Historic Preservation and Parks Commission
“Throughout its history, Montebello has maintained a rural atmosphere that should be maintained. Preserving this atmosphere is crucial to the continued setting and context of the historic homes and farms in Montebello. The context of this landscape includes the tree-lined winding roads with narrow carriageways, stone walls, older wooden fences, openness and undeveloped setting, as well as the homes and farms that were constructed during various settlement periods in Montebello’s history.” (Village of Montebello Comprehensive Plan, 2017)
A community’s historic and aesthetic resources define its personality and reflect its unique character. Historic preservation and parkland add to the quality of its residents’ lives, creating a more livable place. The Montebello Historic Preservation and Parks Commission (HPPC), formed by the merger of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) and the Parks Commission (PC) in 2019, is charged with preserving the historic and aesthetic character of our buildings, neighborhoods, and parklands. Ongoing commitment to preserving our history and green space and dedication to its stewardship is the mission of the Montebello HPPC. The HPPC consists of seven full-time members and two ad-hoc members, charged with protecting and advocating for the Village’s historic and aesthetic resources, in addition to reviewing requests for historic designation of individual properties or districts.
- Lisa Levin, Chairperson
- Tony Piazza
- Dorice Madronero
- Rosemary Mocio
- Bill Ellsworth
- Robert Israel
- Matthew Moetzinger
- Josh Goldstein
Craig Long, Village Historian
Warren Berbit. Village Attorney
Montebello’s natural environment is evident throughout the Village, however, the four parks within the Village offer opportunities to explore nature on a more intimate basis.
Harriman State Park
With access from Route 202 in Montebello, Harriman State Park, the second-largest park in the New York State parks system, features 31 lakes, 200 miles of hiking trails, beaches, camping facilities, and miles of scenic roads and vistas. (https://parks.ny.gov/parks/145)
Located on Route 202 across from Viola School, the 376-acre park is adjacent to Harriman State Park and has trails for hiking & horseback riding and offers a variety of scenic vistas. The park also features an off-leash dog run. Kakiat is part of the Rockland County system of parks and recreation facilities.
Kathryn Gorman Ponds Park
Located in Montebello Pines development on Senator Levy Drive, the 23-acre Kathryn Gorman Ponds Park, a Village park, is named for the first mayor of the Village and is a passive park that features seven ponds, picnic area with gazebo, and walking trails.
Warren E. Berbit Nature Preserve
Located on Spook Rock Road, the 12-acre preserve honors one of the Village founders and current Village Attorney, Warren E. Berbit. The preserve is maintained as open space.
Montebello Village Hall
Located a 1 Montebello Road, Village Hall offers a playground facility, gazebo, Community Garden, a 9-11 Memorial Garden and extensive grounds for Village events.
Other Village Open Space
Presently open space owned by the Village but with future parks potential are: 12-acres off Marian Drive; 2-acres abutting the water course near Bayard Lane; a field on the southern side of Route 202; and two grassed former home sites on Lake Road.
Local Historic Landmarks
Montebello currently features four designated local historic landmarks. More information on these landmarks and many other significant properties can be found in the Village of Montebello Historic Resource Survey (2010), which is available via download at Historic Resource Survey August 2010.
Ryan Mansion “Montebello” c. 1901
Located at 75 Montebello Road, the estate was built by Thomas Fortune Ryan and his wife, Ida Barry Ryan, in 1901. “Montebello” which means “beautiful mountain,” sits high on a hill and had a commanding view of the Ramapo Mountains. It was the inspiration for the Village’s name when it incorporated in 1986. The estate originally spanned 1,000 acres and, in addition to a working farm, it featured such luxuries as a bowling alley, electric elevator, private chapel, and greenhouse. Most recently, the mansion house was home to a financial services company, but it was sold in early 2022. The mansion was designated a local historic landmark in May of 2005.
The country estate of financier Thoms Fortune Ryan and his wife Ida Barry Ryan was built in 1901, replacing an 1860s structure of stockbroker David Groesbeck. This 44-room mansion contained a private chapel, tow bowling alleys and electric elevator. The philanthropic of the Ryan’s included development of Suffern’s, fire department and buildings for Good Samaritan Hospital and Sacred Heart Church. Mrs. Ryan resided here until her death in 1917.
(Site Historic Marker, This Historical Society of Rockland County 2002)
The Morse Cottage c. 1923
Located at 1 Montebello Road and functioning as the Village Hall, the Morse Cottage is attributed to New York City architect George Fowler and is an interpretation of the Tudor or English Cottage style. Property owner Perley Morse, a significant historic figure with a long-standing familial connection to the area, was associated with the development of the addressograph and with high level accounting investigations for the federal government, build the house for his son and daughter-in-law as a wedding present.
Build with native stone, this English Style Cottage, constructed in 1923, was a wedding gift for Stanley and Blanche Ward Morse. The home was carved out of the 61-acre estate of Perley Morse, nationally known as an accountant and author who conducted important financial investigations for federal and state governments. It remained a private home until acquire by the Village of Montebello in 1989 for use as the Village Hall. The building was designated a Montebello Historic Landmark on December 17, 2008.
(Site Historic Marker, Montebello Historic Preservation Commission 2015)
Fant Farm House and Barns c. 1850
Located at 253-257 Spook Rock Road, Fant Farm (also known as the Winaki Farm) features well-preserved Gothic Revival farmhouse, barns, carriage house, stone walls and tall pines. The structures viewed as an integrated whole, with their environs, exemplifies a country gentleman’s estate of the era and gives an important view of and glimpse into the lives of the people living in Rockland County in that era. The Fant Farm was designated a local historic landmark in January of 2006.
Johnson Farm c. 1778
Located at 84-86 Viola Road, the majority of the Johnson Farm represents a vernacular farm home from 1825-1835 and is significant due to its association with early rural development patterns of Montebello. Owned by the same family for generations, “Johnson Farm” represents the life of a typical farm family in what is now Montebello. The property was designated a local historic landmark in July of 2006.
Other Notable Properties
Bayard Lane (Founded 1935)
Bayard Lane was the location chosen for the Borsodi School for Living in 1935 by Ralph Borsodi. The School for Living was a self-sustaining, experimental community which consisted of a central school “community center”, with 16 family “homesteads” surrounding it, all housed on a 40-acre property.
Bayard Lane (named after Blandina Bayard, an early Ramapo settler) was the first of the back-to-the-land homestead
communities formed by Ralph Borsodi, the economist who established The Independence Foundation to promote and finance their development. A cooperative enterprise of forty acres, it comprised seventeen homesteads on plots of one to three acres for families seeking greater economic independence. Site of the School of the Living, founded to teach principles of agrarian self-sufficiency.
(Site Historic Marker, The Historical Society of Rockland County)
Located on Viola Road, Henry von L. Meyer’s working farm’s centerpiece was a cobblestone barn/carriage house built with stones cleared from the fields, with stone walls outlining the estate’s boundaries. Part of the property today houses private homes and Suffern High School across Viola Road.
The cobblestone barn, carriage house and huge dairy barn were the centerpiece of the 200-acre country estate of Henry von L. Meyer Sr., founder, and vice president of White Laboratories, which manufactured nationally known drugs such as Feenament and Aspergum. The working farm supported a dairy herd while its produce was donated to charity. Mr. Meyer and his wife, Laura, were well-known philanthropists. Among the beneficiaries of their work were the State Charities Aid Association, the Nyack YMCA, the Boy Scouts, Rockland County Conservation Association, and the Suffern Free Library, among others. Ardent supporters of the Rockland County SPCA, they established a branch shelter for homeless animals on their farm.
(Site Historic Marker, The Historical Society of Rockland County)
Located at Indian Rock Shopping Center on the corner of Hemion Road and Route 59, the large glacial granite gneiss boulder was believed to have been used by the local Native Americans as an observation platform, altar, and trail marker. Formerly a prominent feature of the Otis H. Cutler estate, which was known as “Boulder Farm,” Indian Rock was preserved when the shopping center was built.
The 17,300-ton Proterozoic granite gneiss is 1.2 billion to 800 million years old. Originating between the Ramapo Mountains and Hudson Highlands, this glacial erratic was deposited here by the Laurentide Ice Sheet approximately 21,000 years ago. This boulder served as a meeting site for Native Americans thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers. Tradition and local lore refer to this geological landmark as Indian Rock. Otis H. Cutler’s country estate on this site was named Boulder Farm. In 1996, the Village of Montebello preserved this rock in incorporating it into the shopping center design.
(Site Historic Marker, The Historical Society of Rockland County)
The Montebello Historic Preservation and Parks Commission (HPPC) is charged with preserving the historic nature of our buildings and neighborhoods. As such, it is the HPPC’s duty to review requests for designation of a local landmark or historic district.
Since the creation of the original HPC in 2004, the Village has designated four properties as Historic Local Landmarks: “Montebello,” the mansion and property at Montebello Park; the Fant Farm Property (Red Barn) on Spook Rock Road; the Morse Cottage, which houses Village Hall on Montebello Road; and the Johnson Farm Property on Viola Road.
Historic designation of your home means that the Village of Montebello recognizes your property as historically significant to our community. Designation of your historic home adds you to a long line of people who wish to sustain and strengthen this history and make sure it is available to future generations. Designating your historic home is an important step in becoming part of the endeavor to preserve our collective identity as a Village.
The request for historic designation may be made by any person through submission of a written application setting forth the basis for the designation. The HPPC may also act on its own to recommend designation of a local landmark or historic district.
The criteria for designation of a landmark include an association with events in local history or the lives of significant historical figures; distinctive architecture or a unique location or physical characteristics. A historic district should contain multiple properties that meet one or more of the criteria and because of those characteristics, constitute a distinct section of the Village.
Upon recommendation of landmark or historic district status by the HPPC after a public hearing, the Village Board next holds a public hearing before making a final determination on the historic preservation application.
Historic preservation, by designation of landmark status, insures that significant and unique properties within our Village will retain their characteristics for the benefit of all residents.
Why should I be care about preserving my property?
With such a rich history, the area that comprises the Village of Montebello boasts over 300 historic properties. All too often, historic properties are razed in favor of something new and fresh without a thought to what these actions do to destroy a community’s heritage and identity. Historic designation preserves the face of our historic properties to chronicle the dedication and craftsmanship of generations of tradespeople who built these houses. The architecture tells a story that defines who we are and how we evolved. Our story would be lost if we did not preserve the valuable resources that we possess.
What does it mean to “designate” my property?
Designation of a property establishes a legacy for future generations, whether it is for your family or another. It allows certain protections to make sure that the property is kept in good repair and sustained for future generations. A property evaluation for historic designation would assess your property on the following criteria:
- Is it associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of the history of the Village of Montebello, Rockland County, the Hudson River Valley region, New York State or the United States of America;
- Is it associated with the lives of persons significant in our past;
- Does it embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction or that represent the work of a master or that possesses high artistic values or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction;
- Has it yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history; or
- Does it represent an established and familiar visual feature of the neighborhood in which it is situated because of unique location or singular physical characteristic.
(Village of Montebello Code, Article XI; Section 195-60 Historic Preservation Commission)
What is historic designation?
Designation means that the Village of Montebello officially recognizes your property as being significant to the community because of its historic associations, its architectural features or both.
Do I benefit from historic designation of my property?
Yes, designation brings many benefits, including:
- The potential for improved property value and protection of the value of your investment. It has been contended that historic designation of a property increases the desirability of a building because historic buildings may tend to attract a wider market and a higher selling price than non-historic properties.
- Protection of a group of properties (known as a Historic District) which help protect your neighborhood against unwelcome development.
- Protection of any restoration you have made on your property. Future owners will preserve your hard work and honor your dedication.
- Potential local, state and federal tax benefits (depends on whether you are listed on a Local, State or National Registry). At the least, work done to preserve the exterior of a designated property should not raise the present value for Village tax purposes.
- The pride in the knowledge that you are part of preserving the heritage of your community for generations to come.
Does it cost me anything to designate my property?
No. Historic designation honors and enriches your property, giving you the pride of knowing that you are part of something that will endure. In fact, there are potential economic benefits to designating your property through tax credits and increase in property value.
Will historic designation raise my property taxes?
No. In fact, you may be eligible for tax credits (see above).
What happens next if my property is considered historically significant?
If your home is designated, you would be required to retain the integrity of the property’s façade so that its significant historic elements remain visible. To make sure that this is honored, any exterior change must be approved by the Village, however, this does not mean that changes cannot be made to a historically designated property. Exterior alterations that are in keeping with the integrity of the historic nature of the building would be reviewed by the village for appropriateness. Interior changes are not subject to review.
Anyone can request a designation through submitting an application at Village Hall. If you have a historic home and would like more information about Historic Designation for your property, please call Montebello Village Hall at 845-368-2211 or stop by to pick up a “Request for Evaluation” application. Come and join us in being a part of our history!
Download the Village of Montebello final version of the Historic Resource Survey August 2010.
Meeting Minutes (including HPC, Parks, and HPPC)
Please check the Village calendar for Meetings Dates and Times.
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