Harlem New York City’s own Country Haven: Memories of Snowdale Farm

Years before Victor Hugo Green first issued The Green book as a travel guide for African-Americans, Augustus and Mary Moran ran advertisements in The New York Age to invite travelers to vacation at Snowdale Farm in Towners, NY. It offered “all the conveniences of city life, yet having all the pleasures of a mountain resort…” They catered exclusively to African-Americans.
Located off “Dykemans Road” (CR 62), the Morans hosted many city-dwellers from Harlem, lower Westchester and from as far away as Houston, Texas for overnights, long weekends and conferences. They operated year-round and offered farm-to-table meals, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing among other outdoor sports. Eventually the Morans installed a swimming pool and tennis courts and hosted large Decoration Day and 4th of July gatherings with fireworks.

Snowdale advertising as it appeared in The New York Age, July 27, 1929

During the 1920s, Snowdale Farm was among a number of Putnam County hotels offering recreational tourism. The Morans advertised only in metropolitan newspapers and boasted that Snowdale was easily reached by the State Highway from New York City and New York Central trains that ran directly to Brewster.

Augustus, known as A.J., and his wife Mary were both of African-American lineage and came to Putnam County around 1918 and raised their family at the farm. They suffered hardship in 1924 when their 9-year-old son Elbridge, was kicked in the head by a horse. He died a few days later and The Brewster Standard reported that his Big Elm District school mates served as pallbearers. The Morans other children, Robert and Sue, grew up at Snowdale and the farm remained in the family for another generation.

The Moran’s hosted many notable guests and oftentimes their visits would be published in the society pages of The Age. Some interesting guests include:

  • Dr. E. R. Alexander, a prominent medical specialist at Harlem Hospital who also served on the Medical Committee of the NAACP; he was the only African-American in his graduating class at the University of Vermont School of Medicine and was eventually elected to the New York Academy of Medicine
  • Members of the Entre Nous Bridge Club of White Plains
  • Mrs. Cecelia Cabaniss Saunders, General Secretary and legendary fundraiser, along with committee members of 137th Street YWCA, New York’s first black YWCA branch

    Above: Cecelia Cabaniss Saunders The New York Age, 1/27/1923

  • Rev. William Lloyd Imes, then leader of St. James Presbyterian Church and pioneer in race relations
  • Stafford Neilson, an immigrant chauffeur who became one of the first black officials of the Harlem Unit of the Taxicab System running green and silver model K Checker cabs
  • Rev. & Mrs. Adam Clayton Powell and family; the Reverend was the founder of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and grew it to the largest Protestant congregation in the country; he was also an author, activist and father of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
  • Dr. Eugene Perry Roberts and family; Dr. Roberts was one of New York’s earliest black physicians receiving his M.D. in 1894, appointed as the first black assistant medical examiner in 1898; a founding member of the National Urban League; appointed to the New York City Board of Education in 1917

In the 30s, Snowdale served as the headquarters for the Berkshire Rod and Gun Club. Members included Assemblyman Robert W. Justice, James H. Hubert of the New York Urban League, and Levi Florance of Carmel. By 1934, this group had 60 members and 40 members in its ladies auxiliary.

Above: Stafford Neilson, The New York Age, 1/1/1932

(Note: Unfortunately there aren’t any records or photographs of Snowdale Farm in the Putnam County Historian’s Collection. Research for this article was based on The New York Age archives available through FultonHistory.com)