Charitable trust keeps Hackett House refreshed

It has been 15 years since the Hackett House at the town’s Hackett Hill Park had a facelift, but that will all change this year through a $29,000 grant from the Charlotte Cunneen-Hackett Charitable Trust.

Since the grant had to be accepted by a non-profit organization, the Hyde Park Visual Environment Committee, chaired by Hilary Van Norstrand, agreed to assist the town and its Recreation Department in obtaining the funding, which the Town Board resolved to do at its Feb. 10 meeting.

Recreational Director Kathleen Davis was instrumental in obtaining the funding from the Hackett Trust. “The building was becoming weathered in many spots, and some wood was rotting,” she told the Observer. “So I began searching out possible funding and found that the Hackett fund, based on the history of our building, was very agreeable to providing it for us.”

Since no resources were placed in the town budget to halt the deterioration and to repair siding and porch columns, the town board agreed that the funding is very welcome.

“It is great having organizations like the Visual Environment Committee to spearhead obtaining funding for the town when non-profits are limited in how they may distribute awards,” 3rd Ward councilwoman Hannah Behrens told the Observer. “The funding benefits us in maintaining sites like the Hackett House, which are important to the history of Hyde Park.”

John Hackett, a distinguished district attorney in Dutchess County, built the house in 1868. He and his wife, the former Harriet Mulford, resided in the home until his death in 1916.

In 1919, one of his two sons, John Mulford Hackett, married Charlotte Cunneen, the daughter of John Cunneen and his wife, Elizabeth, who was a member of the prestigious Bass family of Boston. John and Charlotte, who were both lawyers, were married for 35 years, but had no children. He passed away in 1954, and by 1965, Charlotte Cunneen Hackett owned and resided at “Hackett Hill”.

She was known for her extraordinary drive, which focused often on aid to young people and scouting. In 1971, a year before her death, she established the charitable trust in her name to ensure continuous financial support for organizations she felt deserved funding. In 1969, in a public ceremony, she dedicated the house to the Boy Scouts of America as their headquarters in Dutchess County.

The Boy Scouts remained at the site until 1996, when the Dutchess headquarters merged with the Rockland and Hudson-Delaware Council. Before departing, the Boy Scouts arranged for the sale of the property to the Town of Hyde Park as a municipal park. Today, it is a prime recreational center in the town, and the site of the Paul Tegtmeier Memorial, which honors a New York City firefighter and town resident who was one of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy in September 2001.

The Hackett House is now used as the administrative offices for the town recreation department as well as a meeting space for the Trails and Shade Tree Committees. It is also used as an indoor facility for the town’s summer day camp during inclement weather.

Town Engineer Pete Setaro will assist in issuing bids for the renovation work. An RFP for the work will be issued next month, with bids to be awarded in May in order to allow the summer camp programs for approximately 125 campers to get underway in June.

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