People have vacationed there. People have fallen in love there. Hundreds of others call it home. The iconic Peach Lake community means different things to different people, but one thing’s for sure, it has a storied history in the town of North Salem and Supervisor Warren Lucas is working hard to document it and make certain its many stories are not forgotten.
What started as curiosity over a dusty basket filled with antique documents in his family farmhouse, including deeds and photos, as well as a family genealogy document, has led Lucas on a journey since 1992, when he first began writing his book entitled, “The Making of Bloomerside and the Peach Lake Communities.”
Aside from growing up in North Salem, Lucas has roots in the area going back many generations. Peach Lake was originally a farming community
His family, the Bloomers, was originally from Rye and moved to North Salem in the 1760s and began farming the land. They also brought in dairy cows. Many in the town jumped on the bandwagon, reaping the financial benefits of dairying. They provided milk for the Borden Condensed milk factory in Brewster up to 1915 when the factory went under, forcing many residents to leave the area and find alternate livelihoods. The land was also farmed by the Ryder family in Southeast, and the Vail family on the other side of the lake.
In his book, “The Making of Bloomerside,” Lucas details the beginnings of the town more than 400 years ago in 1609 when the area around Peach Lake was the ancestral home of the local Indian tribes, namely the Mohegans and Kitawonks. The lake was called Lake Pehquenakonck by the Native American tribes in the region. That was later shortened to Peach Pond.
As the New World was discovered and colonized, particularly by the Van Cortlandt family, North Salem became the eastern outpost of the Van Cortlandt family’s vast land holdings. Lucas’ book details the evolution of the name Peach Lake. Many assume it was named after the Pietsch family, but it was not, he explained.
Lucas’ book covers the extensive evolution of Peach Lake focusing in on how its summer communities were born at Bloomerside, Vail’s Pietsch’s and the Hotel at Hotel Property. It details such things as boating on the lake, its many community dances, nearby campgrounds, extensive gardens and picnic grounds that were so widely used and visited in the early 1900s. It features many photographs, including one featuring contestants in the 1935 Miss Peach Lake contest.
His research took him from libraries, to historical societies to local residents and family members’ accounts of the area to the internet, which he said has revolutionized and even simplified the way research is now done.
Lucas said writing the book has been a labor of love. “There are people…in Croton Falls who could write about Purdys, I’m sure,” he said. “But so much of this town’s [history] was affected in the late 1890s. You lose that if you haven’t talked to people 20, 30 years ago, and that was one of the benefits of sitting down with my aunt who remembered elephants going down the road.”
But with 24 years in the making, Lucas’ book is still not published. He estimated he’d need about $20,000 to get the book in print form; something he thinks would be of great interest to local members of the community and an investment that he could easily recoup.
“I just keep finding more and more information though. It’s like a puzzle or a mystery,” he said, adding, “And it feels like I’m never done.”