Valentine Varian House
The Valentine-Varian House
The Valentine-Varian House was built ca. 1758, when carriages traveled the nearby Boston Post Road through a Bronx that was still mostly farmland. It stands today as the borough’s second oldest house. Isaac Valentine, a blacksmith and farmer who bought this parcel of land from the Dutch Reformed Church, built the two-story fieldstone house in 1758. The home then stood one block south across Bainbridge Avenue. During the Revolutionary War (1776-1783), Valentine and his family had to abandon their home, which was occupied by British, Hessian, and American troops. The house, close in proximity to cannons clustered on a nearby hill, miraculously survived several fierce battles.
The Valentines returned after the war, but financial ruin forced them to sell their 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) was the 63rd Mayor of New York City from 1839-1841.
This building was sold at auction in 1905 to William F. Beller. In 1965, his son, William C. Beller, donated the house to The Bronx County Historical Society. Since the lot was sold to developers, the house was moved diagonally to its present location in Williamsbridge Oval Park that same year.
The moving of this house took place over a period of two days. The house was pulled across the street by an enormous 48-wheel dolly, then turned ninety degrees to rest in the center of the street skirting the park; the park was then enlarged to include the site. In order to keep the exterior from falling apart during the move, the building, ribbed with steel bands and supported by steel beams, was plastered and bolted together. Though the journey was less than 100 yards, the house still bears some scars from this imperfect method.
This sturdy home was built in a symmetrical style, sometimes referred to as Georgian vernacular, with evenly placed windows and identical chimneys at either end. Inside, rooms mirror each other across a central hallway. Sections of the house retain the original floorboards, hand-forged nails and homemade mortar. Deep-set splayed windows throughout the house were designed to let in light and keep out the cold.
This structure is today home of the Museum of Bronx History, and is administered by the Bronx County Historical Society. Two rooms contain changing exhibitions, while the front parlor has a permanent display about the development of the area, from the Dutch period through the Revolution.
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