Quogue, L.I., N.Y.
by Van R. Field

Pictures of The Cooper House and surrounding Buildings

     The Cooper house probably started out as a stagecoach stop on the way from New York to Sag Harbor. 
     In its heyday the hotel had three buildings for guests.  The oldest section was the west end with a three story building.  Attached was a newer section that was three and a half floors.  This building was situated on the bend on Main Street opposite Beach Lane. 
     East of the main building was a three-story building called the "cottage."  It was often rented to families by floor.  In the winter a kitchen and living room coal stoves were moved in and my father stayed there during the winter.  The bedrooms had NO heat!
     Behind the main building was a two-story annex , which housed guests. North of the annex there was a barn and behind that was a two-story building called the barracks.  This housed the waitresses and chambermaids.  The waitresses came from Normal Schools (Teacher’s Colleges) in Massachusetts. 
     The male help lived in a small building just outside the northwest kitchen door.  On the northeast side of the kitchen stood the laundry building, which also served as a workshop.  The northeast quadrant of the property was farmland.  I remember corn growing there.  I remember it being plowed with a big Ford farm tractor.  The lot extended up toward the location of today’s Quogue School. 
     There was a sort of courtyard and turn around cinder driveway behind the kitchen and in front of the annex.  There was an old windmill tower located on the north side of this courtyard. It was no longer in use.  My father left it there as a lightning rod for the hotel.  The east side was the laundry, a long one story shed like building.  The area was used to park cars.  The ground was hard with years of ashes from the big kitchen coal stove being dumped there.
    Along the west side of the building was the driveway to the main road.  It passed close to the front porch and my father installed speed bumps in the driveway to prevent guests from getting hit by a car as the stepped off the porch.  I seem to remember that he had to move the driveway next to the porch because it was originally on part of the land next door.  That land, I am told once housed the Quogue Gas Works, which made illuminating gas. It was an overgrown vacant lot when I was there. A woman, who grew up in Quogue told me that there were lime pits further north that were part of the old gas works. 
    Honeysuckle grew and overhung the sidewalk and I used to pick it to get the honey while on my trip to the soda fountain at the pharmacy.  I remember that the hotel was piped for gas lights and many of the fixtures were still intact.  When electricity came to Quogue, my father wired the building.  I remember that he dropped light fixtures on long green twisted light wires from the high [18 to 20 ft.] ceiling of the dining room. 
     The old kitchen was located at the rear of western half of the main building.  My grandmother told me that she was working in this small hot kitchen one day when the owner of the place came in, and seeing the small hot kitchen, promptly had a new large dining room and kitchen built on to the back.  These were larger than the hotel!  The dining room ran northerly from the west building.  There were 3 or 4 steps up, sliding doors then the big dining room with a ceiling that must have been 20 feet high.  There were large windows on both sides of the building.  The east wall had a large fireplace in the center.  The floor was of a light colored wood that was freshly varnished each spring.
     There were swinging doors into the "pantry" where the waitresses washed glasses, made tea, coffee and squeezed fresh orange juice.  The east side of the pantry was the children's dining room there where the small children of the guests and their nannies ate. The kitchen was immense by any standard.  The 20 feet high ceilings kept it cool.  The floor was concrete and the walls were thick brick both inside and out.  It was actually two kitchens with two large coal fired cook stoves back to back with metal hoods above them.  The one on the west side, near the doors to the dining room was the only one used.  There was a large preparation table in front of the stove with overhead hooks for pots and pans.  The stove was probably 25 ft. long.
     The north wall held a few closets and sinks for washing kitchen utensils.  "Maggie," the Irish Cook used to rule the kitchen.  If she got upset with the kitchen help, dirty pots would suddenly fill their sinks! 
     On the southwest wall were the dishwashing sinks, next to the door from the pantry and dining room.  It was here that mountains of dirty dishes were unloaded.  As a teenager I earned 40 dollars a month washing them along with doing other chores. 
     The easterly side of the great kitchen contained two rooms, the southerly one was a store room for canned goods and other non-perishable foodstuffs.  The northerly room was an immense walk-in icebox.  It had an outside door up high in the middle of the room.  This door had a rod sticking out of the building with a pulley on it.  The ice truck would park under it and lift the large cakes of ice to the overhead tray and slide them in.  Under it were racks of hooks to hang sides of meat on. My father told me that when they first moved into the new kitchen, it took several truckloads of ice and a truckload a day to maintain it.  After a few days of that, they discontinued the big ice tray, the cost being prohibitive.  From then on iceboxes were kept in the room and used for perishables.  The door was a large, thick wooden door was similar to those found on walk-in boxes in butcher shops today. 
     When any of the kitchen doors were slammed, the sound would echo and reecho through the large room.   Along with the kitchen construction went a large sewer system located northeast of the kitchen.  As I remember, you could walk around underground inside parts of it.  Sewerage never made it to most of the installation because it matched the size of the big dual kitchen.   It seemed obvious that the landlord intended to either rebuild or build on to the main hotel. 
      I was talking to a Quogue resident recently who told me about the underground passages that had been found there and suggested that they might have been used during the Civil war to hide runaway slaves.  I had to reveal that they were just sewers.
     The only heat in the whole building was from a few fireplaces on the main floor.  In addition to the dining room, there was one in the foyer and one in the living room in the southeast corner.  The front of the building and the east side had large covered porches with an allotment of rocking chairs for the guests to enjoy the evening air.  I  remember that the east end was screened in.  The road and sidewalk ran close to this side of the building because the road was wide on the curve.
 The guests were from New York and came for a month or the whole summer.  Mother, children and Nanny came out and took several rooms.  The hotel ran on the American plan, food and lodging went together.  There was a daily menu with several different roasts every day and fish was added Fridays. 
 On Friday evening the men would arrive by train from a week of work in New York and were met by our hotel station wagon, along with those from other hotels.  Monday morning they were taken to the train again.  The fathers also spent their two or three week vacation at the hotel.  It was a short walk down Beach Lane, across the bridge to the bathhouses and the ocean beach.  I'm sure they were taxied around when they wished. 
     Guests did not usually come in cars.  They were able to enjoy the country and the beach without the necessity of the very long drive out.  There were no expressways or four lane highways so the trip was long and hot.
     The combined forces of the depression, the 1938 hurricane, World War II, better roads and better cars finished off the old resort hotel business.  The Quogue House located across the street went out of business as did others.  The Cooper House was open when World War 2 started in Europe in 1939.  I believe it was its last year.  My grandmother retired and my father moved to The Oaks, a small hotel in East Quogue.  It was home and a part time operation as he soon went to work for the Ranger division of Fairchild Aircraft and Engine Corp. in Farmingdale, LI. 
     The February 1959 issue of the L.I. Forum has a short piece about the Cooper House on page 32.  It seems to have several errors in it.  The text states that the photograph was taken in 1900, the caption suggests 1927.  It would appear that the old small kitchen was intact on the north westerly side of the building.  It states that the new dining room was moved to Westhampton in 1915. 1955 is the correct date. 
     The dining room was indeed moved to Westhampton by barge to Beach Lane to be used as a library on a private home.  I went looking for it in December 1990 and it has appeared to have moved again.  It's a part of a large home at 45 Beach Lane, Westhampton Beach, L.I. belonging to Mr. Desiderio.
     The L.I. Forum article says that the Cooper House was remodeled and made a private home.  To be more correct, the brick kitchen was remodeled and made a private home.  The other parts of the building had been previously torn down.  My last visit there was in the 50s after the dining room was moved and the pantry was exposed.  I found a piece of an old inter-room telephone on the wall, which I removed for a keepsake.  It never worked in my time, nor do I know where it went.  Just next door to the children's dining room I believe.
     The booklet, Notes on Quogue by Richard Post (1959) tells of the early history of the Cooper House. "One of the boarding houses was owned by Capt. E.H. Cooper. In 1850 the Ocean House was built east of the remodeled Cooper House (now Mrs. Sage's home)." 
     According to Mr. Post, In the 1880s Mr. John G. Wendel of New York City, a regular guest at one of the hotels, became interested in the growing popularity of Quogue.  He enlarged the Quogue House, which was on the south side of Quogue Street next to Beach Lane, directly across the street from the Cooper House. He purchased and enlarged the Cooper House by adding a large dining room and modern kitchen.  For many summers in the 1890s and 1900s a large handsome  `stagecoach' drawn by three magnificent horses made several trips daily between the boarding houses near the head of Beach Lane and the ocean, offering free rides. 
    A Long Island Railroad Guide showed that in 1887 the Cooper House had a capacity crowd of 70.  In 1902, 60 and in 1912, 40-50.  (see 1909 below). (6/1/91)
     Mr. Daniel M. Tredwell published his diary in 1912 called Personal Reminiscences of Men and Things with added comments. He wrote, "Saturday, July 29, 1843.  Had a pleasant trip to Quogue (by stagecoach) …have determined to remain at Quogue until the stage leaves on Tuesday.  While at Quogue we stopped at the boarding house of Mr. Cooper"
     The L.I. Traveler published by L.F. Terry at Cutchogue, L.I. on July 18, 1872 stated under 'Quogue' "There is a goodly number of boarders in this place.  The Foster and Cooper Houses are full and the others nearly so." 
     Long Island Illustrated published by the L.I. Railroad in 1909 states that Mrs. R.A. Townsend is the proprietor of the Cooper house and the rates are $12 to $20 per week and 40 to 50 could be accommodated.  The railroad ran four trains each way weekdays, five on Fridays and Saturdays and three on Sunday. 
     The Post House held 150 guests at this time. Possibly the Cooper House had yet to be added on to.
     In the late 1920s and the 30s the Cooper House was operated by my grandmother, Mrs. Grace (Gordon) Field Raynor and my father, Mr. Paul Lester Field.  My grandfather, George Field, died in 1904 when my father was 5 years old.  My grandmother supported my father and his sister, Irene by running boarding houses.  Earlier she ran one in Patchogue, NY.  My parents were divorced and I spent part of my summers with my father and grandmother at the Cooper House. 
First date in a car
    While at the Cooper House when I was around 16, I liked an Irish waitress, who worked and lived there for the summer.  My father encouraged me to take her to the to the movies in Westhampton.  I assumed he would drive and pick us up.  Instead he gave me a short lesson on driving his car and turned us loose!  It was a good thing that there was little traffic in those days!  It was a jerky ride to be sure.  There was nothing but stick shifts then.  One had to push the clutch down to shift gears and let it out gently to go into the next gear.  It's a trick one soon learned with some practice, which I had none of. 
    My father always had a love affair with cars.  He was probably 16 when his mother bought him a car.  He got with another boy and offered to teach him to drive if the boy would teach my father how to ride a horse, still the usual mode of transportation.  One trip on the horse and the deal was off!  My father said it had neither brakes nor a proper accelerator. 
    The depression made it so neither I, nor my classmates ever thought much about cars. A buckboard with a one-cylinder engine was about it.  12/99 

The Publications of Van R. Field are available in some bookstores or from the author at 631-878-1591. 
Please contact him for further information.