Between 1800 and 1850 leather tanneries dominated the Catskill Mountains.  Tannersville, which derived its name from the tannery industry, was an area covered with hemlocks used in the leather tanning process.  In her book, The Pioneer Days in the Catskill High Peaks, Leah Showers Wiltse explains that "The tanners used the bark of the hemlock to make a solution into which the raw hides were dipped.  The solution was contained in huge vats, tended by agile men who risked their lives if they slipped accidentally into a container of the hemlock brew.  The bark contained tannic acid, a poison, but a substance which was essential in the process of converting raw hides into leather."  Continuing, Showers Wiltse explains that "Any old-timer will tell you that the leather made today is not like old-time leather seasoned in the hemlock juice.  The old leather was almost indestructible, retained its shape and color, and lasted a lifetime." (1)


As the tannery industry fell into decline, the Catskill Mountains increasingly became a favored escape from New York City and coveted land for the summer cottages of New York's elite.  Elka, Twilight and Onteora private residential parks were founded before the turn of the century - enclaves of spectacular beauty, some of which is caught in Hudson River School painting masterpieces.  Maude Adams, the famous silent screen actor best known for her role as Peter Pan was among the luminaries who built estates along the highly desirable road referred to as the "Golden Crescent" where Nehapwa’s estate is situated.  Return to home 


 (1) Pioneer Days in the Catskill High Peaks - Tannersville and the Region Around.  Leah Showers Wiltse.  Black Dome Press, 1999.  Page 29.



Candice Wheeler, one of the founders of the artistic community Onteora,  was one of the first American women to commercialize design and art for women in the United States.


In their book, Women Who Changed Things, Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith explain that the Society of Decorative Art, Wheeler's organization, "was a name that could have been attached to almost any club formed by a group of fashionable women in New York City in 1877" and suggest that "the organization that took shape at the Wheeler home was not just another social venture of the elite."  Continuing, Peavy and Smith describe that "The Society of Decorative Art was a business venture, a move to open the American marketplace to the talents and skills of women.  As of the late nineteenth century, there had never been such an outlet, and Wheeler's idea, while mildly revolutionary, was a timely response to an increasingly obvious need.  [Wheeler was quoted as saying] that 'Women of all classes had always been dependent upon the wage-earning capacity of men', she wrote years later in recalling the circumstances of the day that 'although the strict observance of the custom had become inconvenient and did not fit the times, the custom remained.  But the time was ripe for a change.' " (2)


Regarding Wheeler's involvement with Onteora, another writer explains that "…Ms. Wheeler of New York, who is best known to the public as being the originator of the [Society of Decorative Art] of that city, whose design of all sorts of artistic fabrics and decoration for houses, conceived the idea of forming a colony of artistic and literary people here in the Catskills."(3).  Wheeler's home Penny Wise and her brothers' home Lotus Land were the first homes built in what is today Onteora Club.


George Reid, a prominent artist and architect who designed Nehapwa's cottage and studio, in a speech given in 1922 explained that "The social life of Onteora had a unique character as it was made up largely of workers [from] the various arts.  Calling in the morning was generally unknown, as this was working hours.  Mark Twain had spent a summer there before we arrived, Brander Matthews, Lawrence Hutton, Mary Mapes Dodge, Susan Coolidge, Ruth McEnerey Stweart, Ripley Hitchcock, Will Carleton and other writers were there; Carroll Beckwith, John Alexander, Blashfield, Elizabeth Roberts, Turner, Porter among the Painters, and there were always musicians, but Heinrich Meyn, Sidney Homer and Madame Homer were the most outstanding.  There were always distinguished visitors coming and going and John Burroughs was one of those." (4)  Return to home

 For additional information

Candice Wheeler

Mark Twain

Brander Matthews

Lawrence Hutton

Mary Mapes Dodge

Susan Coolidge

Ruth McEnerey Stweart

Ripley Hitchcock

Will Carleton

Carroll Beckwith

Edwin Blashfield

Elizabeth Roberts

Sidney Homer


(2) Women Who Changed Things - Nine Lives That Made a Difference, Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith,

(3)  Toronto Saturday Night, Volume 8, Number 21, May 25, 1895, page 6.

(4)  Slide lecture by George Reid, from the scrapbooks of George Reid, page 379.

Candice Wheeler

George Reid

George Reid and his wife Mary Hiester Reid summered twenty-five years in Onteora.  Mr. Reid, an accomplished Canadian artist and architect designed twenty or so structures in the Onteora area. 


Nehapwa was commissioned by George and Elizabeth Roberts of Philadelphia.  Completed in the spring of 1892, Nehapwa is considered a fine example of Mr. Reid's aesthetic blending principles of the Arts and Crafts tradition.


In a 1901 interview conducted by The Canadian Architect and Builder, Mr. Reid explained his views on architecture and art saying that he "regard[ed] the subject [of architecture] as a wide one involving the growth of the idea of the beautiful in the whole community, and the expression of it everywhere, from the simplest cottage in all its aspects of shape and setting, its furnishing and decoration, to the monumental building where we seek to stimulate ourselves…by holding up ideals of action and aspiration of beauty in form and color."(5)


Of Mr. Reid’s painting it was said that he "brought the full benefit of his artistic training in Toronto, Philadelphia and Paris to bear on his major canvases - works produced specifically for acceptance in the salons and for sale soon after.  His art education was firmly rooted in the academic tradition and although his style evolved from smooth, carefully 'finished' examples to a freer, more impressionistic and, later, decorative manner, he never strayed far from it.  As late as 1931, in fact, when the artist was seventy-one and the international art world had seen a rapid succession of avant-garde styles like Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Surrealism, Reid held fast to the Academic Idea."(5)


Chris Dickman notes that "George Reid occupies a unique place in the annals of Canadian art.  As a painter, muralist, architect, educator and organizer of seemingly limitless energy he poses a rather daunting figure for the historian."  Dickman continues that as "A prolific artist, [Reid] worked in almost every available media, including sculpture, on a scale ranging from pictures only a few inches square to monumental efforts designed for the interiors of government buildings."(6)    Return to home


For additional information please see


(5)  Sympathetic Realism - George Reid and the Academic Tradition, Boyanoski , 1955, pg. 9

(6)  G.A. Reid: Toward a Union of the Arts, Chris Dickman, 1985, pg.6

Mary Hiester Reid

One historian explains that Mary Hiester Reid, "an artist who stood on her own merits, was not a Canadian by birth but became one through self-adoption.  She was a native of Reading, Pennsylvania, and early in life showed her artistic bent.  Her first studies were begun in [Philadelphia's] Academy of Fine Arts, and it was here that she met Mr. George Reid, who was then a student of art under the same masters.  After their marriage they went to Europe and studied, in sympathetic companionship, in France and Spain under such famous masters as Courtois, Dagan-Bouveret, Dupain, Benjamin Constant and others." (6)  Return to home


(6) Toronto Saturday Night, Saturday, October 15, 1921

George Theodore and Sarah Roberts

George Theodore and Sarah Roberts saw the completion of Nehapwa in the spring of 1892.  As President of the Onteora Club from 1910-1914, Mr. Roberts was significantly involved in the ongoing development of the Onteora community.


The studio was built for George and Sarah's daughter, Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts, an accomplished American Impressionist painter.

Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts

Known as Elsie, the Roberts' only child, Elizabeth began her artistic education in 1888 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Academie Julian in Paris, principally under Jules Lefebvre.  She remained in Europe for over ten years, primarily in Paris yet spent two years in Florence studying the work of Botticelli during that period.  Returning to the United States in 1890, Roberts divided her time between New York and New England with her life companion Grace Keyes.  She exhibited widely in these years - at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, Society of American Artists and the Seattle Fine Arts Society.  Roberts organized numerous art exhibitions for the Concord Art Association including the works of John Singer Sargent, Robert Henri and Claude Monet.


Her brush strokes were described as "broad and bold, her landscapes simple and atmospheric.  Reductionist in technique, she saw the figures as part of the [earth], not distinct from it.  Because of her abbreviated and vigorous method, it was said - probably by painter John Singer Sargent - that Roberts 'painted like a man' ". (7)  Return to home

Roberts’ studio, currently in the final stages of restoration, provides a uniquely historic and beautiful setting for meetings, events, celebrations and dinner parties.

(7)  The Philadelphia Ten, A Women's Artist Group, 1917-1945, Page Talbott and Patricia Tanis Sydney, American Art Review Press, 1998, pgs 160-161

Carr Van Anda

Carr Van Anda, considered one of the more important editors of The New York Times who purchased Nehapwa in the early 1920's, was the second owner of the estate.


Mr. Van Anda presided over the Times' coverage of a wide-range of historic events including the advent of radio, World War I, the discovery of King Tut's tomb, the first flight over the Atlantic, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and The New Deal.  Considered his finest work by many journalism scholars, Van Anda's coverage of the sinking of the Titanic is regarded as a journalistic masterpiece.


Regarding Van Anda's passionate journalistic work style, a historian for The New York Times explains that it was said to be Mr. Van Anda's "habit to come into [his New York City] office in mid-afternoon, size up the world news picture, then go home for dinner and a nap.  He [would] return around 10 o'clock refreshed, to work through the night, often into dawn.  These, he liked to think, were perfect hours for what he called 'the keepers of St. Peter's daily ledger.' "(8)  Return to home


For more information please see


(8) The Story of The New York Times, 1851-1951, Meyer Berger, 1951, pgs 278-82

Elias and Janette Sayour

Elias and Jeanette Jarre Sayour were the third owners of the estate.  The home, bequeathed to the couples' seven children, stayed in the Sayour family for nearly forty-seven years. 


Elias Sayour, a significant figure in New York's garment industry whose company specialized in sleepwear and eventually stylish clothing that could be worn at home, was referenced in John P. King's book regarding New Jersey's Highlands.  In his history of the area Mr. King explains that "A new clothing factory for 'dress goods' (Elias Sayour of New York City) was opened October 17, 1935, on the site of the old elementary school, destroyed by fire in 1928, giving employment to 75 Highlands women at about $11 to $15.50 per week"(9)


Sayour's company, the largest manufacturer of sleepwear in the United States at the time, is credited as the innovator of the genre of stylish home clothing which developed into today's popular sweat suits and related styles.             Return to home


(9) Highlands New Jersey, John P. King


Jeff Summer and Tom Uberuaga

Most recently, the estate changed hands in the Autumn of 1999.


By 2000, the estate had fallen into significant disrepair including leaking roofs, compromised building structures, significantly antiquated infrastructure and overgrown gardens.  Left alone the estate's Tower, Studio and Main House would have been irrevocably damaged within the next five years.


A comprehensive restoration of the estate was launched in the autumn of 2001.


After successful restaurant ventures in Napa Valley and Seattle, Uberuaga completed his most recent restaurant project, Creek Town Cafe in Washington’s booming wine country, Walla Walla.  Uberuaga, Nehapwa’s Estate Manager, is passionate about bringing Napa Valley and Walla Walla’s Farm to Table elegance to Upstate New York.  Nehapwa is the synthesis of Uberuaga’s interest in food, wine and service.

NEHAPWA | history