is a very sad entry:

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 10.41.59 AM

In 1908, you see, at the age of 83, he was in the Brooklyn poorhouse.  From the above record, you can see that he had been living with his daughter Lena Buckhout at 273 McDonough Street, Brooklyn.  (Just for funsies, here’s a link to a photo of Lena’s brownstone in Brooklyn.) And here’s a link to a Harvard University archive with a photo of said Home for the Aged.  Again, what happened to Benjamin’s estate worth over $31,000 (or half a million today)???  Why did he leave his farm in Ossining?  Why did he end up as a boarder and then “on relief?”  Is this what pre-Social Security America looked like?

But back to the Pumphouse, the purported topic of this post.

Here are some random shots  that I took just before the stone house was demolished.  You can see that there’s a creek running under or out of the structure.  We know that the farmhouse was built c. 1860, so perhaps this dates back to then?  Perhaps it was a pump house for water for the house and the farm?  It couldn’t have been a mill, could it?  Maybe a slaughterhouse?  It’s still a mystery . . .



But I wonder precisely what it was all for?  When was it built?  Anyone know anything?  Please leave me a comment below if you do!


Here are some more shots:



Now you see it, now you don’t . . .

3 thoughts on “A Pumphouse on Hawkes Avenue

  1. 1st I have so enjoyed, abet with guilt at the loss of the property, reading your updates. Forgive me if I am naive but are you a professional writer? You have done such a wonderful job.


  2. Thanks for doing this, Caroline. I have some photos of the structure which you may like to add which I will send to you. I was told that the building may also have been a slaughterhouse, but we may never know for sure.


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