gomez mill house



gomez mill house 2


The Starin Family
Residents from 1947-1984

Stained Glass Window

GMHThis year we celebrated the fiftieth year of Mildred Starin’s connection to Gomez Mill House. Mildred Starin and her husband bought the house shortly after WW II. They raised four children at the manor house. Mrs. Starin, an interior decorator and antique buff, was also interested in the history of this old house.

Her initial study found that the house was, indeed, the oldest house in Orange County, New York. She found that the builder was a Sephardic Jew who fled from Spain to find some liberty in France and then again was persecuted and traveled to the Caribbean. From the islands, Luis Gomez came to New York City. Further investigation uncovered that this house was now the oldest Jewish residence extant in America. Through Mrs. Starin’s efforts the house was placed on the National Register.

Mrs. Starin contacted descendants of the Gomez Family. The Goldstones were interested historians who helped set up the Gomez Foundation for Mill House to spark interest in the Jewish community for preservation. As Mrs. Starin’s family began to leave the nest, overtures were made by the Foundation to purchase the house. This was done and in 1984 the house became the property of the Foundation. Mrs. Starin remained on as resident manager, retiring in November of 1996 from an active role. During this period she conducted tours of the house by appointment only.

A unique feature was that the numerous families who occupied the house either sold the house furnished or left objects upon moving. Furniture and personal artifacts were found in the outbuildings. The outbuildings consisted of Hunter’s papermaking mill, a root cellar, a building thought to have been slave’s quarters from an early tradition and now used as a visitor’s center, an ice house, a garage, tenant’s quarters and the full attic in the main house. Mrs. Starin collected and restored the objects and used them to complete the decoration of the house. The provenance of some of the items was questioned and Mrs. Starin contacted John C. Staples who lived in the house prior to Hunter at the turn of the century and Dard Hunter for more information. Unusual items such as a Spanish manÇs armoire and chest from the middle 17th century may have belonged to the original owner, Gomez. The Acker family contributed the Bible Box that Wolfert used at his meetings at the house. Chairs and cabinets known to have belonged to the Armstrongs’ were found and documented. And items crafted by Dard Hunter were identified by him on his visits to the house. Two pieces signed by Hunter’s friend Gustav Stickley were also found at the house. The items left by past tenants and the objects purchased from or donated by Mrs. Starin form the collection for this historic site. Using the objects left in the house to teach and explain the lives of the inhabitants from the founding of the area in 1714 through today, one finds that the house is not one exhibiting a certain period, but as Mrs. Starin often states, a house that has been touched by history.

If it weren’t for Mrs. Starin, there would be no celebration of any kind. Placing the Gomez Mill House on the National Register of Historic Houses and then saving it from the developer’s bulldozer, of course preserved the house. Her talent for decorating and restoration march along side of and with her preservationist spirit. Without Mrs. Starin, there would be no Gomez Mill House today.

Mrs. Starin has donated or has left on loan at Gomez Mill House, many fine antiques that she painstakingly restored that had been left by previous owners. Without Mrs. Starin there would be few artifacts relating to the past owners and certainly none with provenance.

The donations of furniture and historical research that Mildred Starin has left with Gomez Mill House make her a leading preservationist in the Hudson River Valley and a very special lady.

Occupants of Mill House


Luis Gomez, a Sephardic Jew, a merchant and trader, was the first owner of Gomez Mill House, which he built in Marlboro as a trading post for the new colonists. Other pioneers, fleeing tyranny, and the cruelties in Europe for the promise of a new life, then settled in the Hudson Valley.


Wolfert Acker bought Mill House In 1772 and added the elegant second story, which was made from bricks baked in kilns on the property. He was a member of the Ulster County Militia and fought during the American Revolution to win freedom for the colonists.


When Harry Armstrong came to Mill House in 1862 on his honeymoon he brought his southern bride Maddie and stayed for the next 60 years. A gentleman farmer, he added a new kitchen wing, and planted orchards of fruit trees and berries to the property.


Dard Hunter, legendary artisan and craftsman bought Mill House in 1909. During his 7-year residence, Hunter began his lifelong career in hand papermaking and printing. He built a mill in the style of a Devonshire cottage. There he experimented with hand milled paper and produced his early signature work.


America entered the war in 1914, and the Hunter’s first son, Dard Jr., was born a month later. Thinking he was going into the service, Hunter sold Mill house in 1919. Hunter wrote in his autobiography that the house was sold to a representative of the Russian government and used as a school for children of all races. He really sold to Ms. Martha Gruening who tried to establish a Libertarian School at Mill House.


In 1947 the Starin family purchased Mill House with a GI loan. They raised 4 children here and were instrumental in preserving its heritage and tradition. After much research and many years of persistence Mildred Starin successfully placed the Gomez Mill House on the Historic Register in January 1973.


In 1984, the Gomez Foundation purchased Mill House, which it administers and supports today. The foundation board includes direct descendants of the historic family owners and other dedicated to the restoration and preservation of Mill House, and to the public’s education of its historical significance. The museum staff highlights 5 of the former owners in its presentation and tours of this Hudson Valley treasure.




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