SEVEN MILES INLAND from Poughkeepsie lies the village of Pleasant Valley, New York.  It is where my family landed in 1982, and where I grew up.  The town's first permanent settlers came in 1710, but the hamlet that now serves as "downtown" wasn't established until the 1730s, when a mill was constructed where the old Filkentown Road (now known as Route 44) crossed the Wappingers Creek.

THE MILL at Pleasant Valley went through several incarnations until a fire in the winter of 1815 destroyed what was then known as the Pleasant Valley Manufacturing Company.  The new building was completed by 1816.  Typical of early northeastern cotton mills, the mill was a three-story stone building.  Its slate-covered roof was split in-two by a clerestory monitor, and atop the whole stood an octogonal belfry.

THE PLEASANT VALLEY MANUFACTORY, as the new structure was called, went through several different owners, including Thomas Garner and Company, which also owned the dye-works at Wappingers Falls.   In the 1930s, the mill was purchased by what would become known as the Pleasant Valley Finishing Company. The new company converted the mill from the production of Cotton products to dyeing and printing various textiles.  This meant that the buildings would have to be expanded.  And so over the course of the next twenty years, a number of additions were built until the old mill - as well as an adjacent stone store building which dates to 1763 - were engulfed in a myriad of cynder-block attachments.

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IN 1984, the Pleasant Valley Finishing Company moved out to a new location that provided more convenient access to proper waste disposal, in Poughkeepsie.  After nearly 170 years of continuous activity, the Mill finally went silent.  Proposals to level the additions and restore the site's two historic buildings came and went without success.

THEN, on July 21, 1994, the very day the town board decided to purchase and restore the site itself, another fire swept the mill at Pleasant Valley.  By the time the smoke cleared, all that remained of the 1815 building were four stone walls and a pile of ashes.  The additions and 1763 building were spared fire damage.

THE NEXT SUMMER, the ruins of the old mill - with the exception of the old stone store - were entirely razed.  My efforts to preserve as much as possible of the old mill saved only the building's two arched entryways, which remained as the only standing reminders of the building that built my town . . . until town officials had them bulldozed in the summer of 2001 because they were "ugly." At least they didn't mince words.

IN DECEMBER of 1995, a McDonald's opened on part of the site.  The other half of the property, on which sat the arches and 1763 stone building, was later purchased by the town.  Today it is the site of a new town green, while the stone building now houses the office of Pleasant Valley's Town Historian, the immortal Olive Doty.

    "Click on image to enlarge."      

ACROSS THE CREEK from the mill stand a group of old houses, several of which were probably built for mill hands.  The oldest of these has been vacant now for many years, and probably dates to the 1790s.  It is unusual in the States to see such relatively ancient buildings abandoned, let alone three within sight of each other.

"Click on image to enlarge."

SINCE I TOOK this photo, the barn in the backaround has lost its gable, and most of the clapboards on the front of this old salt-box style house have literally fallen off.  The house has been "fixed," but not to a degree that might significangly increase it's longevity.  It would be wonderful to see the place restored, but at this point, this poor old house barely defies gravity.

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© T.E. Rinaldi, 2006