Glimpses of the Past
People, Places, and Things in Letchworth Park History

Prospect Home
Chestnut Lawn Farms

These names belong to the Letchworth time period and are used very little nowadays but the general areas can still be defined. Prospect Home Farm residence is the large house behind the present Visitors Center and the nearby building called Central Stores was the barn for Prospect Home. Chestnut Lawn has fewer artifacts. The buildings have been gone for many years. Present day "Group Camping" is located on land that was Chestnut Lawn. These farms are shown in the 1902 Atlas of Wyoming County as part of the properties of the Honorable William Pryor Letchworth.

Soldiers in the War of 1812 were paid for good service with land grants. Mildred Anderson, in her book "Genesee Echoes" describes how Reuben Jones received such a grant and he and his brother Perry created these farms during the pioneer period. This was 1816 and both married and brought wives to the area in 1818. Perry Jones built Prospect Home and Reuben developed Chestnut Lawn after an undefined period in log cabins. They are the two best known early settlers in the area with known traces left behind. They are buried in the Pioneer Cemetery on Trout Pond road. The Jones families still hold reunions in Letchworth Park.

Mr. Letchworth acquired the properties in the early 1870's. His plan was to operate them as farms, which he did with the help of tenant farmers such as the Bubendorff family. Mr. Letchworth was especially proud of his dairy herd at Chestnut Lawn. Prospect Home, however, would be more than just a farm. Mr. Letchworth, becoming very active in social reform, decided to bring orphan children from Buffalo to the Glen Iris Estate where they could "be benefited by country air, a change of diet, (and) happy surroundings..". Starting in 1884 he invited a variety of societies to send the dependent children in their care to Prospect Home for a two-week stay.

In Anderson's Genesee Echoes is a photo of Prospect Home from this time when Mr. Letchworth sponsored this early "fresh air program" (go to photograph). He went so far as to deed Prospect Home and fifty-nine surrounding acres to the Wyoming Benevolent Association for continued use in this summer program. The deal, along with this use of Prospect Home was ended when negotiations for transfer of the Estate to the State were begun.

The house at Prospect Home is much the same as in the photo except the porch does not go all the way around the house and a two car garage has been added to the side where a horse drawn coach is shown in the picture. After its use a residence for Mr. Letchworth's caretakers and labor force, and temporary refuge for children, it served as a labor center (go to photograph) and became the home of Park Foremen or Park Superintendents up to the present, except for a brief time when the new office addition was under construction in about 1995. The writer and his family lived in Prospect home from 1978 until retirement in 1992.

Reuben's house (go to photograph), the old Chestnut Lawn farm, was rented out to Park visitors for a short time. It was razed in about 1950 when it became unfit for use as a rental unit any longer. So only Prospect Home stands today as a reminder to this important part of Letchworth Park History


Anderson, Genesee Echoes (plate II)

Beale, William P Letchworth.. PP 119, 126, 127

Land Deals of William Pryor Letchworth, Material from County Court House, Warsaw NY. (list in Historical Files, LSP)

Larned, William Pryor Letchworth.. P 371

Tom Breslin


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