Memory Lane

MEMORY LANE

CONNETQUOT, NEW YORK

Florence Bourne and her Estates

Back in the late 19th Century through early 20th Century, Oakdale was the summer playground for a few notable millionaires, namely William K. Vanderbilt, Christopher Robert, and Frederick G. Bourne, all of whom owned sprawling estates there. The maintenance of these properties and their buildings was a costly commitment. It was stated in a 1910 article, that it was not unusual for these millionaires to have estate expenditures of $50,000 or more a year. (1) To give some perspective on that statistic, the average salary of a school teacher back in 1910 was $492 a year. (2) Although extravagant and impractical from a modern perspective, the estate lifestyle did have some positive economic aspects for the general population, especially with regard to employment. People were needed to sustain these stately homes and their manicured landscapes. Evidence of this can be seen in the 1915 New York State census entry for the Indian Neck household of Frederick Bourne in Oakdale. The five Bourne family members listed in the census record were far outnumbered by their 16 servants. (3) Because the census record only lists those living in household, other employees who would have been local dayworkers were not recorded. The servant’s job titles (head cook, parlor maid, laundress, butler, and footman) listed in the record are reminiscent of Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey.

As the Oakdale millionaires, Vanderbilt, Robert, and Bourne, passed away, so did their estates. Taxes and the cost of maintaining the properties were too big of a burden for the next generation. Therefore by the beginning of the 1920s, the Oakdale estates were becoming a thing of the past and the families associated with them were mostly leaving the area. Two of Frederick Bourne’s children, however, Arthur and Florence, remained in the area after their father’s death. Florence Bourne, who had married Anson Wales Hard in 1908, owned the Meadow Edge estate in West Sayville. (4) The buildings and property were acquired in 1966 by Suffolk County which divided it into a golf course and maritime museum. (5) After Florence Bourne and Anson Wales Hard divorced in 1932, Florence retained the Meadow Edge estate as her summer residence and also ran a specialty shop on the property up until at least 1960. Local residents recall that Florence was not only the proprietor of the shop (which sold expensive clothing, dolls, and even yarn), but also worked in it.

After marrying Robert Barr Deans in 1934, Florence and her new husband bought Yeadon, an estate, in Centre Island on the North Shore of Long Island. (6) She sold the estate in 1945 to Carleton H. Palmer, Chairman of E.R. Squibb. Florence and Robert Deans apparently had divorced at some point, and at the time of her death in 1969, she was living in Florida as the widow of Alexander Dallas Thayer. (7) He had formerly been Florence’s brother-in-law, married to her sister Marjorie. Florence’s funeral service was held in Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Great River, New York, close to her former homes of Indian Neck Hall and Meadow Edge estates.

We spoke to Jack Beebe whose father worked as the superintendent of Florence Bourne Deans’ Meadow Edge (West Sayville) and Yeadon (Centre Island) properties. Listen to his very interesting memories of and Mrs. Deans and her estates.

  1. 8 Sep 1910, Page 44 - The Brooklyn Daily Eagle https://bklyn.newspapers.com/image/53910866/?terms=upkeep%2Bof%2Bproperties%2Bcosts%2Bmany%2Bthousands

  2. Scott Derks, The Value of a Dollar: Prices and Incomes in the United States, 1860-2014 (Amenia, NY: Grey House Publishing, 2014), p. 104.

  3. New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 09; Assembly District: 02; City: Islip; County: Suffolk; Page: 24. Viewed on Ancestry.com.

  4. New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24HH-KJB: 10 February 2018), Anson Hard and Florence Bourne, 29 Apr 1908.

  5. “County Maps Plans for Hard Tract” Suffolk County News, 7 April 1966, Page 1. http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn84031477/1966-04-07/ed-1/seq-1/

  6. “Mrs. Florence B Hard and Robert B. Deans are Married” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 7 August 1934, Page 17. Viewed on Fultonhistory.com.

  7. “Mrs. Florence D. Thayer” Suffolk County News, 15 May 1969, Page 4. http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn84031477/1969-05-15/ed-1/seq-4/

Jack Beebe Interview