Rich in History, Beauty and Art: The Old Stone House gallery and center
Text | Photographs: Jonathan Fox
At the confluence of the Wnycoop Brook and the Neversink River, up on a knoll, sits the historic Old Stone House (282 Hasbrouck Road, Hasbrouck, NY, www.oldstonehouse.catskill-life.com, 845/436-7720). This building, converted now to a gallery, holds a vividly rich history, dating back to 1810 and encompassing many incarnations. The only remaining structure from the early days of Hasbrouck’s settlement, the two-foot-thick stone walls have lots of stories to tell. Repeated visits are a must, if one wants to learn all that the walls—and what they contain—have to say.
Scandal, skullduggery and murder
Scandal, skullduggery, family feuds and mayhem were apparently no stranger to the house during the 1800s. The Old Stone House was even the site of the 1840 murder of prominent Hasbrouck founding father Anthony Hasbrouck, who was active in local politics and the New York State assembly. His killer was Cornelius Hardenburgh, a descendant of the “Great Land Grant” in the Catskills. Hardenburgh became desperate and deranged after squandering his money, and fell into a dispute with Hasbrouck over a mill ownership and some county land. The day before the murder, Hardenburgh purchased a pistol and a Bowie knife in Liberty. He went to the Old Stone House and killed Hasbrouck while his wife and grandchild were present. Hardenburgh later hanged for his crime.
More recent history has included a beautiful restoration of the historic structure.
The house and its grounds (20 acres) were purchased in 1977 by the Concerned Citizens of Hasbrouck (CCOH). The CCOH, a grassroots group that had been formed the year before, worked on restoring the house with the intent that it be turned into a historical center to house regional artifacts, such as farm tools.
Volunteers from all walks of life have helped restore and transform the old house into the magnificent building that it is today. Much of the more recent plumbing and electrical work was done by inmates of the Ulster Correctional Facility in Ulster County, NY as part of skills enhancement program.
While there is still much to be done, the place is approaching its former glory and scores of volunteers, local construction companies, engineers and artisans have all leant a helping hand. The Old Stone House is a beautiful illustration of what can occur when a community comes together for the common good.
For the people, by the people
Known in the region as the gallery “for the people, by the people,” this community center and regional arts gallery is dependent on donations from the private sector, while awaiting the coveted not-for-profit status. Meanwhile, the Old Stone House hosts a variety of classes, art shows and events during the year. The 2009 season was the most successful one so far and the gallery had new shows monthly starting last April. Becoming a part of the 2009 “Art a la Carte” events program brought scores of new visitors to the space, and 2010 looks bright, in spite of the difficult financial times that has hit every sector of the arts.
Old Stone House board member and gallery coordinator Constance Slater characterizes the space this way: “It is like an oasis in the desert. We provide a space for the community to use for various activities, a space for artists to hold classes in painting and in pottery making, and we provide gallery space for those artists in the community who wish to have a showing of their work.”
Children are included as well, in activities such as karate classes. Says Slater, “We attempt to do seasonal celebrations like ‘breakfast with Santa.’”
The Old Stone House needs the community as much as the community needs it. “We are supported strictly by donations,” Slater says, “and we do fund raising events to raise that money such as bake sales, duck races down the river and so on.”
The beautiful setting, the lessons in clay, painting and watercolor, cultural events, private parties and the ever changing display of local artists’ work are but a few of the appealing factors that make the Old Stone House a destination to be visited time and time again. Its own literature elegantly simplifies its mission by stating: “There’s always something going on at the Old Stone House. Come visit and you’ll see for yourself.”