A personal look at Rumsey Hall May 21
By Karen Bartomioli
May, 12, 2011
CORNWALL — There are lots of stories about Rumsey Hall, the private school that dominated the village from 1906 to 1949. With the demolition of its most prominent building last fall comes a renewed effort to document its place in history.
On Saturday, May 21, the Cornwall Historical Society will host “Rumsey Hall – The Early Days with Lillias Rumsey Sanford.”
What will set the presentation apart is the personal aspect. It won’t be a chronology of the school, according to Bill Mac-Leod. He and his sister, Louise Dunn, will share family photos and very old but well-preserved films, as well as their unique perspective as the founder’s great-grandchildren.
Neither of them attended the school, and they only spent part of their youth in Cornwall. But Rumsey was always a part of their lives. Among the short films are two of family weddings on the steps of Rumsey Hall.
“One is of our parents’ wedding in 1937, in color,” MacLeod said. “It’s in remarkably good shape. My great-grandmother can be seen in that. She would have been 86 or 87 years old then.”
They know the Rumsey name goes way back in their family. Sanford started the school in Seneca Falls, N.Y., at her family’s large home. Her father was the wealthy owner of the Rumsey Pump Co. The Rumsey name traces back to James Rumsey, the real inventor of the steam engine.
They also know that Sanford’s husband, Leonard, with whom she had one son, was not around much.
“I don’t think they got along,” MacLeod said, talking further about Leonard’s exploits on a whaling ship. “He shows up again at some point, and lived at Rumsey, in a room under the back stairs. The boys always made sure that they made a lot of noise coming down those steps.”
After the school moved to Washington, Conn., in 1949, the old Bolton Hill Road building was used mostly by children as a playground.
“There was a dumbwaiter that went from the kitchen up to the dining room. We used to stuff Louise in there and haul her up and down. Its lucky the rope didn’t break.”
MacLeod said every morning, when the school operated, the boys came out into the backyard and were given a cookie each. He knows that it was actually about inspection, but he’s not sure if there was a specific cookie for the purpose.
The talk is from 3 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Tea and Rumsey Hall cookies will be served.
© Copyright 2011 by TCExtra.com
Top of Page
Email this article
Printer friendly page