Greenwich's "White House"

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Passengers on the summer ferry to Island Beach and /or Great Captain's Island may be curious about the white structure on Steamboat Road adjacent to the Indian Harbor Yacht Club.  The rear of this structure appears to be an odd patchwork of additions that have been built  over time.  Today there are a series of fire escapes which connect each section.  Somewhat out of character, satellite dishes cover the roof.  In a way, it seems very out-of-place compared to the office complexes and condos along what used to be called "South Greenwich Avenue".  The peninsula itself was known as Rocky Neck Point.  As the name "Steamboat" implies, steamboats used to moor along the road, and take farm products to markets in New York.  This area of Greenwich became a very busy part of town as boats carried people and goods in and out of town.

This being the case, Jared Mead built a tavern in 1838 over several root cellars.  He hoped to attract summer visitors from the city.  The clientele was very wealthy.  At the time, there were woods and cultivated fields on three sides, and access to the water on the other side.  Mead named it "The White House".  It was a quiet location, which made it an ideal vacation spot.  Unfortunately, The White House proved to be unsuccessful.  Ironically, Mead was unable to get the very food supplies that were grown in Greenwich and shipped to New York!    Vegetables had to be purchased from the local sloops.  This made it difficult to obtain fresh supplies for meals.  He was able to obtain meat from local farms on occasion, but had to fill in with seafood.  The customers were very demanding, and would only put up with this for so long.  They preferred red meat.  After years of struggling, Jared Mead sold out to Mrs. Fannie Runyon and Mrs. Mary Dennis.  They only owned the property one year, until Mrs. Dennis sold out to Thomas Funston and Funston sold it toThaddeus Silleck, who renamed it the "Silleck House".  At this time around 1850, it was the oldest hotel on either side of the Sound between New York and Stonington.   Once the railroad came through Greenwich around 1850, the  Silleck House began to flourish.

People paid $2.50 per week rent until it was reluctantly raised to $3.50.  There were many well-known guests including editor Horace Greeley ("Go West, Young Man"), Professor King from Columbia University, Charles Whitney (Curator of the Whitney Museum) and William "Boss" Tweed , who was credited with the start of the summer migration  to Greenwich.  Eventually, a trolley line was built down Steamboat Road which stopped the the Silleck House.  People would use it to travel back and forth to the train station on Railroad Avenue.  Vacationers for many years returned to the Silleck House for summer stays. 

There appear to have been some periods of time when the Silleck House was  inactive. During one of these periods, it was used by the town to house the poor.  Even back in early times, residents tried to take care of their poor.  In 1906, right before World War I, the business went bankrupt.  The tavern was bought by a Mrs. Hirsch, who turned the hotel into apartments. She named it "The Sundial Apartments". Business picked up again until the Great Depression.  When the business faltered again, Putnam Trust took over the business until Marshall Allten bought the property and expanded the building.  Not long after, a small cottage located at the back of 700 Steamboat Road was jacked up and moved by rollers and placed between the apartments and the Yacht Club. 

Rhoda Jenkins - who as a young girl boarded with her family there - provided a great deal of information on Silleck House.  She said a restaurant, kitchen and laundry were located on the first floor.  There were two fireplaces and a large panoramic window, which looked out of the west side of the building onto Greenwich Harbor.  The house was built over two potato cellars.  Community parties were also held to generate revenue.  Ms. Jenkins enjoyed viewing motorboat races in Greenwich Harbor and viewing the 1925 eclipse from the roof of the House.  She also noted a man from Conyers Farm used to sell frogs' legs to the restaurant, which were considered delicacies. 

Incidentally, in 1889 sixty member of the future Indian Harbor Yacht Club used the Silleck House as their headquarters and the early group was called "The Silleck House Navy".

 

In the 1920s, the house was fitted for steam heat, and this made it possible for the boarding house to be open year round.

Today, the Silleck House is known as the "Sun Dial Apartments". 



 










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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Carl White published on July 16, 2011 4:37 PM.

Marking The Trail was the previous entry in this blog.

Civil War Exhibit - Connecticut Artists is the next entry in this blog.

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