Lake Lucille, nestling in an arm of the Middle Mountains" is how
this private lakeside community off South Mountain Road was
described in a 1928 brochure advertising lots for summer cottages
At that time, selling points were, as noted in the brochure, scenery
that "delights the eye and inspires the mind to calm and peaceful
thoughts … waters of the Lake, pure and clear as crystal … brook
trout … a deep artesian well drilled down into the red sandstone
rock" and accessibility. It was billed as being three miles west of
"Haverstraw-on-Hudson," and short distances from various ferry docks
– the New Jersey side of the 125th Street Ferry, the west terminus
of the Dyckman Street Ferry and the west slip of the Tarrytown-Nyack
"It is also only 28 miles from the New Jersey approach to the New
York-New Jersey Hudson River Suspension Bridge," states the
brochure. The upper level of that bridge, later named the George
Washington Bridge, was ready for traffic in 1931.
For Ed Jeffs, the private community's historian, "Middle Mountains"
may actually have referred to the Hi Tor range on the right and a
little hill on the left.
Jeffs moved to the lake from the Bronx in 1965 with his wife,
Annette, and son, Joseph. He took it upon himself to set down the
area's history about a year ago. Otherwise, Jeffs said, "I realized
it would be lost." Since he has posted the information on the
Internet at www.lakelucille.com, people from as far away as South
Carolina have contributed tidbits.
The 17-acre lake, originally a small feeder stream of the Hackensack
River, was created when farmer and landowner Gustave Schnepf dammed
up the stream. The lake was named for his wife, Lucille.
The western part of the lake was owned by the Roberts family, who
had been farming in the area since the late 1700s.
Schnepf's home was one of the original four on the property around
the lake, and Jeffs says the number of houses has grown to 79. About
75 percent of the homes were winterized by the 1960s. Now all of
A home on South Mountain Road, still located at the main entrance to
the lake, was once a general store and restaurant run by the mother
of Lillian Dembnicki, who has lived at the lake since the 1930s. "My
mother, Bertha Danis, sold ice cream and candy," said Dembnicki, who
brought up her own family here. "There were a couple of tables with
chairs. She'd make pies and sandwiches. The kids just wanted
someplace to hang around."
said she went to the Street School on Zukor Road when it had three
classrooms, and she walked there all the way from the lake. Street
School is now used for community events and administration in the
Clarkstown Central School District.
"My father, Joseph, was a source for all odds and ends. When someone
wanted something strange, like a wrench that would open the sluice
gate, he had it."
The lake incorporates different eras in our collective history.
World War II wounded naval personnel would come to the lake from the
nearby Huntington Estate, used as a rehabilitation center.
The centerpiece of the estate was a large mansion torn down by the
Palisades Interstate Park Commission to make room for High Tor State
Park, said Clarkstown historian Robert Knight. Dembnicki remembers
the recuperating soldiers. "The boys would come down periodically
and go for a swim and fish a bit," she said.
There is a memorial at the lake to Lawrence O. Rose, born and raised
there, who was a casualty of war in Vietnam in 1968. He was a member
of the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles and was memorialized by a
West Point Honor Guard and a bagpipe band.
There was also a peace march during the Vietnam era, organized by
the lake's children.
The dam, rebuilt in 2001 in part due to damage created by Hurricane
Floyd, is dedicated to the memory of Fred Siegriest, who was a
member of the New City Ambulance Corps and "gave his heart, energy
and efforts to the community," according to Jeffs' history.
One of the lake's legends involves a "monster turtle," sighted in
1962. Weighing between 40 and 60 pounds, it was surmised, the
snapping beast terrorized swimmers that summer.
Lake Lucille, which has had its own property owners association
since 1936, still carries on some of the traditions started in
preceding decades – fishing contests, boat races, ice skating
parties and picnics.
Lillian Dembnicki said she never appreciated the lake as much as she
does now. "It was a beautiful place to grow up in."
Ed Jeffs is content that the lake remains tied to an earlier time.
The roads remain unpaved. "Sometimes I see the deer walking across
the frozen lake," Jeffs said. "It's like another world here."
By JULIENNE MARSHALL
SPECIAL TO THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: March 7, 2003)