Some of the most glorious buildings of Poughkeepsie and its surrounding communities were the work of one man, Arnout Cannon Jr. His vision gave us such masterpieces as the Masonic Temple on Cannon Street and Rhinecliff’s Wilderstein.
Many of the homes he designed are still cherished today. However, even with all of the beauty he created, his life was full of tragedy and it would come to a quick end.
Arnout Cannon Jr. was born in 1839, in Poughkeepsie, one of five sons of prominent builder Arnout Cannon Sr. He learned carpentry at a young age and stuied architecture under Frederick Draper in the city of New York.
Cannon served in the Civil War in the 128th NYS Volunteers and after the war became engaged in projects that included the Vassar Brothers Institute, and Vassar Brothers Old Men’s Home (now occupied by the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center). He gained substantial wealth when he created the Cannon Dumbwaiter.
In the mid-1880s Cannon began to focus exclusively on architectural design, building a residence and office at 204 Church Street in Poughkeepsie (only a portion of which is still standing).
Other notable projects include a row of brick townhouses on Church Street, and the William T. Reynolds house (now the Italian Center on Mill Street in Poughkeepsie), as well as several modest homes on Carroll and Montgomery streets and Hooker Avenue.
He also created more elaborate residences for well-to-do residents on Garfield Place and Balding Avenue, plus more.
“Arnout and his wife Ann Eliza had their first child Ida in 1862 when he joined the war (Ida lived a good long life). When he came back from service, they had their first son Herbert Lincoln Cannon in 1865. In 1867 they had Arnout Benjamin; both of these sons died from Scarlet Fever in 1868.
“Then Franklin was born in 1869 and Florence in 1870; both children died from Congestion of the brain. Edward was born in 1871 and died a day later from “weakness.” Next was Howard Arnout, born in 1872, who luckily lived a good long life.
“Then they had Valena in 1874 who died quickly from “spasms,” and finally Grace Ann was born in 1877, and though she lived a good long life, sadly her mother Ann Eliza died giving birth to her. So, in a quick span of 15 years, there would be nine children, six died young, the stress of which was too much for Ann, who passed at the age of 38.
“Arnout remarried and had another son, but he was no doubt heartbroken from all that had happened. In 1895, seemingly at the height of his success, Cannon developed some serious medical issues with his eyes and was forced to retire from the field he loved at only 56 years of age.
“On March 31, 1898, Cannon had breakfast in his home on Church street and walked to the nearby Masonic Temple just a few blocks away. That building was reportedly the favorite of all of his redesigns. It was there he took a seat in the empty hall, pointed a revolver to his heart, and fired. Arnout Cannon died at the scene and was laid to rest at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery.”
Shannon Butler, the Historian for the Poughkeepsie Public Library, will sares the work and life of Arnout Cannon Jr. at Staatsburgh Historic Site in Dutchess County, NY on March 24, 2024.
This event is part of Staatsburgh’s Tea & Talk series. Participants can enjoy tea and refreshments in the formal dining room while listening to talks about aspects of Gilded Age history.
The programs feature scones, tea sandwiches, sweets and the site’s Staatsburgh Blend tea, a custom blend created for the site by tea purveyors Harney & Sons.
More information, snow dates, registration can be found here.
The Staatsburgh State Historic Site preserves a Beaux-Arts mansion designed by McKim, Mead, and White and the home’s surrounding landscape in the hamlet of Staatsburg, Dutchess County, NY.
The historic site is located within Ogden Mills & Ruth Livingston Mills State Park at 75 Mills Mansion Drive, US-1 in Staatsburg.