1752 Rockland County House Destroyed For Strip Mall


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Lent-House-Featured-Revised-copyThe campaign to save the historic Lent House in Orangeburg (in Orangetown, Rockland County) was lost on Saturday morning, April 4th. The decisive blow was delivered by a backhoe. The 263-year-old house was reduced to a pile of rubble in less than two hours.

Less than two weeks before, architect and preservationist Walter Aurell was optimistic that the house could be spared. After learning about the unexpected annihilation, Aurell wrote, “It is very upsetting that in a Town whose motto is ‘Rich in History’ we have lost another significant piece of that very history – and its replacement in the public realm will be another strip mall.”

Social media was abuzz in anticipation of an Orangetown Planning Board meeting that was scheduled for April 8th. The disposition of the Lent House was on the agenda. After being approached by Valley Cottage resident Rick Tannenbaum, I was preparing an article titled “Save the Lent House,” hoping to increase attendance at the public session. But on Friday, April 3rd, that meeting was postponed until May 13th.  And after the holiday weekend’s arrival of heavy machinery, my headline, and our Lent House are now history.

Lent-House-PhotoIn a letter to Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart the week before the building came down, Aurrell reported that “Tom Graff (owner of the land) is on board to work with us.” The objective that Graff seemed inclined to support was to carefully disassemble and move the house to another location. Stewart was also confident that a solution could be found that would satisfy the developer, RD Management, the Graff family and a committed group of preservationists. “As recently as [April 3rd] the owner of the property and the developer of Orangeburg Commons indicated that they shared my understanding of the desirability and feasibility of salvage and rebuilding,” Stewart reported in statement released over on Facebook.

The director of the Orangetown Museum, Mary Cardenas, was one of the many people who thought that progress was being made toward saving the Lent House. She described the building as an “important example of Dutch Colonial architecture that is commonly held by the people of Orangetown as an important part of our history.” Cardenas described the interior integrity of the structure, particularly the ceiling and floor beams as an aspect that made the Lent House ideal for preservation. On Saturday, Cardenas told the Journal News that it was “wrenching to see this piece of history going down.”

Reports suggest that the attorney for the Graffs advised their clients to take the structure down over the Passover/Easter weekend, and in advance of the May 13th planning meeting. The Graffs obtained the demolition permit from the Orangetown Planning Board over a year ago.

Lent-House-DestroyedIn Stewart’s Facebook statement, the Orangetown Supervisor responded to an assertion by some preservation proponents that he should have withdrawn the demolition permit. “Town attorneys advised…that any attempt by [Orangetown] to revoke a demolition permit that had been lawfully issued last year would have been clearly illegal,” Stewart wrote.

William E. Krattinger, a Historic Preservation Program Analyst for the New York State Division for Historic Preservation issued a resource evaluation for the Lent House in April, 2014 that asserted that the house was eligible for inclusion on both the State and National Historic Registers. Krattinger concluded that “the house was an exceptional example of New World Dutch stone house construction. The main section, 1752, predates the French & Indian War.  It is of large scale, with very high ceilings, and was clearly a house of tremendous stature when built.  It certainly ranks among the best of the stone houses I have seen in Rockland County.”

According to the website, Save Lent House, the home was continually occupied from 1752 until 15 years ago, when the last resident died. It was then purchased and converted to commercial use by the Graffs. However, no application was made to add the property to the National Register of Historic Places. Final application for inclusion on the Register never occurred, as this requires the owners’ consent.

In Rosalie Fellows Bailey’s definitive volume Pre-Revolutionary Dutch Houses and Families in Northern New Jersey and Southern New York, the Lent House is linked to Abraham de Ryck, one of the earliest settlers in New Amsterdam. The home was built in 1752 by or for Abraham Lent. On December 22, 1775, Abraham Lent was made Colonel of the First Regiment of Militia of Fort Orangetown, by the Provincial Congress for the Colony of New York. A genealogy of the Lent family described the Lents as being “very numerous in the Continental Army. They voluntarily took up arms and fought bravely to free themselves from the yoke of thralldom to Great Britain. Sir Henry Clinton said that he could neither ‘buy nor conquer these Dutchmen’.”

Two hundred and forty years later, in the battle to save the Lent House, we did not acquit ourselves as honorably as our revolutionary forebears. The home of Colonel Abraham Lent was bought and conquered on our watch, and not by an invading army, but by a strip mall developer.

Another Dutch Colonial, The John Green House, is also imperiled.  Nyack resident, composer and activist John Gromada has created a Facebook page to support the preservation of  the oldest standing structure in Nyack, Save John Green House in Nyack. I wrote about the significance of the Green House and John’s preservation efforts in this January 2012 Nyack Sketch Log titled Save Our Green House.

A version of the post first appeared at Nyack News and Views. Special thanks to Brian Jennings, New City Library’s Local Historian. Exterior Lent House photo (pre-demolition) by Tina Traster.

Writer Tina Traster, a Valley Cottage resident, is producing a documentary about the preservation and loss of Rockland County’s most precious and historic buildings. She is seeking financial contributions to make the 15-minute documentary film so it can travel around the county and beyond to educate people about the importance of historic preservation. If you want to contribute to her project or if you have resources she can use, please send her an email: ttraster@aol.com

10 thoughts on “1752 Rockland County House Destroyed For Strip Mall

  1. Robert J.Hedgeman

    The destruction of the “Lent” house is truly sad. The “Almighty Buck” will always win over preservation. Up the river in Albany NY the replica ship “Half Moon”, was sent to Holland citing
    a lack of funds to keep it here. I believe this replica would have been saved if a different strategy
    was in place.

    Reply
  2. Mary K. Freel

    I am all for preserving our heritage but what do we do with the buildings once we save them? In Europe and other places the buildings are used in a variety of ways and therefore are valuable members of the “community”. I’m not aware of just what the preservationists planned to do with the house once it was preserved but there’s not an outcry out there for more historic house museums. In the small city that I live in there are many examples of “kit” homes and older lumber baron homes but what preserves them is that they are still being used. To say we need to preserve a building without a clear plan for its use after preservation is folly.

    Reply
    1. John WarrenJohn Warren

      “I am all for preserving our heritage but what do we do with the buildings once we save them?”

      I see what you did there – that’s called concern trolling, where you pretend to be concerned, only if all your unattainable requirements are met. In other words, as your “but” makes perfectly clear, no concern at all.

      Reply
  3. steven paul mark

    The same fate may await the Sidman’s Tavern, a pre-Revolutionary structure which actually sits on the old military road. Just off Exit 15 of I-87. For now, the condo developer claims the house will be preserved and moved. With Lent, confidence is not running high

    Reply
  4. Pingback: This Week’s Top New York History News | The New York History Blog

  5. Mark Friden

    This is not only very sad – I find it disturbing! As the article mentions, the village’s motto is “Rich in History” – do they not see the irony?

    I used to live in Suffern (also in Rockland County). The center of the village was the intersection of Washington and Lafyette Avenues – marking the spot where Gen. George Washington first met Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. There used to be an historic home right at that intersection, allegedly a place where Washington once stayed. I remember when it was torn down for a Burger King. This was when I was in high school, and it upset me very much then.

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  6. A Krampert

    If the developer does go forward to develop anything there, all the businesses should be boycotted by all the local residents in retaliation for this underhanded act. Let them build a white elephant and go broke paying taxes on empty stores! Hit em where it hurts – in their wallets!

    Reply
  7. John J. Tormey III, Esq.

    Images of Andy Stewart’s reign as “Supervisor” of the Town of Orangetown, New York. The Lent House destroyed. The disaster of the Hillside/RUSH property. Toxic Anellotech, as Andy Stewart’s transparent bidding to Nita Lowey and Marcia Dickstein-Sudolsky. The new threatened battery acid factory complete with “air vents” designed to fortify the Pearl River and Nanuet cancer-cluster. His shameless and rank over-use of the Elijah Pocket-Weasel. His inability to lead. His inability to effect proper amendments to Town codes which would prevent the emissions of carcinogenic and mutagenic chemicals into our breathing air. The systematic but foreseeable entropic dismemberment of the Pfizer property with no healthy replacement, albeit ample warning. The extensive collection of alcoholic home-brews on his own Facebook page. The disgusting over-development of the reservoir bank – the clear-cut forest and eco-system on Route 20/Veterans/Gilbert. The Aluf plastics factory destroying the breathing air of Blauvelt residents. Playing puppet for Al Samuels, Hector May, and the RBA. Playing puppet for Donald Brenner and the rest of the merry band of Orangetown pranksters. Obsession with a pretextual anti-doorknocking ordinance, as if it were an actual accomplishment. Doing nothing to eliminate the tired game of patronage that governs Orangetown. Doing nothing to remove the cronyistic hacks from the Orangetown Boards so as to re-populate those Boards with competent, responsible, and un-conflicted adults. Putting over-development over residents and their homes, every chance he got, all the while in the stench of the Palisades Exit 5 sewage-waft which he couldn’t ever figure out how to treat and clean up. Most incredibly of all, the utter unraveling of Orangetown as a governmental body, turning Pearl River into a breakaway republic “Village” in the next election. Andy Stewart always had the Midas Touch in reverse. Every project he touched turned into a smoldering paper-bag of organic waste, as if left by vandals on your own front lawn in the middle of the night. Several hundred Bill Buckner ground balls, each and every one bobbled in succession. Always remember the Milquetoast “Supervisor”. Remember Andy “Believable Documentation” Stewart when you open the envelope for that skyrocketing tax bill mailed to you in a few weeks. Thank Andy for that. Good riddance to the worst and most ineffective Town “Supervisor” in the history of Rockland County and New York State. You couldn’t even supervise the emptying of a single trash can, Raggedy Andy.

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  8. Roy Clement Jr

    History and Historical Buildings is where Texas has New York beat all to hell. If a place is considered historical The Daughters Of The Republic or The Daughters Of The Alamo have there finger on it and nothing can be done until they complete a historical search and if it is found to be historical it can’t be touched. When I first came to Texas a developer in San Antonio wanted to tear down the old Fink Cigar Factory which had been vacant for years he couldn’t see why he had to wait for them so he went a head and had the place imploded and started selling the bricks as they were D Hanis bricks when he did that all hell broke loose he was hauled into court ordered to cease and dissist and had to find all the bricks he had sold and buy them back plus I think he had to pay a big fine.

    Reply

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