The History of The Hermitage
By Dr. Brian Henry Desilets, Dr. Linus Richard Foy, and John Patrick Noone
In 1905, with the help of Father H. Havens Richards, SJ, St. Ann's Hermitage was the first building in Poughkeepsie bought by the Marist Brothers. It had been the homestead of the Mac Pherson family. Brother Zepheriny, FMS, purchased this estate from its owner, Mrs. Goodwin of New York City. The property which was at that time a mile outside the city of Poughkeepsie included some 35 acres north of the Waterworks Road and sold for $9,000. Some accounts state that a large part of the price came, with the agreement of his sister, from Brother Zepheriny's patrimony. There is no specific statement to that effect in the official records, but two extracts from the deliberations of the General Council of the Brothers at that time shed some light on the subject (cf. minutes of the council Feb 15, 1905.) For more details see Go to the Land I Will Show You, p.96 by Leonard Voegtle, FMS.
This building was used as a Provincial House until the early fifties. In addition to the provincial administration, it usually housed about 75 to 130 scholastics. There was a chapel with a pipe organ where daily Mass was celebrated by a Jesuit from St. Andrew's. The provincial tailors who made the cassocks for all the brothers in the province, as well as their young brother assistants, lived there with the director, a cook and several young brothers who helped in the print shop, garden and laundry. A farmer who took care of the cows and pigs, and two farmers who maintained an extensive vegetable garden and greenhouse across from St. Peter's, also resided in the Hermitage. There was also an infirmary that housed anywhere from five to thirteen brothers needing medical attention.
The Fire at The Hermitage
Between 1955 to 1957 the original Fontaine Hall was built to house the scholastics, the faculty was moved to St. Peter's, and the infirmary was relocated to Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. The farmers were moved to St. Peter's. This left the Hermitage empty.
Bill Duncan from Pleasant Valley was hired to demolish the old building. He decided that the fastest way to demolish the building was to hit it with a demolition ball; therefore, he attached one of the furnaces to a crane and proceeded to try to knock down the building. All he succeeded in doing was to put holes in the walls thus making the building unsafe to enter.
On October 23, 1958, at about 8 a.m., a fire broke out in the building. This created great confusion both on campus and across Rte.9 at Western Printing. Men were quickly put on the roof of the Western Printing building to water down any sparks which came from the Hermitage fire. Flames soared a hundred feet into the air and the building burned to the ground. No attempt was made to extinguish the flames. So ended a building which had served the Marist Brothers for more than 50 years.