1830 - 1912
Wise and serene, she lived her life with such patience, sympathy, humor, and understanding that all who knew her loved her and blessed her name.
Sarah and her father, Peter Cooper.
Born in 1830 in New York City, Sarah Amelia was Peter Cooper's only daughter to survive to adulthood. She was raised in Cooper's home, then on 28th Street. In keeping with her father's interest in education, Sarah attended Public School 15, at 27th Street and Third Avenue. Amelia then went to Miss Meer's Select Classes at 10th Street and Broadway, occasionally taking dance lessons in her free time. Peter Cooper insisted Sarah should also learn handiworks, and at home she was taught how to keep house, cook, wash, and sew. By 1850 the little girl in pigtails had become a young woman and was attending Miss Kirland's School. Just like girls today, Sarah enjoyed shopping and spent time with her mother visiting the shops of William Constable's on Canal Street and AT Stewart's at Chambers Street and Broadway.
Sarah and Abram
Sarah changing to her married name.
During Sarah's teenage years, her older brother, Edward, was attending Columbia College. There he met a young man named Abram S. Hewitt who would become a lifelong friend. Hewitt spent much time with the Cooper family at their home, tutoring both Edward and Sarah to earn money for school. He spent even more time with the Cooper family after going into business together. The years of spending time with the family and Sarah's transformation into a 20 year-old beautiful young woman must have made a lasting impression on Hewitt. By 1850, his letters to the family start to contain references to Amelia. In one particular letter that accompanied a gift, Hewitt wrote, "Please tell Amelia that I sent up...a pair of slippers for the prettiest pair of feet...they will fit like a charm...very affectionately yours, Abram S. Hewitt." After many years of courtship, Sarah and Abram married at Peter Cooper's Lexington Avenue home. A short notice in the New York Times Daily recorded the wedding in 1855, stating, "Married: In this City, on Monday, April 16, by the Rev. Dr. Bellows, Abram S. Hewitt to Sarah Amelia, daughter of Peter Cooper, Esq." The new Mr. & Mrs. Abram S. Hewitt moved to Trenton, NJ.
Building a Family
The Hewitt family at the Ringwood estate. Image courtesy of Cooper Union.
Sarah Hewitt had her first child, a daughter named Amelia Bowman, on February 28, 1856. The following spring, Abram took Sarah to see the Ringwood property, which she immediately fell in love with. The Hewitts changed their legal residence to Ringwood, but really only lived on the property during the summer, choosing to spend the rest of their time at Peter Cooper's residence in New York City. Over the next 15 years, Sarah and Abram continued to expand their family, having five other children: Sarah Cooper, Peter Cooper, Eleanor Garnier (Gurnee), Edward Ringwood, and Erskine. The parents doted on their children.
Mrs. Hewitt's Summer Estate
Ringwood Manor being stuccoed c. 1903
At the same time, Mrs. Hewitt was also expanding Ringwood Manor, the structure built by the Ryerson family. Additions to the building were completed in 1864, 1875, 1900, and 1910. Several small additions were made when Mrs. Hewitt had existing structures on the property moved and attached to the building. And while the building was large and rambling, the inside spaces exuded warmth and a welcoming spirit. Sarah also set about landscaping the surrounding property. She once noted that she could not paint a picture, but she could create one, referring to the beautiful forests, gardens, ponds, and objects of historical interest at Ringwood Manor. After a period of almost 50 years, Mrs. Hewitt made the estate one of the finest in America. Later in life, she placed deed restrictions on the property to ensure that future development would not disrupt the beauty of the site.
The "Little White House"
The Cooper and Hewitt families at Ringwood Manor.
Mrs. Hewitt had a love for entertaining family and friends at Ringwood Manor. The location was approximately an hour by train from New York City, allowing for visits both short and long, and the estate became a hub of activity and hospitality. At one time the white stuccoed house earned the nickname "Little White House" because of the number of people passing through its front door. The guest books at Ringwood Manor are filled with the signatures of various foreign dignitaries, politicians, business magnates, artists, architects, socialites, and extended family members. Many of these visitors wrote notes, poems, and songs about Ringwood Manor, the beauty of the surrounding property, and the graciousness of the Hewitts as hosts. Many commented on how welcoming and relaxing an escape the Ringwood estate was from the crowded summers of New York City. This is a credit to Mrs. Hewitt's love of people--creating a household that was constantly merry and spirited.
Sarah Amelia Cooper Hewitt died on August 12, 1912 at the age of 82 at her beloved Ringwood Manor.