Chester--Despite unseasonable heat, two dozen people attended the dedication of the new historic marker for William A. Lawrence on May 21. He merited their interest as the first President of the Village of Chester, among a myriad of lively roles there. The marker stands near the home Lawrence occupied when he lived in Chester.
Thanks to the law firm Cohen, LaBarbera and Landrigan, LLC, which now owns the gracious house at 99 Brookside Avenue, members of the Chester Historical Society were able to have the marker erected there. When Thomas Landrigin, Esq. unveiled and read the marker, o applause followed.
Thanks also to the firm, attendees were able to seek shelter from the heat on the home’s veranda and porte cochère.
Chester Historical Society members had obtained a grant from the Pomeroy Foundation and had the marker erected.
Those who delivered remarks at the dedication included Chester Historical Society President Judy Barry, who gave the welcoming address and spoke about the Historical Society; Orange County Historian Johanna Porr Yaun who thanked the volunteers who brought this history to light; Chester Historical Society Trustee Nancy Hom George, who spoke about Chester’s historic markers; Clif Patrick, Town of Chester Historian and Leslie Smith, Chester Historical Society Trustee; both were responsible for obtaining the grant that made the occasion possible.
Patrick spoke about the history of the Pomeroy Foundation and Smith spoke about William A. Lawrence and his significance for Chester. She did extensive research on Lawrence.
“Lawrence was a civic leader and famous for the manufacture of Neufchatel and cream cheese which was made in Chester until 1925,” said Smith. “The cheese factory, demolished in 1939, was also located on the site along with a sugar factory that made a powdered coating for pills. The cream cheese formula was sold to Alvah Reynolds who marketed it under the name “Philadelphia Brand” cream cheese.”
Smith cited Lawrence’s many civic contributions to Chester:
Lawrence was instrumental in the creation and incorporation of the Village, a necessary step to enable taxation to finance a water system, after a disastrous fire exposed the need. He served on the first Board of Water Commissioners and he was also a founding member of Walton Hose, Chester’s fire department.
Lawrence was elected the first President of the village and re-elected repeatedly. In 1906, with partner J. T. Thompson, he built the Lawrence block on Main Street in the lower village.
Along the way he had a colorful assortment of roles:
· Trustee of Chester Methodist Church for thirty years
· Director of the Chester National Bank
· Justice of the Peace for the Town of Chester
· President of the Horse Thief Detective Society
· A director of the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital
· A director of the Orange County Fair
· Instrumental in establishing a Chester Board of Trade
· Involved in bringing electricity and telephone service into Chester
· A director of the Orange County Driving Park Association, today known as Goshen Historic Track
· Chairman of the committee for the Harriman Memorial fountain in Goshen.
Clif Patrick thanked those responsible for the event: “We could not have done this without the support, cooperation, and contributions of the Village of Chester, Chester’s Street Department, Lawrence family descendants, local historical archives, researchers, and of course, our hosts today and current custodians of William A. Lawrence’s former home: Cohen, LaBarbera & Landrigan.
To see a recording of the event, email the Chester Historical Society at email@example.com and request a link.
Lawrence was instrumental in the creation and incorporation of the Village, a necessary step to enable taxation to finance a water system, after a disastrous fire exposed the need.