A Catskill Catalog: July 28, 2010
So, I get a call from Joe Ludewig of Roxbury who tells me he has some history that might interest me. Seems his house is on a mountain that’s been home to his family for three generations. Mentions a bordello once operated up there. Hooked, I went to see him.
Joe and his wife Liz spun a fascinating tale, the story of a family that just marked 100 years of intimate connection to one rooted place: the 3,289-foot summit most maps name Schultice Mountain, on the north side of Montgomery Hollow.
“Schultheis” was the proper spelling of the name of the early property owner who gave the mountain its name, according to Liz and Joe. Mr. Schultheis was the operator of “amusements” in New York City, including several beer gardens. He purchased the property both for its location and its abundant bluestone, large outcroppings of rock high on the hill.
Andrew Schuman, whose farm straddled the mountain, had worked the Fairview quarry at the top of his farm, part time, until his death. His son sold Mr. Schultheis the quarry and about 29 acres of land around it.
This was the mid to late 1800s, and, I’m told, Mr. Schultheis was able to pull a few strings with the Italian consul to bring Italian prisoners to America to work his quarry. Supposedly, these men were confined to the mountaintop, cutting and drawing stone that, at Andrew Schuman’s hand, ended up as Greenwich Village sidewalks.
But that market dried up. Mr. Schultheis had his quarrymen cut and lay stone for the improvement of his own property: expert laid-up foundations for a house and barn, curving cap-stoned walls, a large circular fish pond and fountain. The walls and foundations still stand, testament to the skill and artistry of the anonymous quarrymen and stonemasons who labored there.
It was then – in the gay ’90s, perhaps – that Mr. Schultheis opened and operated his “gentlemen’s club,” a mountaintop bawdy house that provided his clients strong drink, gambling, and women. A kind of Catskill Mountain bunny ranch, quite illegal, a mountaintop away from prying eyes and the vice squad.
But reverses in his New York business led Schultheis to sell his mountaintop bordello. Albin Teichmann, Joseph Ludewig’s grandfather, was a pastry chef in Yorkville, Manhattan’s German-American enclave. Respiratory problems threatened his health, leading his doctors to insist he move to the clean air of the mountains. In 1909, he bought the property, its single story house, the barn, quarry and acreage.
There, he and his wife Lilli established The Ironwood Post, a mountain summer resort that catered to the New York German-American community. They added a second story, enlarging the inn to provide rooms for 40 guests. Albin Teichmann grew vegetables in a large garden near the house, both supplying his own table and selling produce to the summer houses in Roxbury village. He set up a small still high on the hill, supplying spirits to a select clientele of wealthy summer homeowners.
Both Albin and Lilli had been trained chefs in Germany. Their European style cuisine and healthful air – 2,500 feet above sea level – were major draws to families seeking relief from the humid crush of city summers. So was their pristine mountaintop landscape: the impeccable stone work surrounding walkways and drives, fountain and fishpond, gardens, and grottos. Even as ruins, the place is impressive!
Albin and Lilli lived year-round at the top of what eventually became known as Teichmann Road. They raised three children there: Frederick, called Fritz, Frieda and Eda. All began life speaking German. Valuing education, Albin paid tuition to have his children attend the village school in Roxbury, thinking it superior to the local district one-room school in Hubbell Corners. All three attended Roxbury High School.
Fritz graduated from Roxbury High School in 1922. His high school yearbook, The Record 1922, spells out the opportunity that shaped his later life. “Through Mrs. Helen Gould Shepard the school is in a position to offer young men scholarships in New York University which carry with then $270 per year. New York City offers any young man an opportunity to do outside work so he can secure a college education with no other aid than one of these scholarships and the money he could earn outside of college.”
“Any young man” graduating from Roxbury High School could claim the Shepard scholarship. Fritz did. He went on to a remarkable career in Aeronautical Engineering, writing several books, and chairing NYU’s academic department in that cutting edge science. Whether any of the other four boys in his class chose NYU is not clear. What is clear is that his two female graduating classmates were not eligible.
Perhaps we should pause here to think of all the remarkable girls who have done so well in our area high schools and gone on to high achievement at university and beyond. Remind ourselves that we’ve transformed, in just two or three generations, our whole attitude and approach toward education for girls. Sadly, we had a long way to go.
Fritz’s sisters, Frieda and Eda, were among those too many young women who were actively discouraged from pursuing an academic education by the very educators charged with encouraging them. Neither got a diploma. Both made a success of themselves, however, Eda, in the business world, and Frieda as a nurse at the Margaretville Hospital and as partner with her husband, William Van Benschoten, in their Palmer Hill farm.
The Ironwood Post’s last season was 1941. World War II made operating a German-American resort difficult. Albin Teichmann died in 1955, Lilli Teichmann in 1967. Joe Ludewig, Eda’s son, bought his house on top of the hill, just below the inn, in 1956. Home has been on Schultice Mountain his whole life.
And Frieda’s grandson, John Van Benschoten, mayor of Margaretville, and his wife, Katie, just had their first child, a girl, named Lilli – well, LilliAnn, actually.