Mill House: An American Treasure
In 1714 Luis Moses Gomez, who as a child, had fled with his family from the Spanish inquisition, purchased 6,000 acres of land along the Hudson Highlands where several Native American trails converged. On the southwestern corner, he built a fieldstone blockhouse trading post into the side of a hill along a stream that became known as "Jews Creek."
The great walls of the trading post - which are about two feet
thick - survive, as do two original fireplaces and evidence of the
limestone floors that covered the ground of the main room. The main
resources of timber and lime drove the industry he and his son Daniel
conducted on the property. The trading post served to provide basic
commodities to other local residents, settlers traveling north and
the few remaining Native
Americans still trading along the Hudson River. On a northern
point of the river front property, stood the Duyfil's Danskammer,
a Native American ceremonial campsite described in the ship's diaries
of Henry Hudson in 1609. For over thirty years, Luis Gomez and his
sons conducted a thriving enterprise from the trading post. A leader
of Colonial Jewish America, Luis Moses Gomez became parnas
(president) of Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation.
Under his leadership, he led the drive to build the Mill Street
Synagogue, the first Synagogue in New York. Among the more prominent
descendents and extended family were the poet Emma Lazarus and Supreme
Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, and New York Governor Hamilton Fish.
Before the Revolutionary War, Gomez Mill House was purchased by
Wolfert Acker, a Dutch-American
who added a second story and attic with bricks made from clay found
nearby. During the Revolutionary War, Acker served as a lieutenant
in the New Marlborough Company of Minute Men and chairman of the
Committee of Safety while General Washington's army was camped close
by in Newburgh. The house became a center for meetings of the new
American patriots. After the war, Acker established a landing on
the Hudson with a ferry to cross the river to Beacon, and a packet
line to carry freight.
In the 19th century, gentleman farmer and conservationist, William
Henry Armstrong and his family made Gomez Mill House their home
for five decades. They added the kitchen wing and porch and rolling
stone walls to the property. At the Danskammer, painter, statesman
and brother D. Maitland Armstrong lived with other members of the
prominent Armstrong family.
The most famous owner in the 20th century was Dard
Hunter, renowned craftsman and paper historian who, just prior
World War I, built a paper mill on Jew's Creek in the shape of an
English country cottage complete with a thatched roof. Students
from all over the world came to learn from him as he made paper
by hand, cut and cast type and hand-printed his own books. The
for Mill House restored Hunter's Mill and the mill dam and
bridge in 1997, which in 2010 underwent a second major restoration.