"Where can I get information about Ottaway Park, when it opened and why?"
This question in various forms has been asked of the Westfield Historian, and most recently at the Westfield Village Board meeting on Feb. 21, 2012. Thanking the asker for providing a great topic for the next BeeLines story, research commenced the following day, starting with the historian files at the historian office. Research continued at the Patterson Library with the history, manuscript, and surname files, as well as the Westfield Republican archives on microfilm, for which there is a small but growing topic card file or index.
J.F. Allen, a long-time and beloved barber and civic leader in Westfield during the 1900s, wrote "OTTAWAY PARK Interesting Account Given of the Early History of What Is Now Known as Ottaway Park," an article published in the June 17, 1931 Westfield Republican, page 1. "Many people in Westfield will be interested in the history of the property now known as Ottaway Park which dates back to 1823. At this time Commodore Charles C. Tupper with his wife and daughter landed at the mouth of the little stream running through Ottaway Park ... They contracted the property from the Holland Land Co. and built a log cabin near the Lake Road which was just a trail at that time. A little later he erected a saw mill just below the falls which was operated for a number of years. Power for the mill was gained from a large dam built on what is now (in 1931) the Doty farm. The creek and falls were named Tupper creek and falls and later called Jones' creek.
How appropriate that Jack Allen’s untiring efforts which led to the development of Ottaway Park — supporting it with so much time, labor, and money — was appreciated to the point of naming and identifying a road in the park. This roadside marker reading “Jack’s Drive” can be found in the park.
"The family had lived there but a short time when the gas spring was discovered. Mr. Tupper made an arrangement with iron rods to support an iron kettle and Mrs. Tupper boiled the clothes, made the soap and did the family cooking. Gas from this spring was piped through hollowed logs to the Light House at Portland Harbor now known as Barcelona for the guidance of ships on Lake Erie (in 1829). One of the attendants at the Light House was George Britten (who) married the daughter of Charles Tupper and she lived only a short time and was buried on the home property ... A few years later Mr. and Mrs. Tupper died and were buried in the vicinity of the daughter. The graves have been located and are now properly marked.
"The property was owned by Henry Walker and his heirs for over fifty years and was then purchased by Judge A.B. Ottaway. At his death in 1927 the property was left to the village to be known as Ottaway Park. Developments started on July 30th, 1929. J.F. Allen"
An article in the Jan. 26, 1927 Westfield Republican states, "Arthur B. Ottaway, former County Judge, who died at his home at Westfield (120 East Main Street) on January 10th, left an estate estimated at $170,000 ... bulk of property passes to the widow ... the will bequeaths 16 acres of land, known as the Gas Springs property and fronting on Lake Erie to the Village of Westfield, for use as Ottaway Park."
Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 - inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.
Beigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).
Billie Dibble, in a twice published Dibble's Dabbles, "Edge of Lake Erie, a favorite for many generations," wrote, "The Republican carried many notes concerning Ottaway Park during the summer of 1930," including the Village Board covering the roads of the park with Tarvis and crushed stone, and posting "at your own risk" notices throughout the park. Also mentioned was the Health Camp, set up and supported through donations to the Business Girls Club, which opened on July 21, 1930, soon after the park opened on July 15, 1930. The opening day included two big events - the annual picnic of employees of The Welch Grape Juice Company in the afternoon followed by the official opening of Ottaway Park in the evening sponsored by the Westfield Village Board of Trustees.
"Ottaway Park Celebrates 10th Anniversary" was a headline in the July 26, 1939 Westfield Republican. "J.F. 'Jack' Allen on July 30, 1929 was appointed by the Westfield Rotary Club chairman to develop Ottaway Park, the gift to the village by the late Judge A.B. Ottaway; also on this date was the first monies for the future park donated." The article goes on to describe how Allen and many local citizens had freely donated much money, time and labor to develop and improve the park over those first 10 years, citing: clearing of underbrush; building roads; digging wells; building kitchen, dining room, bath house, and toilet facilities; building three large cement stairs to the lake; building two rustic bridges across the ravine; providing 71 picnic tables, 10 settees, two slides and teeters, four baby swings, seven adult swings, and maintaining all of these through painting.
Two years later, in a Sept. 3, 1941 Republican, Allen's continued service was highly commended. The article concluded with, "At the present time, said Mr. Allen, the park is entirely free of debt."
For readers who may not recall, the brick house at the southwest corner of Academy and Main Streets, 120 East Main, currently referred to as The Mollard House after the Mollard family who owned it from 1942 until recently, and housing Mollard Antiques, was previously known as The Judge Ottaway House, which Arthur Boorman Ottaway inherited from his aunt in the late 1800s.
Ottaway Park, for most of us, is where the annual Firemen's Ox Roast is held in July, which also provides a convenient time and site for the Westfield Academy and Central School's high school class reunions to meet and celebrate. Readers may recall this past July that a color photo taken in Ottaway Park of a white roadside marker post with the words "Jack's Drive" inscribed. What a fitting tribute to the man who dedicated much of his life, labor, and funds to make Ottaway Park "one of the finest parks of Western New York, attracting annually thousands of folks to Westfield. (From the 1939 WR article about Ottaway Park's 10th Anniversary)"