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Harden’s Forestview Lodge

John Conway
Posted 2/9/24

For decades, Fannie Harden worked alongside her husband William to build the Forestview Lodge near Swan Lake into a successful business, carrying on alone after his death. When she passed away, the …

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Harden’s Forestview Lodge


For decades, Fannie Harden worked alongside her husband William to build the Forestview Lodge near Swan Lake into a successful business, carrying on alone after his death. When she passed away, the hotel went into decline and closed in 1955. That is the story of many Sullivan County hotels, and in myriad ways, the story of the Forestview Lodge is quite typical.

One important difference, however, is that the Hardens were African Americans.

Much of what is known today about the Hardens and their hotel is known because of the efforts of Dr. Lewis Howard, who formalized their story for a 1985 booklet published by the Sullivan County Chapter of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History to celebrate Black History Month.

With the help of William and Fannie Harden’s children, Dr. Howard put together a brief history of the family’s life in Sullivan County, dating back to the Civil War.

The story begins with William Harden’s uncle, Sam Brown, who “had come from Boston with a well-to-do New England family who had purchased 64 acres of Catskill Mountains in Stevensville, in the town of Bethel,” Dr. Howard writes. “Sam had come with the family in 1859, the family having decided to re-settle from Boston to Stevensville for health reasons.”

When the last member of that New England family died in 1870, the property passed to Sam Brown, who had been farming it for them. Around 1878 or 1879, Sam Brown returned to Boston to get his 13-year old nephew, William Harden to help him work the farm.

William entered the one-room Bushville school in the fall of 1879, walking three miles each way to attend class. Needless to say, he was the only African American student.

William attended the Methodist Church in Stevensville with his uncle, and some years later a young African American woman named Fannie Glover, who had moved to Sullivan County from Virginia to cure her typhoid fever, began to attend, as well. In 1898, William Harden and Fannie Glover were married in the church, with Sam Brown a member of the wedding party.

When Sam Brown died shortly thereafter, William and Fannie inherited the property and it became known as the Harden Farm.

“The inherited farm was productive and prosperous,” Dr. Howard writes. “There were fields of buckwheat, rye, corn and gardens of every variety of vegetables. Two horses were in the barn and the fenced yards were filled with hundreds of chickens, providing eggs and food for the family and the market. There were also pigs and cows for home and commercial use. Apple trees were heavily ladened with choice fruits. The fields were filled with grapes and berries.

“Hard work produced enough food for family consumption and the market. There was a profit. There were savings.”

In those days, many working farms in Sullivan County were taking in boarders to help make ends meet, and before long, the Hardens were, too. By the 1920s, they had added four or five bungalows and they could accommodate up to 50 guests.

“They proudly named it Harden’s Forestview Lodge,” Dr. Howard writes. “And in no time it took its place among the most desirable tourist establishments in the county.”

The Harden men—William, and sons Samuel and Clifford—kept up the facility, emphasizing the natural beauty of the property, and Fannie’s cooking and hospitality brought tourists back year after year. With her daughter Bessie, who lived virtually all of her adult life at home, Fannie made sure the guests were well fed.

“While no food was sold to non-residents, the Harden women were well-known in that time for their culinary expertise,” Dr. Howard notes. “Fannie bringing Old Virginia seasoning ideas to the chops, roasts, fried chicken, as well as to the garden vegetables and the baking of cakes and pies.”

The Lodge survived the Great Depression and World War II “without any real setbacks or failures’” and not even the growing “competition from newly developed tourist places hampered their progress.”

Interestingly, Dr. Howard notes, although William and Fannie had made numerous contacts in the African American communities in Middletown, Newburgh, and Poughkeepsie, among other places, “no Blacks sought accommodations in the Harden’s Forestview Lodge.”

William’s health began to decline in 1943, and he discontinued the farming operation, although the Lodge continued to entertain guests. William died in 1945, and Fannie was left to operate the hotel with the help of her children.

Fannie kept the business going, despite heart trouble, but she suffered a severe setback when daughter Bessie died unexpectedly in 1953. Fannie never recovered from the shock of losing her closest daughter, and passed away less than a year later.

“With the passing of Fannie, Harden’s Forestview Lodge began to decline. The business was closed in 1955,” Dr. Howard wrote.

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian and a founder and president of The Delaware Company. Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.  


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