Prior to its current use as a site for family reunions and retreats of all sorts, Big Indian Springs has served as everything from a family hunting lodge to a ballet school to a series of camps for boys and girls to a bed & breakfast.
Before the current structure was built, the site was home to a barrel manufacturing facility. The surrounding woods were the source of oak for the barrels. Once manufactured, the barrels were carted to the Hudson River 30 miles away and floated downstream to New York City!
By the early 1900's the core part of the present structure was in place and used as a hunting lodge by the family of (to be) New York Governer Herbert Lehman. In the 'teens and twenties, the building was expanded and operated as a camp by the Jewish Working Girls' Vacation Society of New York City. We understand that young women working in the City's garment district were brought to Big Indian for a week of fresh air, before being put back to work in the mills and factories of New York.
In the 1930's and 40's there was a camp for boys operated under the auspices of the depression-era WPA (Works Progress Administration). And in 1999 we were paid a visit by one of those campers -- a man in his late 70's! He was in the area and wanted to take a look to remind him of the time he spent there in his youth. He told us it looked a little different, but close enough to bring back lots of memories.
One day in the early 1990's, a middle-aged couple with a carload of children drove up and explained that the husband's parents had owned Big Indian Springs in the late 50's and operated a camp there, starting when he was 9 years old. He, too, wanted to look around for old times' sake and share some of his youth with his own children. We were happy to accompany him and learn a little more of the history of Big Indian Springs.
In the early 1960's Big Indian Springs became the home of Esther Deak's Ballet & Sports Camp. Esther was a Hungarian ballerina who came to this country in the 1950's for medical treatment for a dance injury. She learned she could no longer dance professionally and turned her attention to teaching young girls and teen-agers the art of ballet -- both in White Plains and Big Indian. Esther would play surrogate mother to as many as 70 girls at a time and continued to do so for 25 years. Many of these budding ballerinas have also stopped by to visit and show their children.
In the mid 1990's, after some years as a family get-away, Big Indian Springs opened its doors as a bed & breakfast and then converted to the reunion and retreat site it is today!