Help us save this house!
Every town has an old house. That older house, tucked away in plain sight that’s always been there. Sometimes they date back to the mid 1800s and occasionally the early 1800s. There are a few in our parts that are even older. They are members of an elite group; they are few in number but huge in importance. They have seen the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the birth of the United States of America.
A man by the name of Abraham Smith made his way up from Long Island to (upstate) New York, where he settled and built his home on a tract of land that later came to be known as Smith’s Corners, or Smith’s Four Corners. It is the large old house on the northeast corner of the intersections of Bryant Pond Road, Secor Road, and Wood Street right at the very edge of Putnam Valley, just off the Taconic State Parkway. It is also generally accepted to be one of if not the oldest structure in Putnam Valley, with an estimated built date of 1723 – 1747. The Smith family was a tenant of Beverly Robinson’s, and it was only after the land was confiscated and sold that the family obtained a deed from the Commissioners of Forfeitures. In layman’s terms – the Smith family built their home on land that was part of the Philipse Patent, and had to pay rent to Beverly Robinson. The house predates the United States of America, the State of New York, Putnam County and the Town of Putnam Valley. The Smiths were among the first settlers in the area.
The Smith family wasn’t exactly the type to settle into just farming as so many of the early settlers here. Abraham’s son Abraham Jr. was said to have been, at the age of 22, the youngest justice ever appointed in New York State. He was a supervisor of Philipstown and a judge in Putnam County. He was also the president of the Putnam Valley Bank, which operated out of the house from 1849 until his death in 1854. If you do a Google search for Putnam Valley Bank, an auction site comes up with a past lot that included a $2 note issued by the bank. Sadly, we do not have any original notes in our collection.
It is Abraham Jr.’s young brother Saxton Smith however, that was more known in Putnam Valley. During his impressive career as a public servant he served as Superintendent of Schools, the Commissioner of Deeds, Town Supervisor (for a record number of years, surpassed only by one Mr. Harry Silleck), a member of the NYS Assembly and as a NYS Senator.
Between the two brothers, they settled thousands of estates in Putnam County and the town.
During the Smith’s ownership, the house was host to several notable people of the time including “Seward, Weed and Greely, Governor Silas Wright and Horatio Seymour and Hon. Chauncey M. Depew” (Fishkill Standard, 25 May 1900)
Saxton was the last of the Smiths to live in the house. After his death in 1890, a niece of Saxton sold it to Reuben Gilbert in the mid-1890s.
This integral part of Putnam Valley history is at risk of being lost forever. There is a chance it will be torn down in the not too distant future for a commercial endeavor. We need your support in saving this house. Having been afforded the opportunity to tour the property a few weeks ago, it certainly needs work but can be an invaluable asset to both our town and county. The first step though, is getting your support. Please click the link below or at the top right to complete a very simple survey after reading about the property.
My great grandfather was Reuben Burr Gilbert and I spent my childhood summers in the converted barn, now gone, across the road. I know the house has been in bad shape for years, but I hope it can be saved.