I've got a lot of old photo albums that were inherited from my family. In one book, there are photos of my mother at a place called The Lembke Farm, where she would vacation before (and around the time) she met my father (1924-1926). I have since found out that many farmers would rent out rooms to people from the city seeking an inexpensive week or two in the country, to help supplement their income; sounds like a bed & breakfast or dude ranch concept. Since I was a child, I'd been looking at these photos from the Lembke Farm and wondering where it was located. I never thought to ask my mom before she passed away in 1980.
A few years ago, while doing my genealogy research, and going through some old family papers, I discovered letters my mom wrote to my dad from the farm; they were postmarked "Leeds, NY." Leeds is a small town in the Catskill Mountains, upstate New York. I decided to try and find the Farm (or whatever was left of it).
For Father's Day weekend, 2004, my son, Ken, and I were camping in the Catskills and decided to look for the Lembke Farm. Armed with copies I made of the old photos, we drove to Leeds (near Catskill, off Route 23, just west of the NYS Thruway) and drove around looking for houses that looked like the one in the photos. We also asked people in town if they had ever heard of the place; some folks thought they knew where it was and directed us to what, inevitably, turned out to be wrong.
Stopping at one house we found that looked similar, however, we met a man who actually knew of the Lembke family; he went to school with the grandson of the original owner of the farm. In addition, he directed us to where that man now lived (in Catskill, about five miles away); we drove over and found the place. After knocking on his door and showing him my pictures of the old farm house, Ernie Lembke told us all about the old farm (he was born in that house) and gave us directions to find it. He told us his father had died just a few months earlier to our visit, at the age of 101, and undoubtedly would have remembered my mother.
"I'm sure he would have loved to see those photos and talk to you about the old days," he said.
We eventually came upon the place and met the current owner of the house, Mrs. Alma Veverka. She was amazed to hear of our search and filled us in on the history of the farm, showing us additional photos from her collection as well.
(The Lembke Farm, in 1925)
(The house in 2004)
(Side additions had been added to the house by the time of this 1926 photo; back to front & left to right: "Marie (another guest as the farm), Ernie (Sr.- the man who passed away shortly before my visit), Madeline (my mom), Mrs. Klopfer, Fred, Mrs. Curtin, Louise & Mr. K" as the writing on the back of the photo tells us.)
(My son, Ken, poses with the current owner of the house in this 2004 photo.)
(1925 side view of the main house & guest quarters.)
(2004 side view.)
All photos © 2004 by Ken Bausert.
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