Everyone who visits Cazenovia can easily see that it is a very special place, but most are unaware of the rich history of this area as well. The Brewster Inn is named after Benjamin Brewster, an American industrialist, financier, and one of the original trustees of Standard Oil. He was the fourth great grandson of Mayflower Head Pilgrim, William Brewster. He was however the first Brewster not to take up the profession of minister.
Born on June 30, 1828 in Norwich, Connecticut as a young man he eventually settled in San Francisco and opened a general store with his business partner Oliver Burr Jennings. As one of the only established businesses in town, once the gold rush hit Brewster was able to quickly amass a sizable fortune.
Upon his return to the east in 1874, Brewster took up residence in New York City and settled down with a nice woman. Not just anyone, Brewster married the sister of William Rockefeller's wife, and subsequently became involved with John D. Rockefeller as equal partners in The Standard Oil Company. Oliver Burr Jennings also became one of the original shareholders as well.
As any tycoon of his time, Brewster’s moneymaking interests were diverse! Not only was he involved in the oil business but also in railroads – building the Manhattan Elevated Railway. As with any wealthy New Yorker in the days before air-conditioning, once summertime came Brewster and his family headed to their summer home – in Cazenovia, NY.
Formerly a mill town, Cazenovia was gradually turning into lake-side tourist town. Established in 1794 by John Lincklaen, a young Dutch naval officer, the town’s namesake comes from Theophilus Cazenove, an agent with the Holland Land Company.
In 1890 Brewster built his summer home on the southern end of Cazenovia Lake which he named "Scrooby" after the English manor house where his ancestor William Brewster lived before setting sail on the Mayflower. This expansive mansion to this day remains one of the largest homes Cazenovia has ever seen – and it was only used 2 months each year! Today it houses 4 dining rooms, a large kitchen, and 9 guest rooms.
According to "Men of Progress: Leaders in Business & Professional Life" published in 1898 by New England Magazine,"For many years it had been his custom to pass the summer season in Cazenovia, New York and about five years previous to his death he erected at the south end of the Lake, on what is now Ledyard street, a handsome residence called "Scrooby" the name of the old English manor house which his illustrious ancestor relinquished in order to share the fortune of his fellow-worshippers in the New World." (page 287)
The Inn's elegance is richly enhanced by exquisite woodwork, including solid mahogany and antique quartered oak. Today, The Brewster Inn is a truly fine country inn catering to discerning diners and travelers.
Upon his death on September 4, 1897 (at age 69) in Cazenovia, a writer who enjoyed a long personal acquaintance with Brewster described him as a "Prince among men" because of his deep religious faith and his numerous benefactions.