From the Mississippi boat captain who traveled to Roxbury to build a family summer house, to the current owners, an Oscar winning filmmaker and his husband, there’s plenty of history here…
1850: Captain Patterson
The property was established by Captain William Patterson in the 1850s. Patterson was a Mississippi boat captain, and he built his new summer home in the Catskills because his first mate was from Roxbury (he actually lived in the house next door).
Patterson first built the small house on the corner with Scott Green Road, right next to the current property. Then, as he gained fortune, he built the current residence, The Captain’s House, with its three-story bank barn.
The house and barn sat on 50 acres of land, with panoramic views of the valley. The house is a Center Hall Colonial, but the Captain built in some southern style architectural details. One of those details is the Widows Walk, the wrought iron rooftop platform. A popular romantic myth holds that platforms like these were used to observe vessels at sea. The wives of mariners would watch for their spouses’ return, often in vain as the ocean took the lives of the mariners, leaving the women as widows. Obviously, this house isn’t anywhere near the sea. But it definitely makes it the Captain’s House.
Apparently, there is a sister house identical to this one, on the Mississippi river.
1900-1945: Cluck Cluck
Around the turn of the century the property became a cauliflower farm. Then the barn, which had originally been built as a horse carriage barn, was converted into a chicken coop. Twenty-five windows were installed on the south-east side of the barn, as chickens need daylight.
However, the chicken business didn’t last very long, as gas rationing during World War II made the transportation costs of the eggs from Roxbury to New York City way too expensive. The chickens left, but the twenty-five windows that gave the barn its new, distinct look, stayed.
1945-1996: The Schreibers
Soon after, Winifred and Earl Schreiber took one look at the house and the barn and fell in love with it.
Like Patterson, Earl Schreiber was captain of a ship: he served on the USS Cassin Young during World War II, in the South Pacific. A week before leaving the Cassin Young he directed the rescue of 125 sailors from the doomed carrier, the USS Princeton, in late October 1944. Eventually being promoted to Rear Admiral, Schreiber later taught at the Navy’s post-grad school in Monterey, CA, and worked at the Pentagon.
Earl and Winifred Hofner married in 1934 and they had two children, Sara Nelle and Skip. Upon his retirement, the couple made their home in Roxbury, NY, where Winifred’s family had a place.
Admiral Schreiber taught at the Roxbury Central School while Winifred was active in Roxbury’s community. Daughter Sara Nelle died in 1973, Winifred died in 1983, and son Skip died in 1993.
Schreiber kept to himself in later years, allowing only a few people on the property, and storing large amounts of goods in the barn, which ended up packed to the roof. Admiral Schreiber, a Bronze Star recipient, passed away in 1996, 89 years old, and was buried with full military honors.
Our Carriage Barn is what is called a bank barn, getting its name from a simple but clever construction technique: the barn is built into the side of a cliff, thus permitting two levels to be entered from the ground.
The lower level of bank barns often housed animals, the upper levels served as threshing floor and storage. The hillside entrance gave easy access to wagons – and that is what the Roxbury Barn was built for originally – to serve as a horse carriage barn.
Nowadays, the lower level is where our caterer has their prep area. The floor above, with its main entrance through the big barn doors, forms the main event space, together with the baluster-lined top floor.
1999: The Glamorous Barn
Two years after Admiral Schreiber died at The Captain’s House, the movie You Can Count on Me was shot at the estate. The main characters, played by Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo, lived at The Captain’s House.
The film was nominated for two Oscars at the 2001 Academy Awards: Best Actress for Laura Linney and Best Original Screenplay. When Laura Linney walked the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre, Joan Rivers asked her about the shoot in the Catskills. Linney entrusted her that her dressing room was, in fact, a barn…
1999 – Present: “The Gold Standard”
Right after the film crew for You Can Count on Me left, the estate was bought by Roger Ross Williams, himself a filmmaker, and the first African American director to ever win an Academy Award.
He won his Oscar for the documentary Music by Prudence, and directed a wide variety of acclaimed films including the award-winning feature documentary God Loves Uganda, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was shortlisted for a 2014 Academy Award. His latest film, Life, Animated, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival to enormous critical acclaim. The film won over a dozen awards around the world as well as a 2017 Academy Award nomination.
Speaking of awards: his husband, Casper de Boer, once made his film debut as an actor in The Assault, winner of both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. A native of the Netherlands, he’s worked in film for decades, and in collaboration with his husband has produced, written or edited several documentary films, among which Blackface for CNN Films, The Remembrance for the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, and God Loves Uganda.
They cherish every day at the estate and have spent years building and fine-tuning it. And having welcomed guests for a decade now, the Roxbury Barn & Estate has established itself as a leading event venue, widely considered the ‘gold standard’ for Catskills celebrations.