Save Tilly Foster Farm

My name is Jeff Hyatt and I have been involved with Tilly Foster Farm since 2008.   I and Tom Mill have deep roots in Putnam County, 4 generations each. We operate the Antique Tractor barn and Small Museum at Tilly Foster Farm.  We call ourselves Putnam County Antique Machinery “PCAMA”, and our motto is “A Learning Experience for All Ages…”  We host the extremely popular annual antique machinery show which also includes antique cars and trucks.  It is held every September at Tilly Foster Farm. We also display our machinery at the Putnam County 4H Fair. 


I had restored an 1891 well drilling rig that was used in Putnam County.   George Whipple had seen an article I had written about the well machine restoration. It was stored in a museum in Connecticut and George felt it belonged in Putnam County and asked me to bring it to The Farm.  The 1891 well drilling machine is also displayed at the Dutchess County Fair.   It has been written up as the only one in existence by a Master Groundwater Consultant, named Howard (Porky) Cutter.


When we arrived at Tilly, the barn was a mess. We steam cleaned the interior, painted the walls, the floor and poured new concrete where it was missing.  George Whipple funded the restoration of the barn and Tom and I, with the support of friends, supplied the labor. The small museum, under the Lodge, was equally disastrous and with George’s backing was restored.


The barn now houses a collection of antique tractors, my well machine, and several hit and miss engines (these are stationary engines used to power machinery on the farm prior to the arrival of electricity) along with a collection of early American farm tools, including corn planters, fodder cutters, corn knives, hay rakes and scythes, and hog scrapers.


The basement of The Lodge houses a collection of early hand-operated water pumps and farm equipment, hand tools, an apple sorter and cider press, a forge, pot belly stove, and Benedict Family memorabilia; we call it the Small Museum.


The main house was being used by squatters, and the roof leaked.  Ned Moran, the Director of Avalon Archives, did a wonderful job restoring the first floor of the main house and now has an extensive, world-class collection of music memorabilia.


George obtained the lease and opened the farm up to the public with the idea of having a showcase of rare and endangered American farm animals. Tilly Foster Farm Museum has become a destination place for people from all over the United States and abroad.  We have guest books in the barn and small museum which are filled with comments from visitors.  Children draw pictures of the tractors, adults have praised us for allowing them to have the opportunity to show their kids what life was like and the older folks reminiscence about growing up with these items.  All of this would not be possible except for George Whipple’s vision.  George and Meredith Whipple deserve congratulations and kudos for a job well done with very little help except for a dedicated core of volunteers.  PCAMA was instrumental in obtaining a 5 ton air conditioning compressor for The Lodge, thanks to Advanced Heating and Cooling for the donation.


George Whipple has complied with the lease demands, dealt with a needless lawsuit and lots of criticism during his tenure at Tilly Foster Farm.  George has a passion for Putnam County and we have been the recipients of his dedication to preserving Putnam County’s treasures for generations to enjoy.  Folks don’t seem to remember all the good he has done for Putnam County, things like The Spain Cornerstone Park, and the chapel at the Putnam County Park.  Putnam will miss Mr. Whipple’s philanthropy and presence in Putnam County.  I think the Legislators should be extremely grateful to the Whipple Family and all the good they have done for Putnam County.  We will sorely miss his presence and good nature.


We welcome the opportunity to provide a guided tour of the Tractor and Small Museums.  Please come in small groups to allow ample time for any questions.




Jeff Hyatt

Tom Mill   

Ann Fanizzi December 03, 2013 at 11:52 AM
Jeff Hyatt cleaned out the cow barn - the barn that the people of Putnam County had their first sight of a babycalf. Yes, he cleaned it all-right so that he could warehouse his tractors without lease or payment, oh maybe mowing the lawn around the horse paddocks; participating in once-a year Spring Fling and then of course the antique tractor show. Not satisfied with one location, he took over the lower level of The Lodge, which was to be the entrance to the bathrooms for the handicapped and installed more of his tractors and other wares. The people of Putnam County deserve to have their Farm back.
Ann Fanizzi December 04, 2013 at 10:22 AM
Reclaim Tilly Foster Now. Both Hyatt and Moran had "homeless" collections: Hyatt his tractors and Moran his Rock n' Roll collection. Times in 2008 were tough - to pay storage fees would be quite a burden. Enter Whipple who now had a lease on the Farm and buildings to spare and gave Hyatt two buildings to warehouse his tractors free of charge and no lease and Moran the historic Benedict Homestead to warehouse his R&R collection. Cost to the residents of Putnam County the loss of their authentic history and approximately $125,000 in rent over a five-year period.
Farm God December 05, 2013 at 08:25 AM
Ann, I think you should have your facts straight before responding. If you spent as much time there as me, Tom Mill, and Ned Moran, you would know what transpires here. There are leases in place. When one lends items to a museum, the owner does not typically pay a fee to showcase its collection. Furthermore, PCAMA was asked to bring additional items to the farm when the Board realized how popular it is with the public, especially children. And as I recall, when you were involved with the farm you lead tours that included the two museums and complimented the collection. If you had taken the time to read my letter, you would have realized my collection was not homeless, but was housed in a museum in Connecticut immediately prior to being brought to the farm. PCAMA has volunteered and attended every event held at the farm for five years, helping to set up and clean up. PCAMA has volunteered thousands of hours at the farm by fixing and repairing fences, the manure spreader, herding cows and sheep, and has been instrumental in obtaining an air conditioning compressor for the Lodge. PCAMA has used its antique tractors to mow acres and acres of fields at no cost to the County or Preserve Putnam, The restroom in the lower level of the Lodge is still available to the public. However, in order to reach the bathroom, one must travel downhill over uneven terrain and then squeeze through the door and go up one step in order to reach the bathroom. This has not changed because there is now a collection of both county owned antique farm equipment and early hand water pumps. The farm has been always owned by the people of Putnam County and unlike other County parks, is free and open to the public.
Ann Fanizzi December 06, 2013 at 12:02 PM
You forget Jeff that I live around the corner and am more than aware about what has happened this year. Thousands of times I have been on RTE 312 and can see everything. In fact, I can walk to Tilly and come the back way. Saw the antique car show; the Halloween program, etc. All in the front fields. And I know you have just signed a loan collection agreement with George and the Society - coincidentally in 2013. No lease for five years, no agreement but when the legislature was hot on George's tail all of a sudden the leases started coming in; the agreements. Terrible that it took a court case, thousands of dollars and news articles for the dirty laundry. No horses, no cows. But Tilly Foster will survive.
Farm God January 25, 2014 at 09:14 PM


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