The Jacques House at Hemlock Lake NY in 1896.
The famous Jacques House at the foot of Hemlock Lake served a large clientele in its heyday.
The Jacques House was located at the foot of Hemlock Lake NY, west of the two outlets which the lake had at that time. It was a large three-story house with a wing on the north end which was all of 75 feet long. This wing had a wide porch running the full length of the wing. There was a large lawn around the house, and across the small creek which came down from the gull there was a lawn or park. This park was reached by a small rustic bridge. In the center of this park was an enormous walnut tree; the first branch must have been about 30 feet from the ground, and on this branch were two iron rods hanging from eyes to which swing ropes were fastened. This swing was, as I recall it, about the only form of outside amusement for the guests.
Russell R. Jacques was a son of Darius Jacques, who first located in Richmond Center in 1813. Russell was born in Vermont and was about 9 years old when his father moved to the food of the lake. His father married the widow of Levi VanFossen who operated one of the first mills in the town.
In 1834 Russell married Harriet Francis and began farming on the farm his father had purchased at the foot of the lake. In 1851 he built a large farm house and in 1861 opened his house to vacationists and fishermen.
In 1873 he built an addition to it and it then became known as the “Jacques House.” It could then accommodate about 75 guests and during the season was usually well filled. During the time it was operated by Russell and his successor, the Rev. Alfred Kendall, it was a temperance house.
Mr. Jacques went to school at Canandaigua and Geneseo, but before he finished school his father lost his eyesight and the son studied at home. He was a poet of no mean ability and was a great reader of Greek books. During the latter part of his life perpetual motion was the thing being most sought by those mechanically minded and he spent several years seeking the solution. His labor was not entirely lost as his machine furnished cart wheels and fishing sinkers for the boys of the neighborhood, when they could find his shop unlocked.
In 1870 and ‘71 he was operating during the winter months a boot-making shop and employed two men as bootmakers at a salary of $8 per week.
The Jacques House was an “underground railway” station, running slaves to the Canadian border. It was also a stopping place, under the Rev. Kendall, for Irish girl immigrants. Lima seminary at that time took in these girls and provided them a home until a suitable place of employment could be found for them (on the authority of Edward Hewitt).
After Mr. Jacques died Rev. Kendall, who married Mrs. Jacques’s sister, Lydia, took over the management of the House. He planted several large vineyards on the west side of the lake and these vineyards produced until about 20 years ago. Rev. Kendall was a Methodist minister and preached in the Methodist churches around this area.
Under the Rev. Kendall the “House” speciality was Sunday chicken dinner, and this was ceremony. The dining room was large and the tables long. After the diners were seated the Rev. would make his entry and take his seat at the first table. He said grace and it usually was about half the length of his Sunday sermon. Then the girls entered, one carrying a large kettle of chicken, another the potatoes, and so on until the dinner was all on the board, then the Rev. filled each plate and the girls passed them around. One of the kitchen girls had defective eyesight and on one occasion didn’t remove all the feathers from the chicken she picked and the Rev. was some surprised when he fished a piece out of the kettle and put it on a plate and the feathers showed. He was greatly embarrassed and ever after he stirred the kettle up in the kitchen before he made his entry.
“Miss Jakes,” as Mrs. Jacques was known far and wide, was the best dumpling maker in these parts and she was best known for this art. Woe unto anyone who spoke or walked around the kitchen after she had dropped the dumplings into the kettle. One of the men who was employed at the “House” said Mrs. Jakes served them American style, “Every man for himself.”
After Rev. Kendall died and the family gave up operating the place, a man by the name of John Gleicauf of Rochester operated it for awhile and then the City of Rochester bought it and tore it down.
The Jacques House was about the last of the hotels on the lake to go. And today, May 18, the last of the old cottages is on its way. Mrs. Gertrude Barnes Scott of Wellsville is moving out; the cottage has been in her family for 76 years. Each year for over 70, she has come early and stayed late. For many years we have watched for her, and not the swallows, to tell us when spring was here. It will seem strange to sit on the shore evenings fishing and not see that lone light. She put up a good fight against the City of Rochester for 40 years, but the city has finally won out.