THE VALENTINE-VARIAN HOUSE
When Isaac Valentine, a blacksmith and farmer, bought this parcel of land from the Dutch Reformed Church, and built this two-story fieldstone house, carriages traveled the nearby Boston Post Road through a Bronx consisting mostly of farmland. It stands today as the borough’s second oldest house.
The home’s symmetrical style, sometimes referred to as Georgian vernacular, features evenly placed windows and identical chimneys at either end. Inside, rooms mirror each other across a central hallway. The design of the deep-set, splayed windows throughout the house let in light and keep out the cold.
During the Revolutionary War (1776-1783), the Valentine home was occupied by British, Hessian, and American troops. Except for 11 months between 1775-1776, Valentine and his family remained in the house throughout the war. The house, close in proximity to cannons clustered on a nearby hill, miraculously survived several fierce battles. Financial ruin forced Isaac Valentine to sell the home and the 260-acre property to Isaac Varian, a successful butcher and farmer, in 1792. The Varians kept the house for three generations; one of Isaac’s grandsons (also named Isaac) served as New York City’s 63rd Mayor, from 1839-1841.
William F. Beller acquired this house in a 1905 auction, and his son, William C. Beller, donated it to The Bronx County Historical Society in 1965, but sold the land to developers. The house was then moved diagonally from its original location, across Bainbridge, one block south to its present location in Williamsbridge Oval Park. The move took two days and involved an enormous 48-wheel dolly, that turned the house ninety degrees to rest it in the center of the street skirting the park. Workers plastered and bolted the exterior together, and ribbed with house with steel bands supported by steel beams, in order to keep from falling apart during the move. Although less than 100-yards, the house still bears some scars from that precarious trip.
Sections of the house retain the original floorboards, hand-forged nails and homemade mortar. Now the home of the Museum of Bronx History, administered by The Bronx County Historical Society, two rooms contain changing exhibitions. The front parlor has a permanent display about the development of the area, from the Dutch period through the Revolution.
1758 Isaac Valentine, a young blacksmith from Yonkers, secures the lease of a farm from the Dutch Reformed Church in the former Manor of Fordham. Shortly thereafter, he builds a fieldstone farmhouse alongside the Boston Post Road, which runs through his property.
1776 Skirmishes between British/Hessian and American forces back and forth through and around Valentine’s property.
1777 American General William Heath and his troops occupy Valentine’s home and farm during their siege of Fort Independence.
1792 Valentine property and house purchased by Isaac Varian, due to the financial ruin of Valentine as a result of the Revolutionary War.
1905 Valentine-Varian House sold to William F. Beller.
1965 Valentine-Varian House moved to its current home, adjacent to Williamsbridge Oval Park. House donated to The Bronx County Historical Society by property heir, William C. Beller.
1968 Valentine-Varian House opened to the public as the Museum of Bronx History.