The Old House (by Jim Wright, previous owner, 2002)

Bellvale, New York

Here's what I can tell you about the old House, as far as I can tell. It was built in 1747, as a boardinghouse for workers at the nearby Iron Forge. The historic marker for the forge itself is across the stream, but the forge could well have been on this property, a little upstream.

The house is Georgian, a brick-center-chimney colonial with three beehive ovens-that's unheard of. Probably had something to do with the place being a boarding house early on. The house essentially faces south and is a "bank" house-built into the hillside so it is cooler in summer and not as cold in the winter. I have never had an air conditioner, but fans have come in handy on hot summer nights. If I had it to do over again, I would have bought an attic fan...

The house was originally symmetrical on the Iron Forge Road side, meaning that it had a door on either side and stairs leading to the third floor on either side.

The house has four fireplaces (with three original wood mantels, plus a Vermont Castings classic Defiant wood stove in the kitchen that needs a rehab but works great.

Five rooms have wide plank floors. The floors on the third floor are original. The second floor parlor floor was installed 23 years ago over the old original (but gray-painted) floors. That wood is from a barn in Sugar Loaf, you can still see the buckshot in the floor by the fireplace. The floor in the dining room is circa 1976. The floors in the master bedroom were installed after a small fire in 1986. You can still see a scorch mark or two in the washing-machine room downstairs.

The downstairs living room/den was originally a two-car garage, built as part of the 1948 addition. It had since been converted into Iiving space (very cool, literally and figuratively) in summer. The beam across the ceiling is a steel I beam.

Among the owners were Lawrence Scrauley, the owner of the forge, then in the 1800s, the Brooks. (When I replaced the ceiling in the master bedroom, I found a 1876 report card from one of the Brooks grandchildren, plus a newspaper from 1835, and several bitters bottles.) In the 1920s, a pulp-fiction writer named Gordon Stiles lived here and reportedly fished for his lunch. Next came a couple who owned a costume shop in Manhattan and threw great parties.

Next came the Manginos, who raised three kids in the house. Mr. Mangino worked for Haagen-Dazs and commuted to the Bronx each day.

Yes, there are trout and crayfish in Longhouse Creek out back. People have been known to stop by the bridge to take photos of the stream and my backyard. The view out back is gorgeous in the fall, what with the gorgeous foliage... Once a bear was seen in the backyard as it passed through. I have not seen any bears, though a neighbor saw one once. Deer do pass through on rare occasions, and great blue herons have fished in the stream.

You should note that all that farmland nearby (the Buckbee Farm of State School Road and Iron Forge Road cannot be developed, so you'll have a great place to run, walk, or walk a dog... Or look at herons and redtailed hawks.

Lake Wawayanda is about 15 minutes away--great for swimming, hiking, picnicking and kayaking. Cascade Park is maybe 5-10 minutes away. Great for walks, runs, cross country skiing. The Appalachian Trail is two miles away, near the top of Mount Peter (just beyond the ski center). At the very top of Mount Peter is a hawk watch that is known far and wide as a fabulous place to see migrating hawks and an occasional eagle every September- and meteor showers in August.

For dining there's the Iron Forge Inn about 200 yards away (upstairs restaurant and downstairs tavern are great).

Downtown Warwick has all sorts of shops and restaurants. PIenty of churches, too, and a good library that hooks into the county lending system.

A snippet of history, from the library:

"The settlers were for the most part self-sufficient, hardly involved with the colonial government. In 1750, however, the British authorities passed the Iron Act. It demanded the closing of many of the iron forges in the colonies, including the one at Bellvale, in an effort to keep the colonials dependent on the British iron industry. The Bellvale forge had been established around 1745 by Lawrence Scrauley as a tilt-hammer iron forge, from which he turned out products whose manufacture was now outlawed by the British Crown.

It was the only mill of its kind in the New York Province. The Bellvale forge refused to close and the government retaliated by destroying it in 1750. Increasing restrictions, duties, and taxes increased the dissatisfaction of these independent people with a government that was distant from their homes, distant from their cares and concerns."

Old Bellvale (Thos. Burt, March 21, 1907)

Bellvale village, known in colonial times as Wawayanda, is situated on the lower rapids of the Long House Creek, which here enters the meadows and flows a mile and one half to Stone Bridge Station, where it enters the Wawayanda, which has its source in Clark's Lake, and then, loses its name when merged in the smallerstream. Longhouse Creek has its source in a swamp in New Jersey a short distance east from Wawayanda Lake. It has a large watershed at an elevation above tide water of about eleven hundred feet, and in its descent of six or seven miles rolls through several fine storage basins and down numerous rapids and falls. For a distance of 500 feet, options were taken on some of the storage basins by the Ramapo Water Company during its active days with a view of conducting the water into the headquarters of the Ramapo River.

This stream is well adapted for the generation of water power for electrical or manufacturing purposes, and we learn from Colonial History was utilized by Lawrence Scrauley in 1745 to operate a forge or tilt-hammer for a plating and slitting mill. This was the only mill of it- kind in the state of New York and in 1750 was not in operation. Under the Crown we were not allowed to advance the manufacturing stage of iron beyond the pig and bar iron states. It seems Scrauley took his chances in this seculded portion of the valley to furnish more convenient sizes of iron to meet the wants of the blacksmiths and builders of that day and thus avoid paying tribute to the manufacturers of the Mother Country. The ruins of the hearth where the ore was smelted, the raceway, and the pit for the wheel that operated the tilt-hammer are still visible, as well as the mudsill of the foundation of the dam. During the war of 1812, a Mr. Peck had an establishment upon the stream, near the home of W.M. Mann, where he manufactured bridle-bits, stirrups buckles, arid saddle-trees for our cavalry, as well as agricultural implements generally. The old forge site and the lands along the rapids up to the line of the Cheesecock patentwere bought by Daniel Burt, in 1760 and soon after he built a flouring mill and a sawmill, both of which were washed away by the breaking away of the mill dam during a very unusually heavy shower of rain. The present flouring mill is situated near the site of the earlier one.

A sawmill was built in 1812 by John Bradner and Brower Robinson and rebuilt by Thomas Burt, who operated it and a turning shop for about twenty years. The dam has washed away and the mill is in ruins. A woolcarding factory was built by Nathaniel Jones about 1810, and subsequently enlarged for the manufacture of broadcloths by Joseph Brooks, but is not now in operation. James, the son of Daniel Burt, about 1812 settled three of his sons in Bellvale in the milling and mercantile business. They established shops for a blacksmith, carpenter, wagonmaker, and the manufacture of red earthenware pottery. Benjamin Bradner had a tannery before 1812 where the ruinsof the old sawmill are situated. The vats were located where is now the old raceway and the bark was ground in a circular curb upon the flat rock back of the sawmill by rolling a heavy millstone over the bark as at one time apples were reduced to pumice by cider makers. About 1808, the Bellvale and Monroe Turnpike was built to make a shorter route to the markets along the Ramapo River for the produce of the farmers of Warwick. It was nine miles long and shortened the distance previously traveled about one half. The road was maintained about fifty years and the charter then surrendered to the State, and the roaddivided into districts. A fund of about $500.00 on hand was spend in putting the road in order before the charter was surrendered to the State. The stockholders never received any money for their investment. The massive stone arch bridge over the channel at Bellvale was built in 1832 to take the place of the old wooden one then unsafe for travel. Recently the old bridge site, as well as nearly all the land along the Longhouse Creek for four or five miles has passed into the hands of one owner (referring to Miss Hitchcock) as well as all the hills about 3000 acres of land lying along the stream. The probable development of the water power for electrical purposes and an early completion of the state road from Pine Island to Tuxedo promises a brighter future. Tradition accounts for the name of the stream from the longhouse that stood on its bank near the residence of the late C.R. Cline. The Indians that settled there built their houses end to end, and as their families became more numerous, a longhouse was built instead of isolated circular wigwams of many tribes. That there was an Indian settlement at this place is highly probable from the nearby stream for fishing, swamp and mountain for hunting, and the fertile prairie-like land for their crops of corn and tobacco. In the part where the land has been cultivated, plenty of flint arrowheads and large chips of flint with sharp edges have been found. The flint chips were used by the squaws in cultivating corn and tobacco.

In 1841 in digging a cellar for an addition to the house the skeleton of an Indian of immense size was found and, if the writer mistakes not, in a sitting posture. This may have been only one of a great many buried there, and might have been their chief.

Bellvale History and Rising Star PDF