Valentine Varian House
The Valentine-Varian House
When Isaac Valentine bought this parcel of land from the Dutch Reformed Church, carriages traveled the nearby Boston Post Road through a Bronx consisting mostly of farmland. Valentine, a blacksmith and farmer, built this two-story fieldstone house and 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), 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) served as New York City’s 63rd Mayor, from 1839-1841.
William F. Beller acquired this house in a 1905 auction. 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. The house still bears some scars from that precarious trip, even though it was less than 100 yards.
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.