Discovering Shelter Island
There is no record of how the Methodist middle class businessmen of Brooklyn and their Methodist minister agent learned of Shelter Island as prime development land for a family resort, but it is easy to speculate that Professor Eben Horsford of Harvard University, who owned Sylvester Manor and made his fortune in baking powder, had something to do with it. It is possible that Cornelius and Joseph Hoagland, fresh from the Civil War and pursuing the possibility of a baking powder business in Brooklyn, had called upon the Professor in Cambridge to discuss the baking powder business. We can imagine them having lunch at the faculty club at Harvard and the Hoaglands talking about Brooklyn, and their enthusiasms including the camp meeting movement and revivalism in the Methodist Church. We do know that Professor Horsford was enchanted with the idea of Shelter Island as a resort destination, because a few years later he sold a portion of his own land to the developers from Boston who created Shelter Island Park and built the Manhansett House on Dering Harbor in 1873. And, he was -- early on -- instrumental in buying out the fish rendering plants that lined the Island -- their smell making the Island inappropriate for summer visitors.
Shelter Island was well situated. It was a 2 1/2 hour train ride from Jamaica in Queens. It could also be easily reached by over night steamer from New York. It was an island, offering the enchantment of arriving by sea. It was rural and beautiful. It had an industrious population of fishermen and farmers who could fill the bountiful dining tables of the hotel that was to be the anchor of the planned resort. And, it had available land.