Bring up the subject of historic Hudson Valley estates, and the cast of characters consists for the most part of familiar family names: Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Roosevelt, Morse, Irving. Lesser known but equally worthy of attention are the people that resided at the Gomez Mill House in Marlboro, a property of considerably more modest scale than the moneyed enclaves of the landed gentry, but nonetheless containing its significant part of the Hudson Valley’s past.
“We’re a small site with a huge history,” says Ruth Abrahams, the executive director of the property. “It’s a major representation, really, of American history, of what we now refer to as The American Experience.”
A panoply of America
Of the 14 or so families that called the mill house home over the course of its nearly 300-year history, a half dozen in particular stand out.
The original structure was built by Luis Moses Gomez, a Sephardic Jew whose Spanish ancestors had fled to Europe to escape the Inquisition. Gomez and his two sons operated a trading post on the Marlboro site, and he was a leader in the development of the earliest Jewish communities in New York.
The second notable resident was Wolfert Acker, a patriot of the Revolutionary-War era, who added a second story to the Gomez foundation and whose home there served as a center for Whig activism. After the war, Acker operated several entrepreneurial ventures, including a ferry service on the Hudson, and he later became an early Orange County public official.
The early years of the nineteenth century brought members of the Armstrong family to the house, “gentlemen farmers” who planted orchards and were early conservationists.
In the twentieth century, the property became home to the Arts-and-Crafts-Movement-influenced papermaker, paper historian, printer, typographer and craftsman Dard Hunter. Hunter built a paper mill in the style of a Devonshire cottage there, complete with thatched roof, in order to produce his handmade paper.