DR. STEPHEN ELIJAH CHURCHILL, A Stamford Visionary --by Karen Cuccinello
Dr. Churchill pretty much devoted his entire life to the betterment and improvement of Stamford. He
promoted education, orchestrated financing and organized a village water and sewage system, and was
the founder and developer of Stamford's two largest hotels.
Stephen was born September 7, 1841 in Stamford, NY to Elijah and Sarah Ann (Benedict) Churchill.
He was the forth child born into a family of seven and was christened at the 1st Presbyterian Church in
Stamford on March 2, 1842. The home he grew up in was built by his father in 1840 and was situated
between Stamford and Hobart. Stephen attended school in the Mud Schoolhouse District, the Stamford
Seminary, Yale (I believe he was at Yale for one year, in preparation to attend medical school), and
finally the College of Physicians and Surgeons of NYC in 1875.
He was a farmer on his families farm, teacher in district schools, principal and owner of Stamford
Seminary (1865- 1872), doctor in Scranton, PA 1876 and Stamford starting in 1877, became president
of the newly formed Stamford Water Company in 1880 and then got into the hotel business.
In 1871 two couples from down-state came to Stamford and stayed at his "Ladies Hall" boarding
house that was really intended for students of the Seminary. The visitors commented that "Stamford
has a future" (as a summer resort town). Stephen hung on to that comment and opened Churchill Hall
July 4, 1883. The hotel cost $94,000 to build. He spent a lot of time and money on advertising his
hotel in NYC newspapers and it is said that he coined the phrase "The Queen of the Catskills" for
September 22, 1883 Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertizement- Come and See the Mountains in All Their
Glory, Churchill Hall – In the village of Stamford, at the foot of Mount Utsayanthe: Open through the
month of October: 1,800 feet above sea level: five minutes walk from depot. The house is new;
beautifully located; heated by steam; lighted by gas; hot and cold water on each floor; terms from $7 to
$10 per week; 75 guests now registered.
Over the next 16 years Churchill Hall grew to be four hotels all attached by covered porches.
He briefly partnered with two other men and built a hotel in Florida in 1888. This was the first and
probably only time that he was South of Washington, DC.
From 1885-1897 he constructed lakes and roadways that became Churchill Park. The Rexmere was
built within Churchill Park and completed in 1898 at a cost of $75,000. The Rexmere was the epitome
of luxury and could accommodate 350 guests. Dr. Churchill ran it for 10 years then leased it to some
1869- He purchased the Red School House (district school), it became the ice house for Churchill Hall.
January 26,1869 Bloomville Mirror- The Stamford Seminary has 162 students, ten more than the
Delaware Literary Institute, at Franklin.
1872 -The Ulster & Delaware Railroad came to Stamford.
1874 Stamford Mirror (SM)- Gave a little speech at a Library Association (Judson Library) fundraiser
held at his hall.
April 1878 SM advertisement- S.E. Churchill M.D. Physician & Surgeon, Stamford, NY- Office at the
Odell House, Brooklyn. Open day and night. When absent calls may be left with Nathan Coe.
August 1879 SM - Families in this vicinity who desire to take one or more of 'Fresh Air Children,' will
call on Dr. S. E. Churchill, Stamford.
May 31, 1881 SM- Dr. Churchill is very successful in fishing for tape-worms. Last week he obtained
one over 30 feet long (I double checked, and yes it says feet) from a man residing near Hobart. The best thing is, he gets the head with the body, and that stops the trouble. - Fisher G. Rulifson received the appointment as post-master, the office will be removed to Dr. S.E. Churchill's new drug store and Miss Vessie Churchill will be assistant P.M.
1892- He was a member of the Stamford Electric Company that was formed 1892 and was president of
the Stamford Seminary board of education.
March 12, 1892 SM- He paid the village $8.10 side walk tax.
1893 -Sewage system was completed.
January 27,1895 NY Sun- The tower that Dr. Churchill and George C. Gibbs built on Mount
Utsayantha was blown over and hurled down the mountain side.
1895- The S.E. Churchill Hook and Ladder Company was formed. Stephen took an active roll in
supporting this fire department.
June 2,1897 Brooklyn Daily Eagle advertisement- Churchill Hall- An ideal health resort, 1,800 feet
elevation, heated throughout, electric lights. Special rates for June. Apply to E.R. Jenkins at Hotel St.
George, Brooklyn June 8 & 9, 3 to 6PM for terms, diagram of rooms and full particulars. Through
Wagner train from 42nd St. NY by summer schedule. S.E. Churchill M.D.
1900 Stamford Township census -Stephens household consisted of his mother, four boarders, two
sisters, a cook, chore man, daughter of the cook and chore man, housekeeper, night clerk and servant.
1906- He and his sister went to the National Womens Christian Temperance Union meeting, held in
1912- Ran for the Assembly on the National Progressive Party (Bull Moose) ticket. I do not believe
that he won.
1980-The Churchill Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A "Foote" history and genealogy mentions Willard O. Decker (B: 1857) as a coachman for Stephen.
One of his hotel guests was Thomas E. Edison who he questioned about his invention of the
incandescent lamp. Stephen asked him what was your most wonderful invention and Edison said the
phonograph. I did not find a year for this event.
Dr. Stephen E. Churchill died October 29, 1917 in Stamford. In his will he left $25,000 to build a
library (the school district voted to raise $20,000 more so that the building could be a library and
gymnasium) and bequeathed to the village the 20 acre Mount Utsayantha property (where the fire
tower is) to be a park. He wrote at the end of his will "with earnest wishes for the growth and
prosperity of my beloved Stamford, the place of my nativity, and with peace and good will toward
men." He is buried in the Stamford Cemetery.
References: My Reminiscences of an Active Life by Dr. Stephen E Churchill, scrapbooks,postcards and
photos housed in the Stamford Village Library History Room, and familysearch.org, fultonhistory.com.