CHATHAM — Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. Any resemblance between the Three Stooges depicted in this story and in their short films is purely true.
Three of the Stooges, who specialized in physical farce and slapstick in a career that spanned seven decades, used to spend their summers away from New York City in Chatham in the early 1900s.
The town of Chatham was home to three of the most famous of the Three Stooges — brothers Moses “Moe” Horwitz, Jerome “Curly” Horwitz and Samuel “Shemp” Horwitz. Moe, Curly and Shemp did not appear together in any of the Three Stooges short films.
The boys later changed their last name to “Howard” to make their way through show business.
The Horwitz (Howard) farmhouse indenture says it was purchased by the family in August 1916 and they stayed there for about three years, said Gail Wolczanski, Chatham village historian and president of the village historical society.
Their mother would have the boys spend their summers in Chatham to escape the city’s adult-oriented vaudeville comedy scene that was popular in those days, Wolczanski said.
The Howard boys lived just outside Chatham — their mother owned the farmhouse they worked on.
Despite their mother’s endeavor to keep them away from comedy, the boys still played pranks and practiced vaudeville acts, said Wolczanski.
“They would dress up as scarecrows and scare the farmers,” she said.
The farmhouse is called the Blinn-Pulver Farmhouse, which was built in 1814 and had several owners, Wolczanski said. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003 and is located on Route 66 in Chatham.
The Chatham Historical Society is now looking to turn the farmhouse into a history museum about the village and its surrounding communities to tell the story of the industries and railroad of the area’s past.
The society helped save the building from demolition by Time Equities, Inc. around 1995, Wolczanski said.
“For well over a decade, the president before me made an offer to purchase the property and made many campaigns to raise money, but never got enough money — he had to decline the purchase offer,” Wolczanski said. “When I came in 2006, there was an outrage from the village because we weren’t going to save it. I initiated contact with the owner and he said he’d give us a second chance. I’ve been keeping him informed about progress as he sees there’s been more and more done. He’s come up with a contract with his lawyer and once we reach an evaluation of $400,000 — it will be ours.
“Right now, we are at well over $350,000 in evaluation,” she added. “I’m drooling. We are so close to having it restored to the point where it’s going to be ours.”
The building is in the renovation process. It has a new roof and the bricks have been repointed, as well as other structural repairs. They’re now working on the interior, Wolczanski said.
“There are strong, strong supporters — I can’t let them down. My heart goes out to them,” she said. “I can’t quit, as much as this is a frustrating job, I can’t quit because of those people. We’re pulling out every stop we can to raise money and get finished.
“Chatham has a rich history — we have a lot of stuff but nowhere for people to see it,” Wolczanski added. “People come here and they see this cute little town but they don’t know the history here.”
The museum is important to keep the local history alive for younger generations, Wolczanski said.
“[The Stooges] are one of the most identifiable, simply because of their status.”
It’s important for people to know Moe loved Chatham, Wolczanski said.
“He told his children about the farmhouse,” she said. “He brought his son back years later to try and find the farm.”
Wolczanski has been in touch with Moe’s son, Paul, over the years. Paul has visited Chatham on two separate occasions — in 2008 and 2010. During both visits, Paul went to the old farmhouse his father tried to show him and participated in fundraisers to support the farmhouse restoration.
A fundraiser for the creation of a museum in honor of the Three Stooges will be held Thursday, July 27. The event will consist of two comedy shows, one at the Ghent Playhouse at 5:30 p.m. and then again at the Chatham Brewery at 8 p.m.
“I’ve always been interested in comedy history,” said Rick Conety, the comedian scheduled to host the fundraising event. “Somebody told me that the Three Stooges used to live in Chatham … I talked to Gail and we had an incredibly interesting conversation about it.”
Conety has done many fundraising events with some of his comic friends and pitched the idea for the event after Gail told him about the fundraising events in Chatham with Moe’s son Paul.
“I have an interest in the subject and in stand-up comedy, so it’s a good combination for me,” Conety said.
“The family being there [in Chatham] is so interesting historically because they’re classic comedians,” Conety said.
Conety will be joined by four other comedians: Jon Hausman, Mark Jagiello, Ed Smyth and Carlisle Carey. The five comics will donate their time for the event.
“They [the comedians joining Conety] have all done a lot of fundraisers — they love to use their comedy to help out with things like this,” Conety said.
Conety has grown up with a long-time interest in classic comedians, he said.
“Anyone starting comedy today should get up to speed with old-time comedy and see where it all progressed from,” Conety said.
“I’m immensely grateful and appreciative that he [Conety] sees the value of saving our history in part through the Three Stooges,” Wolczanski said. “We’re aiming to open it for the 150th anniversary of the village [which is in 2019] — so we feel pressure and we’re determined as heck to get that door open to the public.”
Tickets for the show are $20 before July 22, and $25 at the door the night of the show.
To reach reporter Anthony Fiducia, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2309 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.