The Saranac Lake Day Nursery was founded in Ensine Miller's home, Sunnyside, in the late 1920s by theatrical agent William Morris. The Day Nursery closed in 1939 after years of struggle; the Great Depression, and Morris' death made it impossible to keep up with maintenance on an aging building. The site later became the William Morris Memorial Park.
The park was the site of the annual Bottle Cap Carnival from 1954 to at least 1972.
A smaller building on the north side of the property, near the Railway Express Agency building, became the site of Head Start, a program for children similar to the Day Nursery. The park is also the site of the new Adirondack Carousel, completed in 2012.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, October 17, 1963
MORRIS PARK HISTORY TOLD
The William Morris Agency, Inc. of New York City, in noting the new sponsorship by the Saranac Lake Rotary Club of the William Morris Memorial Park and the Emma Morris Free Milk Fund, reviewed the history of both projects.
The William Morris Memorial Park, established in 1936, is a supervised children's playground located on the site of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery. The Saranac Lake Day Nursery was started in 1920 by the late William Morris, founder of the William Morris Agency, and members of the Friars Club.
Chief support for the nursery was received from the production of an Independence Day Show brought to Saranac Lake annually by the famed theatrical agent in whose honor the playground is named.
Many noted theatrical figures gave of their talents through the years to support this project, including Al Jolson, Sir Harry Lauder, Sophie Tucker, Eddie Cantor, Sammy Davis Jr., Paul Whiteman, Vincent Lopez, Lou Holtz, Ray Bolger, Jack Pearl, Pat Rooney, Cissie Loftus, Daniel Frohman and Nellie Reville.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, April 3, 1959
Shamus Club Work to Be Supported by Fund
Honor "Mother" Morris by Change
The officers of the Shamus Club of Saranac Lake have voted to change the name of the club to the EMMA MORRIS MILK FUND in memory of the late Mrs. William Morris.
The Shamus Club was founded fifteen years ago by Irving Altman and Benton C. Ressler to provide the children of the William Morris Memorial playground with cookies and milk, twice a day during the summer months. The club also supplied new equipment and replaced equipment as needed. Special events were financed by the club. Last year the new Baldwin Park playground on Lake Flower Avenue was added to the Shamus Club's work with a donation of equipment.
The Emma Morris Milk Fund will continue the fine work of the last fifteen years of the Shamus Club. It is the hope that the Baldwin Park playground will attract as many children to its playing area as the William Morris Memorial playground.
Charles Swasey Barnet has written an interesting article of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery on the site which is now the William Morris Memorial playground. We quote from Mr. Barnet's article.
"Many newer residents of the village might be interested to know that the drinking fountain at the William Morris Park is a Memorial for the late William Morris, whose untiring efforts and great generosity were responsible for the purchase and the successful maintenance of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery for many years.
In 1938 the property was deeded to the Village of Saranac Lake to be used as a public playground.
Many of the older residents will recall how successfully the Day Nursery filled a need in this community, but only a few know how this institution started.
How It Started
During the summer of 1918, several members of the Friars club, the well-known theatrical club in New York, were visiting Mr. and Mrs. William Morris at Camp Intermission. Mrs. Julius Cone, wife of Dr. Cone, dropped in to tell the Morris' about a poor family in town. The father had TB and it was necessary for the mother to find work. The problem was how to take care of their two children while the mother was employed. The guests at the camp became greatly interested and right then and there started a fund to organize a Day Nursery.
The minute the late Col. Walter Scott, a friend of the Morris family, heard about it, he was most enthusiastic and sent a large check. The Colonel continued to be a most generous supporter.
The Day Nursery was opened in September 1919 with an attendance of five children and a few years later had as many as thirty children.
In 1922 and in 1927 two huge Vaudeville Benefit shows were held in New York City under the direction of Mr. Morris, at which appeared more than fifty of vaudeville's leading artists. For several years, beginning in 1927, Mr. Morris also sponsored an annual Fourth of July benefit at the Pontiac Theatre in Saranac Lake. Old timers will remember these wonderful shows headed by a galaxy of stars that the Palace Theatre in New York, during its heyday might well have envied.
The many stars appearing here not only gave their services, but frequently paid their own expenses and made contributions. With the proceeds of these shows, and other local benefits and contributions, the Day Nursery property was purchased in 1921 and the operating expenses taken care of. After the death of Mr. Morris in 1932, there seemed to be no one who could carry on this fund raising activities and furthermore the attendance at the nursery had dwindled down to a few children and the Matron, Mrs. Catherine Drew, was unable to continue her faithful and kindly services due to a severe illness. For these reasons the directors decided to close the nursery and deed the property to the village.
Col. Walter Scott had always served as Honorary President and Mrs. William Morris as Honorary Vice President. The first President was Mrs. Julius Cone, followed by Mrs. F. F. Hewitt, Mrs. James Latour, Mrs. L. B. Judson, Mrs. Charles H. Goldsmith, Mrs. A. C. Pittenger, Mrs. D. S. McCrum, Mrs. Walter Laidlaw, Mrs. Andrew Callinan.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 8, 2011
Around the corner on Bloomingdale Avenue was the William Morris playground. I made my debut at the playground in a most-beautiful-baby contest (skeptics can look it up in the Enterprise), and in the ensuing years, I managed to down endless glasses of milk and oatmeal cookies, which tasted particularly good because they were free. Had they awarded frequent-flyer miles for using the swings at the William Morris playground, I could have circled the globe a few times. I think I circled the metal crossbar at the top of the swings once. Once was enough.
In any case, there were some very kind people looking after the playground.
The Vaudeville News, July 10, 1925
BENEFIT AT SARANAC
A vast number of well known vaudeville artists and stars volunteered their services at the annual William Morris benefit for the Day Nursery, Saranac Lake, New York, on Independence Day, July 4. During the entertainment, which was one of the best held in behalf of this worthy charity affair in many seasons, close to a thousand dollars was collected for the relief of the families and relatives of the victims of the fire which destroyed, a rooming house in Saranac early Saturday morning, killing seven people. The occasion was under the personal direction of William Morris, Jr. Among the acts that appeared were:
Cecilia Loftus, Bard & Pearl, Eddie Conrad, Fields & Edwards, Irving Caesar, and Joe Meyer, George Stone, Oakes & De Lour, Frances Arms, Marion Kirby, Will Mahoney, one of Ben Bernie's orchestra units and a surprise skit by Francis X. Donegan and Silvio Hein, the noted composer.
Unidentified news clipping, dated September 22, 1926
MRS. PITTENGER NEW PRESIDENT OF DAY NURSERY
Annual Meeting on Monday Finds Institution Has Increased Activity
SCOTT IS HONORED
Benefactor Made Honorary President in Recognition of Valued Support
At the annual meeting of the Saranac Lake Day-Nursery board, held in the Community house Monday evening, Mrs. Arthur C. Pittenger was elected president of the organization for the coming year. Mrs. Pittenger is a trained social worker and has held offices in several Saranac Lake organizations. It is expected that the nursery will have an exceptionally successful year under her direction.
Other officers elected were Mrs. F. H. Heise, first vice-president; Mrs. Lionell Miller, second vice- president; Mrs. C. F. Wicker, treasurer, and Mrs. E. S. Dyer, secretary.
The board of directors for next year will include Mrs. W. H. Haase, Mrs. A. W. Pearson, Mrs. Eileen Benham, Mrs. A. S. Bendall, Mrs. A. H. Denny, Mrs. J. A. Lalour, Mrs. P. F. Hewitt, Mrs. J. H. Hallock. Mrs. Louis Kernothan, Samuel J Price, H. V. Litell, Rev. E. P. Miller, Rev. G. K. Newell, Rev. Joseph Creeden, Rev. E. B. Brownell, William Morris.
Col. Walter Scott was named as honorary president of the nursery and Mrs. William Morris as honorary vice-president. Plans were discussed for the making of needed repairs and improvements to the day nursery rooms and grounds, and changes that will be necessary to meet the continued growth of the institution. Reports of officers and directors covering the past year were heard.
About thirty children a day are now being cared for at the nursery. They are for the most part children of mothers who have to be employed and have no one to care for the little ones during the working hours. The noon lunch and other meals if necessary are provided at the nursery, Mrs. Catherine Drew, who has successfully handled the management of the nursery as matron for the past few years, will continue in the position.
Saranac Lake Day Nursery
Report for Year Ending
The Day Nursery was started two years ago, largely through the efforts of Mr. Wm. Morris, for the purpose of taking care of children, whose parents had to work, or were ill, or in such other cases where children did not receive proper care or attention at home. The nursery permits the parents to send their children in the morning and they are put under the care of the matron. During the day they are given their lunch— the food given being dependent upon their ages. Children are admitted up to school age. All cases are investigated. The children who have been admitted have ranged in age from five months to six years. At the present time there are two babies, one five months, the other 11 months. The Nursery started on a very small scale, and has grown so that now there are twenty-five children on the list, with an average attendance of eighteen or nineteen a day.
The Matron, Mrs. Drew, is employed by the Nursery on a salary, and she resides at the Nursery. We are fortunate in having one so capable to look after the children, who not only is very efficient, but takes a personal interest in them. An assistant is also employed most of the time. As the parents of the children in almost every case are poor or in ill health, the charge for the caring of their children must be nominal; therefore, a charge of only 19 cents a day is made; in some cases the parents cannot even afford this. Considering, therefore, that the children are given milk, bread, potatoes and other nourishing foods, that the Nursery has also to pay toward the upkeep of the building, Matron's salary, cost of coal, light, gas, etc., it is very apparent that the money received from the parents cannot begin to cover the expenses of the Nursery.
These children are receiving excellent care, proper nourishment, rest and plenty of fresh air, increasing their vitality, making them sturdy and healthy, whereas if they were not so taken care of they would probably be confined to small, ill-ventilated rooms, coming in contact with sickness, and owing to their parents being compelled to work, not receiving by any means proper food, either in kind or amount. One case in point is that of an infant who was received about two months ago, who was thin and puny; cried continually and could not digest its food. The child was examined, its food rectified and after personal care and attention for some weeks the child grew stronger and is now gaining at the rate of one-half pound a week. Numerous other cases have been received where the children were unquestionably ill-nourished and who have after a few months at the Nursery improved considerably.
The children are also examined every week by the Red Cross Nurse— Miss McDonald—and a record kept of their weight and height. I feel that this is a good work and should be liberally supported. MRS. F. FERRIS HEWITT, President.
|LIFE MEMBERSHIP||$100 00|
|ANNUAL DUES||$5 and $10.00|
Which are now payable and a prompt remittance will be greatly appreciated
Saranac Lake Day Nursery
Col. Walter Scott, Honorary President Mrs. William Morris, Honorary Vice President Mrs. A. C. Pittenger, President Mrs. I. C. Clark, Secretary Mr. C. S. Barnet, Treasurer Mrs. Catherine Drew, Matron Dr. Charles Haskins, Physician
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Mrs. Eileen Benham, Mrs. A. S. Bendall, Mrs. J. L. Cole, Rev. Fr. Joseph Creedon, Mrs. E. L. Edwards, Mrs. L. U. Gardner, Mrs. Lewis Graeves, Mrs. J. H. Hallock, Mrs. J. N. Hayes, Mrs. F. Heise, Mrs. E. J. Kennedy, Mrs. J. A. Latour, Mr. H. V. Littell, Rev. Hiram Lyon, Mrs. Otto Lutz, Mrs. D. S. McCrum, Mrs. S. D. Matthews, Mr. J. R Merrill, Mrs. Alice Miller, Miss Eleanor Miller, Rev. E. P. Miller, Mrs. Fred Smith, Mrs. C. F. Wicker, Mrs. O. J. Worthen.
The Saranac Lake Day Nursery, founded nine years ago, has been successfully maintained for the care of children under school age. It accepts children whose parents, because of illness or because both parents are working, cannot give the children proper care at home. The Nursery now owns the property at 22 Bloomingdale avenue. This provides for the children a fine yard in which to play, a large indoor playroom and sun porch when they cannot be out of doors and, well ventilated bedrooms for the afternoon naps. Each child is given a medical examination before admittance. While in the nursery, the children have medical supervision through the co-operation of the Public Health Nurse and Dr. Haskins.
The Nursery charges 19 cents a day for each child and the deficit, made up by voluntary contributions and the yearly 4th of July benefit put on by Mr. William Morris.
From the minutes of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery (Courtesy of the Adirondack Research Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library)
Feb. 17th, 1935
A special meeting of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery was held on Feb.17th, 1935 af the office of Mr. C.S. Barnet, the meeting being called to discuss certain alterations and remodelling of the present property of the Nursery. The following members and directors were present; Mrs. A Callanan, Mrs. Wicker, Mrs. McCrum, Mrs. Hallock, Mrs. Latour, Mrs. Gait, Mrs. Worthen, Mrs Pomery, Mr. Barnet and Miss Flockhart.
Mr. Barnet, treasurer, opened the meeting with the statement that the Nursery, with its present and present funds could not possibly exist more than two years more and in view of the facts that the funds were inadequate for any extensive period of time, that it might be well to consider another possible plan that had arisen recently. Other plans such as installing a gasoline station had seemed neither advisable or feasible. Mr. Barnet offered two arrangements, whereby the Nursery could take its present funds, raze the present building and put in a playground and then present the whole to the village or as seemed better -the razing of the building should be replaced by a new one, for the erection of which the T.E.R.A. should be approached; the plans to include a playground and the care and maintenance to devolve on the Village when completed. Mr. Barnet invited criticism of the members present and suggestions and asked that if the directors found the plan agreeable that a motion be made accordingly.
The Directors agreed that a Community House was really necessary for the community and that it and a playground would be most advantageous for that purpose and for the Day Nursery; that such a building could be erected conformable for the needs of both, and conformable to Adirondack architecture, the little building once habited by the Little Window, being made to conform with the new, and to adjoin with the new. Several suggestions were made; that the new building have a gymnasium and a room suitable for a small theatre.
As for the maintenance Mr. Barnet suggested that in order to perpetuate the care of the building and the grounds, that a committee could be assumed by drawing members from the various organizations of the Village and a permanent Committee of not more than nine people should be appointed.
Mr. Barnet's suggestion was- that, if the T.E.R.A. and the Village should find the plan agreeable, then the Directors of the Day Nursery would be willing to turn over their present funds on hand amounting in securities to about $3,800, but that before doing so, the T.E.R.A. and the Village should be in accordance with the wishes of the Day Nursery.
Criticisms, suggestions and plans having been discussed by the Directors the following motions were made and seconded 1-Motion 1 by Mrs. Wicker that Mrs. Callanan should approach the Village Board and offer the plans, seconded by Mrs. Hallock and Mrs. Latour.
Motion Two, made by Mrs. Hallock that Mr. Barnets plan (follows) should be accepted as a resolution and that the Directors and Officiers mentioned should make the effort to carry it through.
Resolution. . To authorize the President, Mrs. A, Callanan and the Treasurer, Mr. C.S.Barnet to communicate with the Trustees of the Village of Saranac Lake and the members of the Board of the Town of Harrietstown, either hereafter designated as party of the second part and to offer the property of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery, Inc. located on Bloomingdale Ave. and Depot Street, to either of the above mentioned parties, for a community Center; this offer to be subject to conditions agreed upon by both parties. The following are the tentative conditions suggested by the Day Nursery;
I. That the party of the second part agree to tear down the present Day Nursery building and build a suitable one in its place to house a Day Nursery and Community Room and the the plans of this building be approved by a Committee appointed by the Saranac Lake Day N.
II.. That the maintenance of the Day Nursery and the Community Centre be assumed by the party o the second part and that the operation of it be under a permanent committee appointed by the party of the second part, consisting of one member . from their board, one each appointed by the Day Nursery, Community House, Village Improvement Society, Catholic Church, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church and Temple Emanuel, all of Saranac Lake and that the total membership of the commission not to exceed nine members.
III. That a public playground for children and community tennis courts be placed in front of the proposed building and that the name of the playground be called the William Morris playground.
IV. . That the little building on Depot Street known as The Little Window be made into living quarters for the employees of the Nursery and Playground and moved to a more suitable location on the premises.
Another motion was made and seconded; that if conditions of the transfer of this property to the party of the second part be satisfactory to both parties that the Saranac Lake Day N. agree to turn over to the party of the second part negotiable securities amounting in value at this date to at least $3,800 also 10 shares of the Saranac Lake Finance Corporation valued to date at $600.
To Friends of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery and Community House:
As you probably know, the problem of carrying on the work of the Day Nursery and Community House has been growing more acute each year because of reduced income and condition of our present building. Most of the directors have felt that it would be an unwarranted expenditure of funds to try to put the Community House building in good repair. It is only a question of a short time when it will be uninhabitable.
With these thoughts in mind I have had several conversations with Mrs. William Morris and our mayor, Mr. Thomas P. Ward. We feel that if the property of the Day Nursery and Community House is turned over, as a gift, to the Village, strictly for community purposes, we feel will be carrying out the original ideas of the founders.
It is my understanding that the Village may acquire sufficient funds from the WPA to build the proposed new Community House and Play ground, and the purpose of this letter to you is to call a joint meeting of all the directors of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery, Inc., and the Community House, Inc., to pass on the resolution of which a copy is enclosed herewith and which is self-explanatory.
This meeting will be held on Monday, December 27, 1937, at 3 p.m., at the Community House. We will welcome any suggestions from you and hope you will make every effort to be present at this important meeting.
SARANAC LAKE DAY NURSERY, Inc.
Bessie W. Callanan (Mrs. A. W.)
From the minutes of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery
MEETING - November 10th, 1938
A Meeting of the Directors of the Saranac Lake Day Nursery was held November 10th, 1939.
|Present:||Mrs. Morris, Mrs. Helse, Mrs. Wicker, Mrs. Pomeroy, Mrs. Gardner, Mrs. Billings, Mrs. Rowland, Mrs. Feustmann, Mrs. Gait, Mrs. Ridenour, Mrs. McCrum, Mrs. Levy, Mrs. Hallock, and Mrs. Callanan|
|Voted:||To close the Nursery temporarily.|
|Voted:||To take care of the expense of Mrs. Drew during her operation.|
|Voted:||To lay aside a sum-of money for a memorial tablet.|
|Voted:||To borrow ($300.) money enough on the last stock, Amer. Tel. and Tel., to defray expenses of the Nursery and Mrs. Drew's operation.|
This is the final entry in the minutes of the Day Nursery.