Garrison Grist Mill Historic District
The Garrison Grist Mill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document.  Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Garrison Grist Mill Historic District consists of three buildings and one structure located in a rural setting near the crossroads hamlet of Garrison Four Corners in the Hudson Highlands. Included are a frame farmhouse, a frame barn, a grist mill, and a stone dam that has created a small millpond. The resources are presently sited on or adjacent to the fairways of a private golf course and thus the open character of the original agricultural setting has been maintained. Directly to the east is Castle Rock, a National Register listed estate, and directly to the north is Mandeville House, another National Register Property.
The frame farmhouse is sited in the northeastern section of the 13.4-acre district on a slight rise with its foundation dug into the hillside. Access to the basement can be had at grade under the south porch deck. Although the date of its construction is not known, it is typical of one and one-half story vernacular farmhouses that were built throughout the eighteenth century in the Hudson Valley region. Physical inspection reveals that the shingle covering is applied over red painted horizontal weatherboards and was most likely added in the early twentieth century. The interior reveals a largely intact floor plan with simple door and window frames detailed in eighteenth-century fashion. The kitchen wing on the west is shallower and lower than the main block by about two feet and has received the most alteration. The main block interior features an original fireplace with its mantle shelf, molded surround, and flanking cupboard all intact. The windows appear to be in their original locations, but vary in size. This farmhouse was identified as the Galloway Farmhouse in HABS documentation prepared in 1934 that included measured drawings, photographs, and a brief report prepared by Thomas W. Hotchkiss of Peekskill. The house was being used as a greenskeeper's lodge in 1934 and that use continues today. With the exception of some cosmetic changes and modernized mechanicals, it is unchanged since 1934. The HABS documentation is on file at the State Historic Preservation Office.
An approximately fifty foot square gable-roofed barn with distinctive "Dutch" framing is located about five hundred feet south of the farmhouse at the edge of the millpond. Large wagon doors at each end open into the threshing floor area that has now been closed off from the side aisles for equipment repair and storage. With the exception of selective replacement of knee braces throughout, the distinctive framing system has a high degree of integrity. The exterior is sheathed with heavily weathered clapboard.
The mill is sited in the northwest corner of the district just beyond the dam in an area where the gently rolling landscape falls off in a steep slope toward the Hudson River. Measured drawings of the two and one-half story, heavy timber frame mill were prepared by a HABS team in 1934. Since that time the mill has experienced further deterioration and some alterations to interior spaces and surfaces. A small apartment was inserted in the main and second floors sometime since World War II and this has obscured some of the original interior finishes of the mill. Its current condition is deteriorated, although the milling equipment recorded in 1934 is mostly still in place in the attic and the basement. Since 1934, the most significant losses were the remaining portions of the external waterwheel gearing located at the east end of the building.
The millpond to the southeast of the mill is created by a stone dam built of quarried indigenous rock set across a natural fall line that begins about fifty feet east of the mill building.
The Garrison Grist Mill District, consisting of an eighteenth-century tenant farmhouse, A Dutch barn, and a grist mill with a dammed millpond, is architecturally significant as a rare surviving collection of eighteenth-century vernacular buildings associated with the agricultural development and tenant farm practices in the Hudson Highlands in the pre- and post-Revolutionary period. Surviving with an unusual degree of integrity for resources of this type, the collection of vernacular buildings is remarkable for its architectural interest as well as its representation of a distinctive grouping of agricultural buildings in this area of the Hudson Valley. The farmhouse, with its distinctive Dutch roofline and massing, may date to the time shortly after 1735 when Jacob Mandeville leased land from the Philipse family and built his own house nearby (National Register listed). Precise dates for the buildings are not presently known, but documentary and physical evidence strongly suggests that they were built in the mid- to late eighteenth century, although buildings of this type continued to be built in rural areas of the Hudson Valley as late as 1820. The collection of buildings is sited on a golf course and while the property has not been used for agriculture since the late nineteenth century, the open landscape and picturesque siting provide an appropriate setting. Remarkably little is known about the history of the buildings and eighteenth and nineteenth-century maps seem to ignore them, but their antiquity and architectural interest did not go unnoticed in the 1930's when both the house and the mill were recorded by HABS teams.
The land upon which the buildings are sited was first developed by Jacob Mandeville (1709-1784), a New York City businessman of Dutch descent who leased about 400 acres from Beverly Robinson in 1735 and built his home nearby. Robinson, a Virginian, had married the daughter of Frederick Philipse, the original patent holder to the lands, and had built his own house just south of the district. Although it is possible that the house, barn, and grist mill were built by Mandeville prior to the Revolution while still in the ownership of the Philipse family, there is no firm documentary proof. The Philipse family, including Robinson, were Loyalists and shortly after the Revolution began the lands of Philipse were claimed by the Commissioners of Forfeiture, subdivided and ultimately sold upon the death of Mandeville in 1784. The 400-acre Mandeville farm was bought by Joshua Nelson, who had married Mandeville's daughter. The district with the nominated buildings is part of a 70-acre parcel that was subdivided from the original 400 acres by Nelson in 1792. Several subsequent owners appear to have continued agricultural use of the property, although in the last quarter of the nineteenth-century the area became popular for estate development and gentleman farms. The land was controlled by Thomas Arden and his descendants from 1820 until 1899 when it was taken over by the Ardenia Corporation. The Ardenia Corporation appears to have been formed by a group of wealthy men in the area who had an interest in preserving the land and using it for recreational purposes. Thus the property was leased and managed by the Highland Country Club (founded in 1898) and developed as a golf course. In 1986 it was acquired by the Open Space Institute and continues in use as a golf club.
The architectural significance of the district is based upon the distinctive design and craft characteristics of the individual buildings as well as upon the group as it is rare to find relatively intact groupings from this period in the mid-Hudson region. Despite the lack of documented references to these buildings, their distinctive features are understandable in the larger context of pre-industrial agricultural complexes in the region. The modest farmhouses demonstrates the characteristic profile and massing of a once common regional house type. Its steeply pitched roof that sweeps out over a broad porch epitomizes the Dutch vernacular tradition in the Hudson Valley. Indeed, the narrative accompanying the HABS documentation done in 1934 notes that it "was selected as one of the projects of the present survey because it is typical in its architectural features of the small farmhouse of 150 years ago." However, the framing system and plan of the house are more related to lower Hudson Valley examples than upper valley examples. While more comparative study of the craft techniques will be needed before more specific conclusions can be drawn, its clear link to the late-medieval north European frame building tradition and its unusually high degree of integrity make the house an especially important candidate for further study.
The Dutch barn is of unknown construction date, but similar documented examples in the upper Hudson Valley and Mohawk Valley date from the second half of the eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century. The distinctive profile, squarish dimensions, the location of openings and interior plan, and the large "H" frame bents are the defining characteristics. Since settlement in the Hudson Highlands area, where good agricultural lands were few, was relatively late and was bypassed by most Dutch farmers, the presence of a Dutch barn is unusual.
The grist mill, like the barn and farmhouse, is of unknown date of construction. Its machinery appears to be of late eighteenth-early nineteenth century origin with some later nineteenth century additions. Once a familiar building type in agricultural areas, most of the examples of these small mills that served local farmers have been lost to the ravages of time and floods. The mill and its machinery were recorded by HABS in 1934, but no historic information or discussion of machinery was made part of the report. Little is known about this particular mill as no research and evaluation that the design, plan, craft and construction techniques, and mechanical systems deserve to be protected until such time as more research and comparative study can reveal information about milling operations and design in this mid-Hudson region.
Avery Library, Columbia University. Richard Upjohn. (Surveys and maps concerning realignment of boundary and road between Mandeville and Ardenia).
New York Public Library. Rare Books and Manuscripts Division. Richard Upjohn and Richard Michell Upjohn papers. (Correspondence and items related to landholdings in Garrison).
Putnam County Historical Society. The Ardenia Papers (chronology of land ownership); collection of glass negatives includes the cottage.
Fitchen, John. The New World Dutch Barn: A study of Its Characteristics. Its Structural System and Its Probable Erectional Procedures. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1968.
McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.
Meinig, D. W., ed. The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.
Meinig, D. W. "The colonial period, 1609-1775" in John H. Thompson, ed. The Geography of New York State. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1977.
Pelletreau, William S. History of Putnam County, New York. Philadelphia, Pa.: W. W. Preston & Co., 1886.