The Hopkins Family
Ferdinand Travis Hopkins was 46 years old when he decided
to acquire a summer home in Westchester County. Born on his father’s farm in Lake Mahopac in 1834, he spent his
first twenty years working along side his father, Nathanial Hopkins, on the family farm. He then went to New York City
where he made a considerable fortune both in real estate transactions and the pharmaceutical business. Through his second marriage
to Martha Bishop Gourand he acquired a profitable business which produced a variety of medicated soaps, skin creams,
and other cosmetic preparations.
In 1879, Martha gave birth to Ferdinand T. Hopkins Jr. Hopkins
already had a son and daughter by his first wife, and a step-son, Claude L. Gourand, by his second. The appearance of a new
baby may have played a role in Mr. Hopkins decision to purchase a summer home in Westchester County in 1880.
As purchased, the Ezra Van Tassel farm obviously was not an appropriate summer retreat for an important New York City
businessman and his family. It was a working farm with few amenities. The Hopkins decided to build a new house and chose the
knoll slightly north and east of the original farmhouse for its location.
They built a late Victorian clapboard farmhouse, with both
Gothic and Italianate Revival features. The simple gable roof included a small cross-gable at the front. The house featured
Venetian style shuttered windows on the second floor which were covered with brightly striped awnings. It was surrounded
by porches and the porches were bedecked with hanging and potted plants, helping to merge the indoors with the outdoors.
Painted with contrasting trim on windows, and doors, it was a striking example of the Victorian farmhouse as impressive
It soon became evident that Mr. Hopkins did not intend to
limit himself to just the Van Tassel farm. He had much more ambitious plans for his summer home. In 1881 he bought a small, 6 acre
lot on the east side of the Somertown turnpike from Lewis Ferris. In 1889, Ferris sold him an additional 25 acres between
the turnpike and Croton Lake. With the Ferris purchases he owned the land fronting the turnpike opposite his original
Van Tassel farm. He was also interested in the land north and east of his farm. In 1892 Ferdinand Hopkins purchased
an additional 220 acres of land from Mrs. Virginia Brandreth. It included three additional farmhouses, the David Chadeayne
House, the A. Putney house and the Peter R. Carpenter House.
As he grew older, Ferdinand Sr. spent an increasing amounts of time in
Somers and relied on his sons to concentrated on the family drug business. The Felis T. Gouraud Company had now become Ferd. T. Hopkins & Sons.
They continued to produce a line of “Gourand’s Toilet preparations” but expanded the business in the
1920s by purchasing the Landon firm “Mothersill’s Seasick Remedy.” The popularity of the transoceanic
liners in search of a touch of European sophistication made the “Mothersill’s” acquisition a lucrative
Ferdinand Sr. died in 1920, leaving Muscoot to Ferdinand Jr. Ferdinand Jr. and his second wife, Myrtle Rose Kennedy,
moved into the family home. With their two children Jean, born 1920, and Ferdinand III, born 1925, they spent their summers
on the farm, even living in the house during the 1925 - 1927 remodeling when the main house was converted into a twentieth
century Colonial revival mansion. Myrtle’s parents William and Mary Kennedy, moved into the home across the road from
the mansion. William Kennedy may have acted as farm superintendent for a short time during the mid 1920s.
It was probably during this time, the 1920s and early 1930s, that farming
activity peaked at Muscoot, with all of the activity focused on the New York City dairy market. Muscoot Farm
included approximately 610 acres of land. On this land the Hopkins kept a herd of 90 to 100 head of dairy cattle, primary
Holstein-Friesians. The large dairy barn accommodated 60 head but there were seldom that many cows milking at any one time.
The world of agriculture that Ferninand Jr. encountered differed dramatically from his father's world in the 1880s.
Changes in technology and farm equipment, government regulation, and the new discoveries in medical science and genetics were making it difficult for
Muscoot Farm, and most Westchester county farmers, to compete. Rapid transportation also
brought competing goods to New York market area at considerably lower costs and competing industries
in the area readily absorbed all available labor, leaving the Muscoot Farm with high labor costs. In 1967 Westchester County acquired the property and
began preserving this rich part of Westchester county history.
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