Beginnings [1, 2]
Among Hunter's three famed residential parks (Onteora, Twilight and Elka), Onteora stands out for its association with a number of prominent artists, the large role that women played in its early design and development, and its rich and varied domestic architecture. The community had its origins when Candace Wheeler, her brother Francis B. Thurber and his wife Jeanette, fell in love with the area and purchased a 108-acre farm two miles north of Tannersville in 1883. The trio built the first few cottages on the property as summer residences. They were described as "quaintly constructed cottages ... near Star Rock, one of the grandest vistas to be had of the valley ... called the Kaaterskill Clove." In 1888 the Thurbers purchased an adjacent 458-acre farm as the site of a proposed cottage community. The property was in turn sold to the Catskill Mountains Camp and Cottage Company, which served as the developer. The Onteora Club, composed of stockholders of the company, was founded in 1889. Additional cottage holders and renters were elected annually. After several additional transactions the Onteora Club became a corporation in 1903, the same year that a third farm, of 309 acres, was added to its holdings.
Candace Wheeler, a prominent textile designer, and her family were the driving forces behind the planning and development of Onteora Park. Between 1883 and 1888 they brought friends to the community to enjoy a rustic lifestyle devoted to the arts and inspired by the stunning natural beauty of the site. Over time, the club developed as a summer home for artists, writers, academics, and others, many of them famous. Today, the club includes more than 123 buildings, a golf course, tennis courts, a theater, a field house, a pool, and numerous rustic trails. Cottages are eclectic in design, incorporating motifs from a wide range of popular period styles and range in size from simple, small-scale structures to sophisticated and imposing complexes. Among the well-known architects represented are Edward Payne, Dunham Wheeler, George Agnew Reid, Lewis A. Coffin and William Wells Bosworth.
Today, Onteora is just as idyllic a spot, where residents enjoy the rugged beauty of the surroundings, hiking, fishing, the sporting life and the arts. There are more than 80 cottages; a fieldhouse for community events, dining and art exhibitions; a library with active programming and readings throughout the summer; as well as a theatre where children and adults perform two plays each season. Onteora has six clay tennis courts and its own, private golf course for members and affiliates.