The idea for our community was born as early as 1949 and the group in which it originated was the Naer Tormid (Eternal Light) Society, the organization of Jewish members of the New York Fire Department. Many of the members of this organization had young children, and were sending them to camps in the summertime. The Society set up a Camp Committee, whose function was to explore the possibility of arranging an economical group “deal” for the children of the members. Sid Klein, Chairman of the Committee, scouted a number of camps and, in the course of his search, Sid observed that the camps were built quite inexpensively. It occurred to Sid that, if enough Society members were interested, they might be able to chip in and buy their own property and build their own camp. The other members of the Camp Committee agreed the idea was worth a try.
At the April 1950 meeting of the Naer Tormid Society, the idea was presented and met an enthusiastic response. This historic meeting was held on May 10th, 1950 in New York City where more than 100 members attended, most with their wives. The idea was presented and, by this time, it had grown into a plan not simply for a children’s camp but for a summer vacation community for entire families. Projected types of buildings and costs were discussed at this meeting and interested members were asked to put down a $10 deposit with the understanding that, if the plan succeeded, site selection would be based on the order in which the deposits were made. Finally, the members voted to set up an organization, “Lake Tormid, Inc.” to carry out the plan. Sid Klein was unamiously elected Chairman and working committees were established, including an all-important Site Committee. With a formal organization, some money in the treasury and working committees in place, the organization was ready to tackle its first job – finding a suitable site. The Site Committee placed ads in upstate newspapers and wrote to real estate brokers. The first promising response came from a broker offering a parcel of land containing a lake in Pawling, NY. The Committee examined the site, approved it and agreed with the owners on a purchase price and put down a refundable deposit. However, a number of Committee members felt the property was rather far from New York City and, they were also unhappy with the lake. It turns out that the lake was an old quarry that had been converted to a lake by the addition of an earthen white wall. The Committee agreed to search further and Lester Zwicker was authorized to place further advertisements. Lester placed ads in local newspapers in Peekskill, Poughkeepsie, White Plains, Newburgh, New York and Danbury, CT. Shortly thereafter, a response was received from Donald Joseph, a real estate broker, offering a property owned by the Hiram Kellogg estate in Danbury. The property consisted of a 606 acre estate, with a lake of approximately 50 acres. The asking price was $125,000. The natural coves and peninsulas of the tree-lined Danbury lake (whose water was pure enough for drinking) contrasted most favorably with the still muddy waters of the Pawling lake, which was enclosed by bare earthen and stone banks. The choice was made in favor of Danbury.
The choice was made in favor of Danbury. All that remained was to establish a price. After some hard bargaining sessions, a price was finally agreed upon and, in January 1951 a contract was signed for $90,000.
The decade of the 1950s was extraordinarily arduous and, at the same time, extraordinarily successful for the developments of Lake Waubeeka Association (LWA). In ten short years, some 600 acres of rocks, woods and marsh in the Danbury hills had been transformed into a beautifully thriving summer community of over 200 homes. Roads had been built, a water system created, electrical power installed and homes erected. A stable, financially sound corporate structure had been built complete with by-laws, a democratically elected Board of Directors, regular membership meetings and a full time caretaker. All this had been accomplished by a group of dedicated, enthusiastic young families operating on the thinnest of proverbial shoestrings. In short, “what couldn’t be done” had been done, very successfully.
In 1952 most of our houses were up and occupied.
By 1954 the roads were finally completed. Our streets were given their names by the original Board of Directors of Lake Tormid, Inc. Carol Street was named after Sid Klein’s daughter (who later added and “e” and famed herself as an accomplished singer / songwriter, Carole King). Marion Street was named after Barney Schenker’s daughter; Jeffrey Street was named for the Pines’s son, Alan Road for Mac and Sylvia Perlmans’ son and Paul Street for the Shurins’ son. Danfred Street was named for the Zwickers’ two sons (Daniel and Fred) and finally Arther Street for Arthur Klevins.
In 1985, Sidney N. Klein (founding member of Lake Waubeeka) compiled a historical document of LWA and how it began. Entitled, “It couldn’t be Done” accounts the beginning history of our community, discusses the myriad of struggles that were encountered and accounts the number of successes that were achieved. It is only from the strength and the determination of our foundering Waubeekeans, that our beautiful lake community was born and continues its traditions today. Notations from Sid’s memoirs mention that the “We have many new members, wonderful young people, in addition to our second generation Waubeekeans who, have chosen to make Waubeeka their home. I ask that they consider their responsibility, that they take an active part in the community. If they are elected to the board, accept the responsibility to devote time and to study whatever problems arise.”
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