Staircase to Heaven: Mansion Steps Up Restoration

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The entrance to the Harmony Hall-Jacob Sloat House. Photographed July 18, 2022, by Robert Brum

SLOATSBURG —Guests arriving for the Victorian Holiday at the Harmony Hall-Jacob Sloat House will catch a glimpse of the latest steps in the 1848 estate’s restoration.

The Dec. 4 event will feature the unveiling of the Greek Revival mansion’s grand staircase, which has been obscured beneath a modern overbuild since the late 1970s.

The Friends of Harmony Hall, the volunteer, not-for-profit group funding ongoing renovations raised $17,000 to uncover and restore the staircase, thanks to events like last summer’s Grateful Dead Tribute Music & Craft Festival.

The elliptically designed historic staircase was liberated from its modern shell in 2007, revealing 20 steps leading from the ground floor to the next level, with another 14 steps ascending to the top floor.

It was found to be sound structurally, and in good condition with only minor damage. The project, which includes uncovering the original window and arch, is being completed by historic restoration expert William Freidlich of Tuxedo.

The staircase’s design was not only aesthetically pleasing; it served as a 19th century air conditioning system, carrying hot air up to the cupola, according to the Friends. Parts of the original mahogany wood handrail, spindles and newel post have survived, after being found discarded under the front porch in 2004.

The Sloat House, once home to a wealthy industrialist whose family gave this western Ramapo village its name, was saved from development through the efforts of the Friends, including two of Jacob’s descendants: Great-great grandson Harrison Bush, and his son, Peter Bush.

(Above: Ongoing restoration work on the grand staircase. Submitted photo)

The staircase is just one part of the restoration work within the clapboard and brick structure. The showpiece is the first-floor double parlor and dining room, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, heart of pine floors, iron and brick coal-burning fireplaces, Colonial Revival style chandelier and plasterwork that includes detailed ceiling medallions.

Victorian Holiday at Harmony Hall-Jacob Sloat House

  • What: Classic Victoriana holiday house decor, hot mulled cider; Ye Olde Holiday Craft Shoppe featuring handmade gifts; bake sale; children's crafts; live music by Rockland musicians; and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus
  • When: 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec 4
  • Where: 15 Liberty Rock Road, Sloatsburg
  • Admission: $5, children free
  • Information: www.fohh.org

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