STERLING FOREST HISTORY
Orange County, NY
pre-colonial times -- the earliest inhabitants of the area known as Tuxedo were the Lenni-Lenape (Delaware) Indians. Their name for the largest lake in the town was "Tucseto," meaning "place of the bear" or "clear flowing water."
In the park there are the remains of some twenty plus old mines. There are
also several furnaces here. The Sterling Mine (under Sterling Lake) started in
1750. It lasted until 1902. It was owned by the Townsends who also owned the
Southfield ironworks at a Southfield Mountain near Monroe, Orange County, New
York. Its water-filled mine shaft opening can be seen north of the lake. The
outlet shaft lies at a the southwest corner of Sterling Lake. The shaft
stretched under Sterling Lake for 1,000 feet. No trace of the mine itself exists
today. From 1880 to 18867 the ore mined was used at a the Southfield furnace.
The remains of at a huge cast-iron roaster can be seen near the Red Back Mine.
1783 -- the first industry in Tuxedo was the Augusta Forge at the falls on the Ramapo, founded by Solomon Townsend. His uncle, Peter Townsend, had a forge near Sterling Forest that made the great chain set across the Hudson River near West Point to obstruct the passage of British warships during the Revolutionary War.
late 18th century -- ironmaster Solomon Townsend acquires 1,005 acres of choice Long Island real estate that included the forge on the Peconic River. (Source: http://www.lihistory.com/histpast/past627.htm)
1810 -- the Greenwood Furnace established at Arden.
By 1812 -- the Augusta Forge went out of business. Townsend sold the 7,000-acre Augusta Tract to Pierre Lorillard (of tobacco fame). Lorillard used the land for the wood.
1864 -- the Sterling Iron and Railway Company, a Parrott family enterprise, purchases more than 20,000 acres of Sterling Forest from the heirs of William Townsend.
1884 -- Pierre Lorillard of cigarette fame wanted to start a shooting and fishing preserve within easy access of New York City.
1885 -- Pierre Lorillard and Bruce Price come out to investigate the chosen site for the new community.
1886 -- grand opening of Lorillard's Tuxedo Park hosting 700
guests. (The tuxedo was worn by Pierre Lorillard's young son, Griswold,
and his friends at the first autumn ball held in 1886.)
1895 -- Edward Harriman purchases the Sterling Iron and Railway Company, a Parrott family enterprise, that was no longer competitive. With the company came 20,000 acres of Sterling Forest. (Binnewies, 2001:309)
Sterling Forest was once owned by the Harriman family. The family offered the area to the State of New York as a park in the 1940s, but the offer was declined and the area was sold to private investors.
1953 -- the once property of the Sterling Iron and Railway Company sold to City
Investing. It then went to a subsidiary, the Home Insurance Company of Hartford,
1958 -- opening of the 125-acre Sterling Gardens; the opening presided over by Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands (the park being planted with 1.5 million tulips). Others purchases of the former Sterling Iron and Railway Company land went to big corporations like IBM, International Paper, Union Carbide, International Nickel, Xicom, Wehran Enviro Tech, and New York University. (Binnewies, 2001:309)
1980s -- City Investing goes belly up and forced to liquidate. The now independent Home Insurance becomes the owner and places the land for sale under its subsidiary Sterling Forest Corporation. (Binnewies, 2001:309-310)
Progress on buying the rest of the land made progress with the work of Paul Dolan, editorial manager for ABC TV's 20/20 television program. He established the Greenwood Trust and pushed for purchasing 11,000 acres of SFC land. His wife JoAnn became executive director for the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. (Binnewies, 2001:310)
1986 -- New Jersey governor Thomas Kean approves a $2 million grant (using Green
Acres Funds) to purchases 2,074 acres of SFC's land holdings in New Jersey. (Binnewies,
1988 -- NJ uses eminent domain to take the land from SFC, who said they were going to develop the land. Also in 1988 the Trail Conference and the Appalachian Mountain Club co-founded the Sterling Forest Coalition. Over 30 groups became involved.
1990 -- SFC says it is going to build 14,500 residential units and 7.4 million square feet of commercial and light industrial space. The corporation imagined a city of 35-45 thousand people located within Sterling Forest. (Binnewies, 2001:318)
1994 -- New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman signed a bill authorizing $10 million dollars to purchase Sterling Forest land in New York. Governor George Pataki match it with $16 million and Congress appropriated $17.5 million dollars. Other contributors:
$2.5 million -- Open Space Institute and Scenic Hudson from the Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Fund for the Hudson Highlands;
$1 million l-- the Victoria Foundation;
$0.5 million from the private sector;
$5 million in December 1997 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to create the Doris Duke Wildlife Preserve;
$55 million -- the Palisades Interstate Park Commission in February 1998;
additional 1,000 acres -- to PIPC
695 acres on eastern edge -- Open Space Institute and the Trust for Public Land from New York University
209 acres on western edge -- State of New York (near Greenwood Lake)
490 acre Indian Hill property to the northeast -- purchased by Scenic Hudson
1995 -- New Jersey Senators Bradley and Lautenberg worked the Senate for an authorization of $17.5 million dollars for Sterling Forest acquisition.
1996 -- the House of Representatives approved the $17.5 million dollars.
1997 -- Other monies came from many sources. One of these sources was the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, that with its assets of $1.25 billion dollars ranked in the top ten such institutions in terms of financial strength in the nation. The foundation donated $5 million dollars and New York State Park Commissioner Bernadette Castro and the PIPC's commissioners promised to designate one thousand acres of the land as the Doris Duke Nature Sanctuary. (Binnewies, 2001:353)
1998 -- the deal to buy the land from SFC signed and the PIPC became the new owner of Sterling Forest. Sterling Forest (Trail Walker May/June 1998) became a State Park when it was announced by Governors Whitman and Pataki at Bear Mountain Inn. It is the largest addition to the New York park system in fifty years. The size is 14,451.6 acres costing $54 million dollars.
1886 -- Tuxedo Park developed by Pierre Lorillard, the tobacco magnate, as a summer resort along Tuxedo Lake for society's "400". He had just recently sold the Breaker's mansion in Newport, Rhode Island to the Vanderbilts and wanted to get away for awhile in a more secluded and natural setting. He had architect Bruce Price design "cottages" of 40 rooms. Lorillard wrote out a restricted membership list that was to serve as "a guide to Who is especially Who in the 400." (Conant 2002:4-5, 58) Among the names of the wealthy were the Astors, Goelets, Juilliards, Morgans, Pells, Rockefellers, and Tuckermans. Emily Post, whose father was architect Bruce Price, grew up at Tuxedo Park.
I heard a popular tale from someone local in the area. It goes something like this. Jews were unwelcome in Tuxedo Park and the story goes that the Harrimans built a vast estate, known as Arden House, neighboring and overlooking Tuxedo Park as a sort of revenge on the exclusive community. The truth is that Harriman was in the first class of members elected to membership in the Tuxedo Club, 1885. And Harriman was the son of an Episcopal minister.
Pierre Lorillard's son, Griswold, is given credit for inventing the tuxedo dinner jacket. Griswold attended a ball in a jacket he copied from the Prince of Wales -- a jacket that had no tails. The tuxedo soon became the "club"'s informal uniform. (Conant, 2002:58)
Mark Twain rented a house here in the summer of 1906.
The wealthy Alfred Lee Loomis, who made his fortune in the Wall Street subsidiary of J. P. Morgan known as Bonbright and Company, moved into Tuxedo Park in 1912 upon his marriage to Ellen Holman Farnsworth, a member of a Boston Brahmin family. He later bought the old Tower House mansion and turned it into a private physics laboratory that proved influential in starting the atomic bomb project.
After World War II, the community began a "terrible decline" with more than half of the cottages vacant (Conant, 2002:288).
Conant, Jennet. 2002. Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Winslow, Albert Foster. 1992. Tuxedo Park: A journal of recollections.
Tuxedo, New York: Tuxedo Historical Society.
Also see Amory, Cleveland. 1948. The Last Resorts. New York: Harper and Brothers.