Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The Babbott Room in "The Octagon" at Amherst College.

Frank L. Babbott

Native and Benefactor of Waterville, Dead December 14, 1933 Waterville Times (Front Page)

First Graduate of the Waterville High School, Donor of Community Playground and Generous Giver to Public Library and Local Churches.

Frank Lusk Babbott, a native son of Waterville and philanthropist of many local activities, died last Thursday morning in his home at 149 Lincoln Place, Brooklyn, of pneumonia. He had been ill for two months. He was 79 years old.

Funeral services were held Saturday morning in the Memorial Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, and interment was made in Greenwood Cemetery.

Mr. Babbott was born in Waterville on August 14, 1854, the son of Miller and Mary Elizabeth (Crandall) Babbott. He attended the Waterville Union Free School and was the only member of the first graduating class in 1874. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst in 1878 and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Columbia two He studied law for a few years in the office of E. H. Lamb in Waterville. In 1903 he was made an honorary Master of Arts by Amherst and subsequently an honorary Doctor of Laws.
Mr. Babbott married on February 18, 1886, Miss Lydia Richardson Pratt of Brooklyn. Mrs. Babbott is dead but he leaves a son, Dr. Frank L. Babbott, Jr., president of Long Island College of Medicine, and three daughters, Mrs. William S. Ladd of Manhattan, Mrs. S. Emlen Stokes of Moorestown, N.J., and Mrs. Helen MacDonald, London, England.
Although a Bachelor of Laws, Mr. Babbott entered upon a business career, being a director and officer of the Chelsea Jute Mills from 1883 to 1901 when he retired. During this period he traveled extensively and made a thorough study of the jute industry particularly in foreign countries. He was also a trustee of the Brooklyn Trust Company and the Brooklyn Savings Bank and a director of the Engineers Public Service Company.

Distinguished in Art and Literature

Since his retirement in 1901, Mr. Babbott's outstanding public interests were the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, of which he was honorary president, and Packer Collegiate Institute, of which he was president. He was president of the Brooklyn Institute from 1921 to 1929 and a trustee of the Packer Institute for forty years.
In 1932 he received one of five awards of the Neighborhood Club of Brooklyn, "for distinguished service to the cultural and civic life of Brooklyn."

Art Collecting His Hobby

Because of his hobby of art collecting, he was especially interested in the Brooklyn Museum of the institute. With Mrs. Frederic B. Pratt, he arranged the Italian Renaissance Hall of the museum, which was opened in 1932 and donated many pieces of the collection.
In 1927 he presented to the museum embroidered silk garments belonging to the late Dowager Empress Tze-shi of China. In 1926 he contributed, $5,000 to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden of the institute, as part of a fund of $500,000 being raised to meet John D. Rockefeller Jr's contingent gift of $250,000.
Mr. Babbott was a member of the Brooklyn Board of Education from 1895 to 1902 and of the New York Board of Education from 1902 to 1906, being vice president of the latter from 1902 to 1904.

His Many Interests

He was a trustee of the Brooklyn Public Library for thirty years, honorary vice president of the Brooklyn Free Kindergarten Society, a trustee of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, vice president of the Municipal Art Commission, a member of the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church from 1906 to 1917, president of the Eugenic Research Association in 1927 and a member of the Memorial Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, and of the First Presbyterian Church, Glen Cove, L.I.
In 1925 he was named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France, in recognition of his work in the cause of education and of art, as well as for his sympathy with France, particularly during the war. He was also a commander, second degree, Dannebrogordenen, a Danish decoration.

Interested in Italian Art

As an art collector, Mr. Babbott in recent years was especially interested in Italian primitive paintings. His collection, which is notable for quality rather than quantity, includes the work of Carlo Crivelli and Lorenzo Monaco. It also includes four paintings by Arthur Davies, etchings and lithographs by whistler, and Chinese pottery and porcelain.
Mr. Babbott compiled an~ edited "Classic English Odes," privately printed in 1902 and "John Donne's Poems," in 1905.
He was a member of Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa Society and many prominent clubs.
Besides his town home in Brooklyn, he maintained a summer residence at Glen Cove, L.I.

A Tribute

The New York Times on December 9 paid him the following tribute:
The late Frank L. Babbott was sometimes called The First Citizen of Brooklyn. Yet he never sought or held public office, except membership in the Board of Education. It was enough for him to lay upon his spirit the lowliest duties, at the same time that he gave time and strength and money to the institutions which stand for the highest aims in art and music and education. through his constant aid and leadership they became a power for "joy in widest commonalty spread."
It is needless to repeat the long list of his activities and services in behalf of the city where he lived. Into that multifarious work he poured the life-blood of a master spirit. For his personality, so generous, so genial and sympathetic, was greater than anything he did. To him a multitude of friends were bound by links of affection and admiration which nothing byt his death could sever. His praise today is in the hearts of many who never knew him except through the benefits which came to them from his philanthropic and public-spirited activities. But the severest wrench will be felt by those who were admitted to the intimacy of his friendship.
A lover and patron of art, he also had a delicate and sure taste in literature. Two volumes which he edited and privately printed show the resource and reinforcement which he always found in the best poetry. In the preface which he wrote for his reprint of "Poems of John Donne," he explained that he had selected only what he thought pure as well as beautiful, omitting the grossness found in other collections, in order that his own might "give greater pleasure by giving less offense."
His life furnished a long and fine example of what may be done in the public service by a man who prefers to re main a private citizen. So long as our country can count upon the impulse which comes from such men as Mr. Babbott, we need not despair too much, because comparison with him of too many in office is so sadly to their discredit.

Generous to His Home town

Although Mr. Babbott's interests were naturally greatest in Brooklyn where he made his home, yet he never forgot the village of his birth and his school days here.
He was greatly interested in young people and their recreational advantages. In 1916 when a movement was underway here to establish an athletic field, Mr. Babbott voluntarily sought out the committee having the project in charge and offered to furnish and equip a recreational field. Our well known "Babbott Field" was the result, which he gave to the community, fully equipped and endowed for its upkeep. It was a gift that will always be remembered in the hearts of our young people.
He was a generous giver to the Presbyterian and Baptist Churches in Waterville and to the Waterville Public Library.
in 1919 Mr. Babbott was the speaker at the commencement exercises of the Waterville High School and he took that occasion to voice his love for the institution in which he spent his boyhood years. The following Christmas he anonymously gave fifty dollars to every teacher in the school. Two years ago he visited the new Waterville Central School and was much interested in the use that had been made of the $50,000 gift to the school made by his friend, George Eastman.

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