Welcome to Harmony Hall - Home of Inventor & Entrepreneur Jacob Sloat
The year was 1848...and what an extraordinary year it was! That year James K. Polk became the first American president to be photographed in office and gaslight was installed in the White House for the first time. In 1848, Wisconsin became the nation’s 30th state and the Texas territory was ceded to the United States by Mexico, ending war with our southern neighbors. Out west, gold was discovered in California at Sutter’s Mill and legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp was born. Back east, the first convention to focus on women’s rights was organized in Seneca Falls, New York just one month after New York and Chicago were joined by telegraph lines for the very first time.
In 1848 in tiny Sloatsburg, New York, the community was abuzz with news that local entrepreneur and inventor, Jacob Sloat, was moving into the new mansion that he had built on the knoll overlooking his highly-prosperous cotton twine mills along the Erie Railroad tracks and just steps away from the meandering Ramapo River. At the time, Sloat could not have imagined that the avant-garde, Greek Revival gem would someday promise to become one of the Hudson Valley’s most exciting restoration projects!
Today, the magnificant home built in the heart of New York State's historic Ramapo Pass is raising nearly the same level of excitement in the tiny village that it prompted more than 160 years ago when the Jacob Sloat family crossed the newly-painted threshold for the first time. As unique as its original owner, the estate was added to the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places on December 22, 2006. Although it is considered to be a 'restoration in progress,' this stately home once again welcomes visitors on a limited basis, offering a wide range of arts and educational programming. When restoration work is complete, Harmony Hall is expected to serve as the cultural center of western Rockland County - welcoming visitors to a region renown for its natural beauty, magnificent parks and significant contribution to American history.
A Brief History of Harmony Hall & Its Builder.
The occupants of Harmony Hall ~ family members, guests, servants, restaurateurs and nursing home operators ~ have all left their mark on the mansion that is thought to be a considerable example of the Greek Revival style of architecture of the early Victorian period. The restoration in progress is intended to capture the period from 1848 to 1908, when the house was the dwelling of the Sloat family.
Born in 1792, Jacob Sloat married Sarah Bigelow Hollenbeck in December 1826 and, together, they had nine children; five of whom died before the age of four. Jacob Sloat was only 23 years old when he built his first local mill in 1815-1816. By 1852, Sloat had gained a reputation as an inventor, industrialist and entrepreneur, producing as much as 8,000 pounds per week of the cotton twine that dominated the New York market, supported a thriving village and made Jacob Sloat a wealthy man. He began construction of a magnificent new home in 1846 ~ an avant-guard Greek Revival gem that he may have designed himself with the help his friend Jasper Cropsey, who was both an accomplished artist and student of architecture.
In the summer of 1848, Jacob Sloat and his family moved into the newly-constructed Harmony Hall. When he died less than a decade later in 1857, the house passed into the hands of his wife Sarah and, in 1861, it was purchased from the widow by the couple’s 23-year-old son, Henry. Henry married Carrie W. Schultz in 1875, beginning a family of his own in the house where he had spent much of his own life. By this time, the high price of raw materials that had been driven by the Civil War was making it more and more difficult to produce and sell a quality twine product. In 1878, the Sloatsburg Manufacturing Company that Jacob Sloat had built collapsed under the pressure of competition from lower-price, low-quality producers.
With the passing of Henry Sloat in December 1905, the house passed out of the hands of Sloat’s widow in 1908, beginning a period of nearly a century when Harmony Hall served local commercial and institutional needs. In the early twentieth century, the building, which was modified extensively, was used as an inn and restaurant. Later, it served as an adult living facility and a nursing home.
Closed by the state in 2003, the building and grounds were purchased by the Town of Ramapo in January 2006 as part of its Open Space Acquisition and Preservation Program. In 2007, a grant was received from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation to begin a major capital improvement initiative that included full restoration of the main mansion roof and critical structural repairs. That work was finally completed in May 2015.
While the Town of Ramapo worked on the mansion's exterior, the Friends of Harmony Hall worked just as hard inside the mansion on interior reveals and restoration projects. Click here for more information on what we have accomplished so far.
For more information on the history and restoration of Harmony Hall, we invite you to contact Curator Geoff Welch at 845.712.5220 or at curator@FriendsOfHarmonyHall.org.