The Hardenbergh Manor stands on land purchased by Dutch/German immigrant Johannes Hardenbergh in 1706, and confirmed by a royal letter patent in 1708. The 1.5 million acre tract, which includes the majority of the Catskill Mountain region and large portions of four New York counties, was the largest land transaction of its kind during the state’s colonial period.
Isaac Hardenbergh (1755-1822), grandson of Johannes Hardenbergh, later granted a significant portion of the patent in eastern Delaware County, established a manor farm at the confluence of the Bear Kill and the Schoharie Creek about 1780. He also established one of the earliest mills in the region, maintained the area’s first store, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Town of Roxbury in 1799. He served as the town’s first supervisor between 1799 and 1806. He purchased slaves as early as 1792 and is said to have been the largest slaveholder in town. Slavery continued to be practiced by Hardenbergh until eliminated by law in 1827.
The east façade of the house, with a center entrance suggests the influence of the Georgian style in its symmetry and proportions. The detailed brickwork around windows and doors recalls the Georgian practice using contrasting materials dovetailed into the wall. The design of the house departs from typical examples of Georgian architecture in its floor plan, which has a central chimney, a small entrance vestibule and boxed stairs in place of a central hall. Interiors were designed with exposed floor joists, common in Dutch/German houses in eastern New York, but not typically associated with the formality of Georgian interiors. The scale of the house and the combination of Dutch/German and English building techniques are unusual in the region.
Isaac Hardenbergh’s eldest son, Lewis (1783-1838) took over and was Postmaster of Hardenbergh Mills (1815-1822), and Town Supervisor (1828-1829). Farming and milling operations on the Hardenbergh property expanded during this period and it is likely that the frame addition to the stone house was built during these years. Upon Lewis’ death in 1838, the operation was continued by Isaac Hardenbergh II (1822-1889), Lewis’ eldest son. Isaac managed the property during the years of unrest accompanying the Anti-Rent Wars of the 1840s and sold off much of his grandfather’s lands in eastern Delaware County when it become evident that the increasingly militant inhabitants of the region would no longer tolerate leaseholds. However, at least 1,200 acres remained associated with the manor farm near Prattsville.
By the 1880s, the family’s mill on the Bear Kill was described as decayed. Farming turned to dairying about this time, shown by the remains of the large, late 19th century cow barn still located on the property. The frame portion of the house sustained a fire in 1881, which caused minor damage.
When Isaac died in 1889, his daughter, Agnes (1885-1933) took over the property about 1906 and developed it as a tourist home, adding verandas to the east elevation of the house, cobblestone plinths alongside the entrance and cobblestone gateposts with millstones on either side of the driveway. Guests traveling to the house from New York City arrived in Grand Gorge by train and traveled the three remaining miles to the house by car.
In a brochure, it advertised conveniences almost as modern as today’s e-mail … “Three mails a day”! Guests were picked up by car (!) at the Grand Gorge Railway station of the Ulster & Delaware Railroad. Rates were $12-15 a week.
At least 200 acres of Hardenbergh farmland in the rich agricultural flats along the Schoharie Creek were acquired by New York City for the development of the Schoharie Reservoir, built between 1919 and 1927. The millstones built into the two gateposts may have been removed from a 19th century gristmill near the base of the Hardenbergh Falls before it was demolished.
Agnes Hardenbergh died in 1933, marking the end of the Hardenbergh’s tenure on the land. The remaining 900 acres were sold at auction in 1934 to J.B. Merwin.
Merwin maintained an apiary at the farm and used the house for storage and antique sales. After the dairy barn collapsed in the 1950s, the property was sold to Dr. and Mrs. James Veith in 1958.
The Veiths removed the deteriorating guesthouse verandas and made numerous structural repairs to the house.
Mr. and Mrs. Livingston Baker purchased the property in 1968 and have continued to maintain the house without significant alterations or modifications.
The names Hardenbergh and Hardenburg have been used interchangeably in many of the historical documents.