Will 19th century Ladentown home be lost to history?

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The circa 1870 Carpenter Gothic home formerly owned by the Hedges family in Ladentown.

For nearly 150 years a stately white Carpenter Gothic-style home in the tiny hamlet of Ladentown was in the hands of the Hedges family, whose lineage boasts a postmaster and a Civil War general.

But the 19th century homestead’s sale to a new owner has historians worried that the property could become a casualty of development.

The two-story house dating from the 1870s is on the market, priced at $3.5 million, including its wooded 7.3 acres at the corner of Ladentown and Mountain roads in the Town of Ramapo.

The home sits directly across the road from the Ladentown United Methodist Church, which dates from the same period and is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

A for-sale sign on the front lawn of 11 Ladentown Road describes the parcel as a “development site & residence” and its real estate listing labels it as commercial land.

Ladentown, tucked into a corner of Haverstraw, Pomona and Ramapo, is a quiet spot in the shadow of the mountains. In bygone days, it accommodated a tavern owned by the hamlet’s namesake, Michael Laden, as well as a post office, general store and gas station.

The Hedges home’s original owner, Charles Hedges, was the hamlet’s first and only postmaster, from 1871 to 1875. The house stayed in the family for generations, with Ira Hedges and his wife, Betty, residing there for many years.

Ira Hedges was a past president of the Historical Society of Rockland County. His great-uncle, also named Ira, was a Civil War general, and the family has ties to Haverstraw’s brick making industry. Betty Hedges served as president of the Rockland County Conservation Association.

“As far as I know, the appearance of the front of the house has remained the same,” said Marianne Leese, the Rockland Historical Society’s senior historian. “Ira and Betty lived there for many years, were proud of this house.”

Following their deaths, the Hedges family in 2014 sold the property to Lakeside Retreats LLC for $510,000, according to Rockland County records. The property was acquired by Campgroup Holdings LLC in 2017. The two entities have the same White Plains address.

Campgroup operates day camps across the region, including Camp Ramaquois on Mountain Road, around the corner from the Hedges property.

The listing on LoopNet describes the “idyllic” property as “well suited for a few ‘best uses’ ” including a school or group care facility, apartments or dorms. It also notes the historic 1,600 square-foot “move-in ready home.”

The parcel is located within Ramapo’s RR-80 zoning district, which permits one-family homes, agriculture and cattle, nurseries and greenhouses, community residence facilities (with Town Board approval), among other uses. Ramapo requires a special permit for a wide variety of other uses including schools, student housing, day camps, nursing homes, community mikvahs, professional offices, camps, and stables.

“We have, at the moment, nothing going on on the property,” Andy Benerofe, Campgroup’s board chairman, said recently. “And we thought we might possibly incorporate the vacant land into the operation of Ramaquois, but we haven’t done that. And so it’s up in the air as to what’s going to eventually happen to the property.”

Benerofe said he was concerned about anything that would create more traffic, because of the 81 buses arriving and departing daily during the summer from his camp on Mountain Road.

“Whatever happens, we’re concerned with it not interfering with the Ramaquois operation, which is intensely busy in June, July and August, and moderately busy for the rest of the year,” Benerofe said.

“Honestly, we’ve had some people interested in it, and we’ve never been able to be satisfied with what they’re hoping to do with it,” Benerofe said.

‘Losing a sense of our history’

Craig Long, official historian for Rockland County and the Town of Ramapo, held out hope for the historic home’s preservation.

“It would be a sad, ironic twist of fate if the former home of Ira and Betty Hedges, two people committed to history and conservation in Rockland County, is demolished for development in that quaint Ladentown corridor,” Long said. “If you take a look at that little historic area, so much of Rockland County is being developed, we’re losing a sense of our history. We have certain tangible links to the past and they’re vanishing because they’re making way for development.”

Long added: “It would be laudable if the developer could somehow incorporate the historic structure into whatever their plans are, so you could have the best of both worlds. You could preserve a piece of Rockland County history and allow for development of the property. It’s all about respecting the past.”

Benerofe seemed agreeable to that notion.

“I would certainly like to keep the house no matter what’s built there as it now stands and keep that as part of the property,” said Campgroup’s chairman.

Robert Brum is a freelance writer living in the Hudson Valley. Read more of his work here and past articles below:

'In our hearts these students will remain forever young'

'Those who shall not be forgotten' 

A slice of heaven on Cheesecote Mountain 

The Ladentown United Methodist Church, which is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
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