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In one of my 2018 “Narrowsburg News” columns, I solicited information from readers on a house in the Luxton Lake section of town. I had just bought the circa 1860s farmhouse, which was abandoned for many decades, and was starting the process of renovating it. I had heard tale it was called “Sleepy Hollow” years ago, and through county records and Facebook, I was able to track down descendants of past owners.
Last week, a message came through on my computer, and I nearly leapt out of my chair when I saw that it contained several old snapshots of the house. The message was from the granddaughter of Oscar Hippensteel. Locals may recall Dr. Hippensteel was a dentist in Honesdale, whose son Oscar Jr. later took up the family profession. “Sleepy Hollow” was their hunting and fishing camp in the 1940s and ‘50s.
One photo shows the house circa 1949 as Martha Hippensteel, Oscar Sr.’s wife, poses on the front step with her father and brothers. The “Sleepy Hollow” sign is clearly visible overhead, as is the distinctive scalloped fascia at the roofline. As a Narrowsburg history buff and someone who has long had a soft spot for this house, these photos are my first chance to see the house in its prime, well loved and full of life.
It turns out Martha Catherine Hippensteel (née, Zehner) was a cousin seven times removed from American frontiersman Daniel Boone (1734-1820). While cleaning out the house, I discovered pencil-written notations she made in 1950 on the underside of a kitchen drawer. The notes recorded her purchase and delivery of a yellow Formica table and chairs set and red linoleum flooring from Rasmussen’s furniture store. It seems she really loved the house and may have been the last person to take good care of it.
The Hippensteels sold “Sleepy Hollow” in the early 1970s to James Bell of New York City. Bell put a fresh coat of white paint on the siding, but then, for unknown reasons, abandoned the house. The neighborhood children at that time considered it haunted—a big, old, empty place called “Sleepy Hollow,” who could blame them? Post September 11, the house was sold at the Sullivan County tax auction. The new owners replaced the roof, but contemporary zoning laws tied their hands when they tried to make other improvements, and work soon stopped. While no one has lived in the house for 50 years, the coat of paint and new roof may have been just enough to preserve the structural integrity. That’s where I come in.
This year, I am turning my full attention toward renovating “Sleepy Hollow,” meaning that this will be my last “Narrowsburg News” column, at least for a while. I’ve enjoyed writing this column for the past year, and I want to say thank you to everyone who read it, and especially to those who took the extra step to let me know that they enjoyed it. If you are interested in seeing the restoration process of “Sleepy Hollow,” follow me on Instagram (@luxtonlake).