The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2000

 
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Coye Point

by

Beth Flory

Coye Point begins north of Woodville at the southwest end of Canandaigua Lake. Some of the houses face south, others east, while we with our three neighbors look to the north.

According to Dr. Robert Cook's history of Canandaigua Lake (1911), the point was first called "Maxwell's" in 1870 after owner Quincy Maxwell:

There was a cottage on its north shore in the 70's [this refers to ours] and Hunters [next door to the south] is also on this point, while Hazel Dell is just south of it. [Little Hazel Dell is still there, the only cottage on the west side of the road at the north end of Woodville.]

Turn-of-the-century photographs reveal the steep hill behind the point to be covered with grapevines. Even in the 1940's the terraces were discernible; one can still trip over rusted wire today.

By the 1880's the point had been purchased by Captain Charles Sibley Coye. He used the large rustic cottage near the road as a summer home until his retirement there in 1895. Now, greatly modernized with impeccable taste, the house belongs to Harry Voss of Rochester.

Captain Coye was born in Canandaigua in 1840. At 17 he left home and went to sea, rounding the Horn to San Francisco and on to the South Seas. With the start of the Civil War in 1861 he joined the Navy, serving until 1866 when he became First Officer for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. As a Commander he made many voyages to China and Japan.

After 1895 he no longer wintered in New York City but retired to the lake. When he died in 1921 he left his property to his devoted housekeeper, Mrs. Stape, who, according to his obituary in the Naples Record, had "tenderly cared for him" during a year-long final illness.

Mrs. Stape remained in the house alone until her death in 1952. During my childhood in the 1930's and 40's, hers was the only house on the south side of the Point, the rest of which was devoted to several summer crops of alfalfa. Great leaning willows bordered the shore. This was my favorite playground, always entered with permission readily given. Mrs. Stape was a friend to all of the neighborhood children and more often than not had milk and cookies ready when we came to call.

She liked to show me treasures, some of which the Captain had brought home from his travels. Japanese china was a gift from the Prince of Satsuma. A handsome Swiss music box played a dozen tunes while brass bees tapped out the rhythms. On the wall was an unusual, large and especially colorful sampler made by Mrs. Coye, with her name and the date embroidered: "Elena Weil, Mako 1877."

Elena had been the Captain's ward before their marriage. They had a son, Sibley, but the union was not a success. The Captain's obituary notes that mother and son "reside in Mexico," her former home.

Coye was a noted and apparently popular fisherman but he had a fierce temper. Once a swimmer crossed the lake and wearily hauled up on "Windermere" (so named by its owner) and was immediately ordered to make landfall elsewhere.

Hostility grew between the Captain and his neighbors at Hunters, the Benhams of Canandaigua. Remnants of their spite fence were still visible in the 1940's. So animated was their mutual dislike that neither would allow the other to use his dock. The early part of this century was the heyday for busy steamboat traffic. The big boats accommodated the feuding neighbors: two stops were made although only about 150 feet separated them.

By the 1930's, Hunters was owned by Benham's daughter, Helen Sterling, and her family, avid and successful fishermen and Canandaigua plumbers. The interior still reflected its earlier days as a hunting and fishing camp. A towering wood stove dominated the central room; fishing gear was much in evidence; Hunters was a handsome, roomy, green-shuttered cottage with upper and lower verandas. New owners in the 1950's changed it into a year-around home.

Our house, on the other side of Hunters (and of a creek that, while normally benign, is capable of rampages), was acquired by my grandfather, Park J. Stoddard, in 1921 for $1000. Seventy-eight years later it is still in the family, currently enjoyed by the 3rd, 4th and 5th generations. My husband and I retired here in 1990.

Grandfather called it "Kanahoma Cabin" after Kansas and Oklahoma where he had lived for over twenty years before coming back home to Naples. Before that it was "The Coye Red Cottage." Dark, with vines obscuring fading red paint, there was a fine porch but only three small windows upstairs under the eaves. It had been rented by the week. One woman, arriving for a restful sojourn by the lake, opened a bureau drawer and interrupted the slumbers of a large snake. Her vacation plans changed with remarkable alacrity.

The house was probably at least 60 years old in 1921. As a small child, I loved this shadowy, simple cabin with its welcoming fireplace and many shelves of books. By 1930 it had been painted white. When my mother inherited it in 1935, electricity and plumbing were installed, dormer windows were added and the interior sealed.

Beside us, toward the road, is the former John Bolles cottage which he built about 1924. It was covered with bark (slabs). In the 50's it was sold to George Gardner of Penn Yan who still owns it.

The house next to the road was purchased by Carl Widmer and belongs to his grandson, Carl, of Naples. It had been a rooming house-the current owners have retained the numbers on the bedroom doors along with a penciled date; "1916."

The lake was silent and nearly deserted during World War II. Activities resumed and building flourished in the 50's. Mrs. Stape died in 1952 and I inherited Elena Coye's beautiful sampler. Windermere was sold and cottages rose up along the south side of the point.

Coye Point has known both change and continuity, with more of the latter than some other lake sites enjoy. I am fortunate to live in a place of great beauty which I have always known is my true home.

2000, Beth B. Flory
 
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