Dunwald Family and Pine Park Cottage

The photo captures the Dunwald family in 1895 during construction of the Cottage.

The Cottage in the Pines is a boarding house, bungalow, and complex of outbuildings located in the rural hamlet of Rio within the town of Deerpark, New York. It has also been included on the National Register of Historic Places. You can see our
acceptance letter and application. William Dunwald (known as Peter) (b. 1820 d. ca. 1887) and Johanah Dunwald (b. 1825 d. ca. 1887) emigrated from Prussia around 1855.  Their first son, Peter, was born five years later.  In 1861, the family was living in Corning, where Peter obtained a patent for a better butter churn. By 1870 the family moved to New York City. Peter was a machinist and trained his sons Henry and Peter in the trade. In 1883, Peter married Mary Ellen Johnson (b.1866 d. 1945). They left New York City in the late 1880s after Henry died in a factory accident.

By the time Peter and Mary moved to Orange County, they had a small family. Eventually they had five children. Henrietta (Etta)(b.1884 d. 1956) Henrietta married George Covert around 1908 and moved to Hiawatha, Kansas.  Harry (b.1887 d.1964 m. Eugenia (Jennie) Wagner) Peter (b.1891 d.1964 m. Winifred Wagner (b.1901 d.1997), Mary(May) (b.1895 d.1973) and Charles (b. 1900 d.1977). In Rio the family was engaged in community life. Peter, Mary and the family begin construction of the Cottage in the Pines around 1895.

Cottage in the Pines is typical of other boarding houses in the area.. It is a large and airy white painted house with a huge porch overlooking the forest.  It has the fanciful details of other late 1800 homes in the area: fish scale siding, slate roofs, (the Cottage had chisel point tiles), windows that opened to the breeze.  The rooms are generous and the home inviting. It looks very much like some of the more generous homes in Port Jervis with one exception.  The Dunwalds used trunks and branches for columns and rails, a design more reminiscent of the Adirondacks than of the Shawangunks but in keeping with the forest setting. Other homes in Hartwood and Merriewold use natural materials to the same effect: pebble cladding, rough sawn shingles and fieldstone fireplaces.

The photo was captured at Winifred Dunwald’s high school graduation.

Peter continued to use his skills as a machinist, and in 1896 applied for a patent for a rail road bumper and a door securer. In addition to his training, his father had clearly also taught him the value of patents.  In the 1900 census Peter listed his occupation as steel worker, and clearly still continued this trade while helping with the boarding house.


Mary was instrumental in building of the boarding house and managed the boarding house which advertised that it could accommodate 20.  She focused on providing guests with “an excellent table.” She kept her recipe for spiced grapes in the family safe. The family also became involved in the community. May and Charlie attended the first class when the new Rio schoolhouse opens in 1901.  Peter was appointed postmaster in 1902.  The family was thriving in their new home.

From 1901-1905, the Dunwald’s ran advertisements in New York City newspapers offering fishing, boating, bathing in a man-made reservoir, pick up from railroad and accommodations for 20.  A typical ad from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1901 read: “Pine Park—Rio, NY. In the Mountains; the coolest and healthiest place to be found; lake, brook, fishing, boating, bathing; table unsurpassed; dry, shady grounds; 180 foot piazza; large, airy rooms: 2 ½ hours Erie Railroad to Port Jervis; meet guests at station.  Address Peter Dunwald, Rio, NY.” Pictures of the Cottage in the Pines from that time feature mostly women and children, picnicking, boating and hiking.

By 1905 the family no longer advertised the boarding house in New York City newspapers, though photos show boarders picnicking near the mill pond well into the 1920s. In 1921, the family installed an electric generator and had installed a number of fixtures and outlets by 1924. These improvements indicate boarders’ changing needs, as well as the family’s interest in ensuring the boarding house remained attractive. The family was also constantly replacing pianos throughout the early decades of the twentieth century, as music was an important amenity for guests.

Dunwald Brothers Carpentry

This is a photo of the Water flowing through the weir on the property.


The other buildings on the property represent the efforts of an energetic family carving out a living in the forest, perhaps adjusting to life with fewer boarders.  The workshops are filled with cabinet making machines, paints and tools to repair vehicles.  Journals and photos survive, in the Deerpark Historical Society that document a family working to create forest products at the sawmill, making masonry products during the winter, keeping the boarding house running by planting and harvesting, cleaning and building houses nearby.  The journals document a family fully engaged in the community.


Charles Dunwald’s journal from 1920-21 describes a family working hard to live off the forest land (although Peter, the father, rarely left the house.) Almost every day Charles writes that he and Peter, the brother, “cut wood.”    Peter also spends time building a carpentry business, while Charles focused on building the farm, caring for the family’s China White hogs, butchering them, caring for a flock of chickens and selling them in Port Jervis, while finding time to see shows.  He is also harvesting ice from the pond on the coldest days and planting cabbage and Winesap apple trees.

The men and women had different economic spheres.  The family continued to let rooms to boarders until the early 1960s.  An electric generator was installed in 1921, making the house more attractive.  Charles’ journal shows that the men spent little or no time on the boarding business, leaving it to the women. The family went into Port Jervis often to see people, do business and see shows. A photo of the family c.1910 shows them in their new car looking sophisticated dressed in suits and riding bonnets. They look fashionable, almost urban, and were clearly successful and well-respected in both Rio and Port Jervis.

This is a photo of the Dunwald family circa 1910. Although they are living in a small community, they are connected to the rest of the world. Charles adds clippings from NY papers describing new methods of agriculture. As befits a practical, successful family with a mechanical bent, they were interested in understanding new things. The property still has gadgets of all kinds in the sheds, including a machine for making dovetail joints, a lathe and a planer.

By 1920 Peter and Harry were working as carpenters. In 1921 they built a big workshop overlooking the mill. In 1922, the Dunwald brother created a company with Hardistue which exists through 1933. This likely provided the foundation for the brothers’ business sense, and understanding of the construction industry. At some point the grist mill became a saw mill. On the eve of the Great Depression, in 1929, Peter, the father, died. Correspondence from Etta Covert, the daughter who married and moved to Kansas is fraught but describes the real estate and building accomplishments of the family with a plea that she get a portion.

By 1933 the Dunwald Brothers were building homes throughout Sparrowbush and Port Jervis.  At times they financed the construction. They built the Rio community hall that year. The houses they build often are bungalow style wood shingle covered homes with simple lines.

This is Winifred Dunwald’s college graduation photo.

In the late 30s Peter Dunwald married Winifred Wagner, the youngest of 12 from Sparrowbush. Winnie was the kindergarten teacher in Sparrowbush, teaching her first class in 1925 and loved children. Winnie’s journals from this time show that the family expanded their carpentry business. Besides building their own home, signs advertising “Dunwald Brothers (phone number) F-5-F” were found in the shop. They also had a masonry business and made thin concrete blocks during the winter. In 1936 they built a new house, typical of their style of building, north of the Cottage in the Pines for Peter and Winifred to live in. In 1938 Peter served on the Board of Directors for Orange County Building and Loan. He was a well-respected builder, community leader and leader.

In 1939 he and Winifred adopt Joseph. In the 40s Winnie labeled pictures of Joseph “my beloved prince” and filled a scrapbook with cartoons and children’s booklets for him. Many people in the area from ages 40 to 85 fondly remember having Mrs. Dunwald for kindergarten. In 1946 the brothers bought a planer and built a large planer building downstream of the sawmill.  The property is littered with remnants of this industry: a road making machine, the planer and sawmill, the shovel in the quarry, numerous concrete molds and mixers.


Journals from the 1950s describe a family thriving in the forest and working hard.  Peter, Charles and Joe all worked building houses, delivering concrete and making boards. The 1960s and 1970s represent a decline the family and the area. Fewer people currently live in Forestburgh than at the turn of the century. In the early 60s Joe and Charles got jobs working for Port Jervis DPW. Peter and Harry died in 1964. Joseph went to Vietnam and came back on permanent disability.  Charles and May both died in the mid 1970s abandoning the Victorian boarding house and leaving only Winnie and Joseph living in the 1930s home. Both were devout Catholics.  After Winnie’s death Joseph inherited the entire Cottage in the Pines property. He lived there alone and minimally maintained the property until his death in 2012. Joseph was the last remaining member of the Dunwald family to live on the land after 116 years of ownership.

In Conclusion

This is a photo of the building in 2013 before construction.

The buildings in the Cottage in the Pines are a tangible link to two important periods of history. The early buildings: the Cottage, the Mill and the Weir, were built at a time when the boarding house movement was an important factor in the development of Rio, Deerpark and Port Jervis. The other buildings: the workshops and the bungalow, are links to a time when rural areas were adapting and construction, forest products, and farming were the economic driving forces.

See plans: The Cottage in the Pines at Blue Rill