"The Castle"
Hillcrest, Binghamton, New York

(click on photos for larger view)

Image courtesy of Rev. Gordon Warner     

In the 1930s through 1970s several generations kids in Hillcrest (well, boys mostly) would play army or just hang out at a place known as "The Castle." 1 No one knew exactly what it was or had been but it was a two- or three-story concrete structure that apparently had been destroyed by fire, as attested by the charred beams among the debris. It was on the east side of the D.L.&W. Railroad line running north and south through Hillcrest and in close proximity to the Pilgrim Holiness Campground. The above photo was taken in about 1925 or 1930 looking east across the tracks from the end of Fenton Avenue and shows "The Castle" as it appeared before the fire. The aerial view below shows the location of The Castle and the remains of its concrete walls  as it appeared in 1967.  By then the balconies and facade seen above had disappeared.

Photo copyright historicaerials.com (Do not copy)
The satellite view below shows The Castle's location as before it was torn down by current owner of the property who had what was left of it torn down after purchasing it in the 1980s. The Castle and its original boundaries are shown in yellow while the boundaries of the current property parcels are shown in orange. The Castle foot print appears slightly smaller than the above aerial photo. It is scaled according to the initial dimensions as described in the 1913 newspaper article that follows.  The southern boundary of The Castle property was the line separating the Town of Fenton from the Town of Dickinson. As seen in both images Franklin Avenue previously continued directly across the railroad (arrows) to the Franklin Avenue Extension for access to both The Castle and the Pilgrim Holiness Campground to the right.  That crossing was closed after an accident on the tracks in 1995 so that now the Extension can only be reached by way of Nowlan Road a block to the north.

In 1905, the Pentecostal Rescue Mission of Binghamton began holding "holiness camp meetings" in the Macomber farm grove in the Town of Fenton north of Port Dickinson.2   In 1913 the Pentecostal Mission Camp Meeting Association announced that it would build a three-story orphanage for 200 children near the campground at Macomber Grove for which purpose land was transferred to Rev. Preston Kennedy by Mr. Macomber.3  The following year an unfortunate event occurred at the new orphanage where it was alleged that a small boy was horsewhipped by an employee who was soon removed. Although the boy is not named in the newspaper, it is possible that he was one of the three boys who were caught earlier in the month taking a boat and a canoe from a nearby campsite. All three were were inmates in the orphanage.  In 1918 a second unfortunate event occurred when several children were nearly overcome by coal gas fumes.

The Fourteenth Annual Conference of the Pentecostal Rescue Mission opened on Tuesday, March 18, 1919. The following Saturday at 2:30 P.M. the conference concluded with the dedication ceremony of the orphanage. Three groups of four directors were elected to serve three, two, and one year terms, with annual elections held in subsequent years to replace the outgoing directors. Rev. Preston Kennedy was named as Superintendent of the Home for the next three years.  Rev. Henry Olsen of Trappe, Md. preached the dedication sermon. 

The same year as the dedication yet another unfortunate event occurred.  On September 17, 1919 nine-year-old Norman Carter, while climbing a tree near the orphanage, accidentally touched an electrical wire and was thrown to the ground with some serious injury.4  

The 1920 U.S. Census counted only forty-six orphans (26 boys, 20 girls) ranging in age from fourteen to one year old. In April that same year the Wyoming Conference Children's Home was incorporated. About the time it was dedicated in 1922 Rev. Kennedy had left the Pentecostal Rescue Mission of Binghamton which was dissolved and its membership was received into The International Holiness Church.
Rev. Kennedy organized The Evangelical and Missionary Training Home of New York, Inc. The former Pentecostal Home (known over the years variously as the Chenango or Chenango Valley Orphanage) became the Orphanage of the Evangelical and Missionary Training Home of New York. It was soon closed, however,  apparently due to declining enrollment but also primarily because of serious financial difficulties incurred by Rev. Kennedy.5

Image courtesy of Rev. Gordon Warner

As a result of the coal gas incident in 1918, Rev. Kennedy had set to work on a device to prevent future such problems. Whether or not he actually "invented" the Little Giant Coal-Gas Consumer  as the newspaper account states, the device was offered for sale by The Little Giant Co. in February, 1923.6 The following July an action was brought in the Broome County Supreme Court against Rev. Kennedy and others to foreclose on a mortgage of about $13,000 held by Caleb P. Whipple on 13 acres of land including Rev. Kennedy's home and the former orphanage. On July 11, 1923 a judgement of foreclosure in favor of Mr. Whipple and against Rev. Kennedy and others was entered in the Broome County Clerk's Office. A public auction of the properties was scheduled for August 24, 1923 at 10:30 a.m. at the front door of the Broome County  Court House in Binghamton. Exactly what happened next is a little unclear.
Beginning on May 5, 1924 classified advertisements for "Castle Apartments" located on Franklin Avenue began to appear (right).7  These ads ran continuously for two months through July 8, with one final ad on October 4 1924.

On October 17, 1924 Little Giant Gas Consumer, Inc. brought a foreclosure action against Preston and Ina B. Kennedy.  It appears that Rev. Kennedy had been able to arrange another mortgage for $13,000 through Little Giant Gas Consumer, Inc. to purchase back the properties and pay off Mr. Whipple.  This mortgage went unpaid a year later, however, resulting in the foreclosure action and sale (see the display ad below left and note the suggestion of using the building as an apartment house). In March 1925 it was announced that referee Chamberlain had transferred the Orphanage to The Little Giant Gas Consumer Co., Inc. Then one month later on Friday, April 24, 1925 without any prior advertising another notice (right) appeared only the day before the sale. 

In tax years 1925 and 1926 Ellis Fahs, as the occupant of record, was apparently responsible for payment of delinquent taxes of $331.42 overdue from the previous year, although Rev. Kennedy was apparently still associated with it as noted in the Tax Sale Notice at right.  Mr. Fahs had since moved to 18 Beacon Street.  It wasn't until 1927 that the Broome County Treasurer's Office realized that it had been assessing the wrong parties for the taxes which by then hadn't been paid for several years.8

It seems that the Little Giant Gas Consumer Company had failed in its hasty attempt to sell the property in April, 1925 and was stuck with it. For the next eighteen years the taxes went unpaid until a new state law made it simpler for the Broome County Board of Supervisors to take possession of it. The supervisors solicited bids on the property, now known as No. 8-4-11 on the tax map or as the Pentecostal Missionary Home, to be submitted not later than 10:00 a.m. March 6, 1944, but apparently no one was interested. It wasn't until 1953 that attorney Henry R. Multer purchased it from the county perhaps hoping to subdivide it into building lots.  Unfortunately there was apparently still no interest until finally the current owner decided it to add it to his adjacent property.

Aerial view of Link Aviation on Nowlan Road with The Castle (circled) in the background,  courtesy of John Burtis

If you have any photos, additional information, or corrections please contact Dick Martz


Very special thanks to Rev. Gordon Warner, Darryl White, and John Burtis for the use of their photos of The Castle, and to John Leipfert and Esther Aswad for their extensive knowledge of it. Thanks also to George Dermody, Cheryl Holcomb-Mammano, Bill Pomeroy, and Ron Wellman for their contributions to this page.

1. Hillcrest is an unincorporated suburb in the Town of Fenton, Broome County, New York north of Binghamton along the east side of the Chenango River. It was established in 1910 by real estate developer Frederick W. Parsons and at first called "Hillcrest Park." A "generation" in grade school is about two years but not more than three years.

2. Theodore Macomber (1875 -1958) was a major land owner and farmer in the Town of Fenton. In 1910 he along with W.T. Henry and Floyd O. Hotchkiss filed articles of incorporation for the Port Dickinson & Fenton Independent Telephone Company. In 1914 Macomber filed a U.S. patent for a "Vehicle Runner."

  3.  According to some oral tradition it was originally built as a home for unwed mothers.  This is supported by an event in 1914 in which a young woman died after the birth of her child at the Pentecostal Mission in downtown Binghamton. The  Department of Health investigated to see if the Mission fell under the law pertaining to the regulation of maternity hospitals. Although the new orphanage would have made it possible to also move the maternity ward outside Binghamton city limits the first occupants were all boys.  The orphanage was later sold and is possible that is when it became used as a home for unwed mothers. Research continues.

4. Unfortunately, Mr. Carter waited until nineteen years later to file his suit against the Rescue Mission et. al., which was dismissed by the court as being too late.  It is mentioned in the same article that the orphanage ceased to exist in about 1923. 

5. Interestingly, none of the orphans from the former Pentecostal orphanage appear in the 1925 New York State census listing for the Wyoming Conference Children's Home. 

6. In 1923 a certificate of incorporation was filed in the office of the Secretary of State in Albany, NY by the Little Giant Gas Consumer, Inc. of Binghamton with the object of dealing in coal gas consumers, etc.  The corporation began business with $10,000 with capital stock valued at $100,000. Preston Kennedy, Robert E. Gardinor, and Anna Perry Gardinor were the directors, with Robert E. Gardnor serving as corporate attorney.

7. The contact person named in the ad,  Ellis I.  Fahs, was a prominent master painter and paperhanger with offices in downtown Binghamton. Mr. Fahs' son, Gordon R. Fahs (b. 1917),  once told the current owner of The Castle property that as a child he recalled riding his tricycle on the its second floor balcony at about the time his father was the contact for Castle Apartment. At the same time Mr. Fred Castle was a building contractor who lived on Beacon Street directly across from Ellis I. Fahs. His wife Rose Castle was a property developer conducting transactions throughout the Town of Fenton. Taken altogether this suggests that Mr. and Mrs. Castle were associated with the Castle Apartment which was in fact the former Pentecostal orphanage building, but this has not been confirmed.

8. By then the principals of The Little Giant Gas Consumer Co., Inc. had moved on. Already in 1925 the Gardinors had relocated to Maine, Broome, County, NY where Robert was now a minister in the Methodist church.  The Kennedys have not been found in the New York State census for 1925, however on July 9, 1925 the announcement of the engagement of their son. Leon, to Miss Eda Mae Whitelaw mentioned they were living in Schenectady. In 1923, the same year as the incorporation of the Little Giant Gas Co., Ina B. Kennedy had transferred their home adjacent to The Castle to George. F. Carlin and wife. In 1930 Rev. Kennedy was an "undenominational" evangelist living in Middleburgh, Schoharie County, New York and for several years had been conducting services in New Jersey and Delaware. 


American Gas Journal, Vol. 119, No. 8, page 166, August 25, 1923

Burtis, John, "'Crick' holds fond memories of a freer time",  Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton, NY, Tuesday, June 20, 1995, p. 5A

Hitt, Maurice R., History of the Port Dickenson Pickle Factory & The Connection to the Development of Hillcrest, NY,  pub. Maurice Hitt, 2017

"Minutes of the Yearly Meeting", Fourteenth Annual Session, Pentecostal Rescue Mission, 1919

Pilgrim Holiness Church  of New York

The Binghamton Press, Friday, November 21, 1913, p. 10

The Binghamton Press, Friday, April 10, 1914, p. 3

The Binghamton Press, Friday, June 29, 1915, p. 2

The Binghamton Press, Wednesday, July 26, 1922, p. 1

The Binghamton Press, Saturday, February 24, 1923, p. 1

The Binghamton Press, Thursday, April 2, 1925, p. 28

The Binghamton Press, Monday, December 5, 1938, p. 3

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