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Preserve America Community:
Ramapo, New York

The town of Ramapo, New York, (population 115,000), was formed from part of the town of Haverstraw in 1791. Ramapo is located in the southwestern part of Rockland County, 25 miles northwest of New York City. It developed on the early stagecoach route between New York City and Albany, which crossed the Ramapo Pass. Early business ventures along the Ramapo River included a wire mill and a nail factory. 

Torne Mountain in Harriman State Park in western Ramapo is the highest peak in Rockland County. During the Revolutionary War, the Torne served as a lookout for British ship movement on the Hudson River. Commander-in-Chief George Washington is said to have climbed the Ramapo Torne with a telescope to watch the movement of British ships off Sandy Hook. Legend says that General Washington lost his watch on the mountain, and it may still be heard ticking there in a crevice of the rocks.

In 1838, work began on a railroad through the Ramapo Pass to serve New York’s southern tier of counties. In 1851, 484 miles of track to Dunkirk on Lake Erie were completed, making it the second longest railroad in the world, and an engineering marvel of its time. 

Although agriculture remained dominant in Ramapo well into the 20th century, industry gradually grew. The California Perfume Company—known today as Avon—was founded in Ramapo in 1897. Avon remains a major employer in Ramapo, with a new research and development complex in downtown Suffern. 

One of Ramapo’s major attractions is Jacob Sloat House, or Harmony Hall, built in 1848, and home to the founder of the village of Sloatsburg, one of Ramapo’s 15 villages. In 2006, the town of Ramapo purchased and began restoring Harmony Hall, which is listed on both the State and National Historic Registers. Each Memorial Day, the hall offers tours during an annual open house. Other historic properties in Ramapo include the Mowbray-Clarke House; the Smith Family Farm, a pre-Revolutionary War sandstone house; and the oldest known “saltbox” home in New York.

For more information

Town of Ramapo: www.ramapo.org

Posted March 16, 2009

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