[Photo: David Kramer 2/21/21. The Highland Crossing Trail. To the left are the abandoned structures to the right is Empire State College on Westfall Road.]
As seen in Before and after the (disappointing) Déluge at the Highland Crossing, since last March, we’ve visited the Highland Crossing Trail in Brighton several times, usually after a snowfall. (SEE SERIES AT END)
One mysterious feature of the trail are several adjacent abandoned farm buildings. The first December snowfall at the Highland Crossing Trail in Brighton describes what I knew of the structures:
As I entered the Westfall Road entrance, I saw to the right of the Trail dilapidated and abandoned buildings, now snow covered. A couple of years ago, I met a man who was working to clear out some of the buildings. While I can’t now recall everything the man said, he explained that, supposedly, in the ruins previously had lived a secluded, almost hermetic family. They even maintained farm animals making the scene look more like Appalachia than leafy, suburban Brighton. Apparently, the eccentric family had — but rejected — offers to buy their anachronistic farm.
In an early December snowfall, the abandoned structures reminded me of Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome (1911), her story of early 20th century impoverished New England farmers where a reckless sledding excursion in a snowstorm becomes the doom of its characters.
Before and after the (disappointing) Déluge at the Highland Crossing caught the attention of Barbara Flender who often visits the trail:
Does anyone happen to know what the old playground equipment off the trail belonged to, and what those solar looking panel things were for? I did learn that the cement building on Westfall at the beginning of the trail used to house EXOTIC ANIMALS [emphasis mine] behind it…hence all those weird cage structures. I love the history of it all!
I love that trail!!! There may have been a residential facility back there which would explain perhaps the merry-go-round/swings. What those shiny panels are, I can not figure out!
Hoping to learn more, I contacted Brighton Town Historian Mary Jo Lamphear who wrote:
A woman who lives at Brickstone contacted me a couple of years ago about an odd structure she came across when she was walking in that area, before the Trail. St. John’s property that includes Brickstone was part of the 35-acre Maxion horse farm. Before that (1940) it was a dairy farm. I looked through the folder I have on the property and can find no references to animals other than horses during the Maxion years.
So, the mystery of the exotic animals is still largely unresolved. If you know more, please contact David Kramer [email protected] or leave a comment in the COMMENT section at the end of the article.
Tom Brownyard Sr. writes:
The family used to have a lot of goats on the property back in the 80s. The father was very old then but he had a son that tended to the animals for him. A large framed red headed fella. We used to bow hunt the property next door. In the seventies that area was loaded with pheasant. . .
I can’t remember the family name. I think it began with a W. But the general manager at Koerner Ford where I worked also had exotics and he did business with the dad. I think it may have been Emu. Like an ostrich. Don’t let the grounds fool you, pretty sure he was wealthy but just a simple old man. . .
The playground pieces were part of the Al Sigl center for children. I think that was the name of it. When it was all overgrown that was my favorite hunt spot.
Debbie Addams writes:
When I worked at Monroe Developmental Center, we used to take the kids over there to see the animals. think there were ducks, a horse/donkey, chickens. It was the mid seventies and we had to walk to the edge of the parking lot and across some grass.
Roger Levy writes:
I looked closely to try to guess what type of fur was stuck to those grates last summer. Looked like rabbit but it could have been fur trading animals of higher value. The guy was a hoarder for sure.
THE HIGHLAND CROSSING SERIES