Stone House party marks 160 years, looks ahead to new agricultural center

Stone House Farm at 160 is centerpiece of forward-looking celebration

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  • Guests gather at Stone House Farm upon the occasion of its 160th birthday (Photo by Edie Johnson)

  • Sean Giery offered rides around the farm. (Photo by Edie Johnson)

  • Stone House from the front (Photo by Edie Johnson)

By Edie Johnson

— It was vintage Blooming Grove: a garden party on 280 meticulously groomed acres at Stone House Farm, whose 160-year old house is a window to the past.

FAcilities planned for ag education center

The following structures will be built at the Cornell Cooperative Extension's planned agricultural education center and 4-H Park:
Old Macdonald's Barn — The primary agricultural building with stalls, exhibit space, and workshop areas.
New Memorial building — To include teaching kitchen for nutrition education and food service and a quiet place for children to read and play.
Enclosed pole shed — To be used for "mess intensive" workshops and meetings.
Environmental technology demonstration areas — To incorporate designs and technologies to minimize energy use, produce renewable energy, conserve water, compost waste, provide wildlife habitat, and demonstrate sustainable landscaping.
Fenced areas (two) — Rings designed for horse shows and exhibits.
Resting park — Gazebos and garden sitting areas, demonstration area for home gardening, book nook and water station.
Pole barns — Open on all sides with portable pens, fences, and stalls for livestock.
Milk house — Milking stations for cows and goats.
Covered arena — For animal shows, small concerts, trade shows, 4-H dog training, family events and demonstrations.
Camp tent platforms — Designed for residential use by youth campers and chaperones.
Storage — To store tables and chairs, and equipment and supplies for programs.
Greenhouse (tentative)

The occasion celebrated the birthday of the house, which has been painstakingly restored over the past 20 years by the Mackerodt family. It was also to discuss fundraising for the Cornell Cooperative Extension's planned agricultural education center in Mount Hope.

Other owners of historic farms in the area came out, including Mark and Carol Roe of Roe's Orchards and Sandy Johnson, who owns just about all of the acreage along Johnson Road. Sean Geiry and his black Percherons gave wagon rides around the farm. Holly Roe took turns at the reins.

The allure of the house lies in its stunning masonry offset by green trim. But the original owner, William Smith Woodhull, did not mean for his house to be beautiful to mortal men but only that it should please God. The style was called "very Protestant."

The "widow's walk" at the top was borrowed from houses built near the sea. Seamen's wives were said to pace these rooftop observation platforms as they watched for their husband's return.

A note hidden in a wall gave information about the house and events of the era. The beams and roof have mortise and tenon construction, that is, put together completely without nails. The original material used to plaster walls is made of horse hair and lime, and remains in several closets. A portrait of George Washington, one of eight copies given by Washington to supporters here and abroad, stood atop the main stairway for many years. One recently sold at Christy's auction house for $21 million.

The house was at first heated only by a giant potbelly stove. A steam heat boiler was added in the 1890s.

The western end of the property abuts the now-discontinued Erie Railroad branch of the Greycourt-to-Newburgh line. Before the railroad came, dairy products were carted to Newburgh and then shipped by boat to the city.

Belgian and quarter horses live on the property. Fields are flecked with bluebird boxes. Maple trees are tapped in spring. The enormous Australian and Scotch pines and Norwegian Spruce in the front yard are believed to have been planted soon after the main house was built.

A silent auction was held at the end of the party to raise money for the agricultural center, which was described in a distributed brochure: "Our vision is to have the Education Center and 4-H Park become an educational, exhibition, and marketing centerpiece for Orange County and Cornell Cooperative Extension."

It will be built in three phases over the next five years. For more information, see related article.

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