BY JOE KUHN
Photos provided by Frank Underwood
SLOATSBURG-Last Sunday, the Friends of Harmony Hall gathered together to host their 10th annual Victorian Holiday Celebration and show off the impressive restorations made to a local mansion that was built well over a century ago. The Home of Jacob and Sarah Sloat, or Harmony Hall, as it was christened by the original owners, has been a Rockland County landmark since before the Civil War, having been constructed in 1848 by an American family that can trace its lineage all the way back to first settlers of New Amsterdam.
Harmony Hall was originally built as the Sloat family home, a mansion constructed to reflect the new wealth and social standing Jacob Sloat enjoyed after his successful retooling of his family’s cotton mills. After passing from the Sloat’s ownership in 1908, the building has been used as a restaurant, a country inn, and even an adult care facility, before being put up for sale in 2003. When a potential buyer for the property announced their plan to tear down the mansion and replace it with rental housing, a group of dedicated local residents launched a three-year campaign to save Harmony Hall. In 2004, the group partnered up with the Town of Ramapo, and, by 2006, succeeded in adding the mansion to the State and National Register of Historic Places.
Since then, the friends of Harmony Hall, a group consisting of preservationists, historians and descendants of the Sloat family, have worked together to restore the property to its former glory. “It’s been a united effort by a group of dedicated volunteers,” said Event Chair Peter Bush as he proudly pointed out the renovation work that has already been completed in the historic home. Mr. Bush, a descendent of the Sloat family, spoke with visible enthusiasm as he detailed the efforts the nonprofit organization has put into rebuilding Harmony Hall. “As much as 95% of the building’s original footprint is still intact,” stated Bush before drawing attention to the restored walls and original chandelier, first hung in 1900 in the main sitting room. The Friends of Harmony Hall have done a remarkable job restoring the mansion, but their work is far from finished. “Our next project is the front veranda,” explained Bush. “We’re also raising funds to restore the grand staircase.”
The 10th annual Victorian Holiday Celebration was a festive event that commemorated both the legacy of a historic Rockland landmark and the dedicated work of volunteers committed to preserving a piece of history. Even St. Nicholas himself showed up to help celebrate the accomplishments of The Friends of Harmony Hall.