Hidden History - The Walstein Childs House in Shawangunk

Hidden from public view on the western edge of Wallkill Correctional Facility property in Shawangunk is a stone house that sits on a tract of land conveyed to David Mulford in 1776 by Charles Clinton (brother of the Governor). Carved into a slender horizontal stone on the front facade is the date 1763. The date was likely carved by the Mulford family, but the original builder of the house may have been a tenant farmer. Even today the homestead is surrounded by a complex of working farm buildings: a large red barn, a second farm building with animal stalls, a former workers' house that may date back to the 1940s or 1950s, and acres of open fields.

The house remained in the Mulford family until purchased by Walstein Childs in 1876, a year after his marriage to Margaret Hasbrouck. An addition was constructed at the rear of the house in the second half of the 19th century, probably after the Childs purchase. At that time the homestead contained 130 acres devoted to general farming "kept in fine order and equipped with every modem improvement." Childs was elected supervisor of Shawangunk in 1885 and served for eight consecutive years. The house was occupied by members of the Childs family until 1946, when it was purchased by Orma O. Healy. She sold the house in 1950 to Edwin and Virginia Abrahamsen,

parents of Kris Pedersen, Chair of the Planning Board, Town of Shawangunk. Ownership subsequently transferred from Bernhard and Erna Thieben to Dr. Wallace Karutz to Lee Titus who sold it to the Wallkill Correctional Facility in the year 2000. The Walstein Childs House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 3, 2003.

A number of surviving features date from the original construction of the house: the wide rough-hewn floor boards, deep window sills, the staircase, the fireplace surround and historic iron fire back, a Dutch door with original hardware, and a chimney made from Wallkill River mud bricks. The building itself is constructed of fine Dutch stone masonry, with later repairs made in an Italian masonry style.

Today the stone house rests shuttered and empty with an uncertain future. Around it, the Wallkill Correctional Facility manages a thoroughbred horse farm and inmates care for 35-50 retired racing horses that are given a graceful ending to their strenuous careers. When a horse dies, the animal is buried nearby and the inmates plant a tree over its grave. The landscape near the stone house is dotted with these trees.

The red bam nearby may be of the same vintage as the stone house, with massive hand-hewn beams in evidence, but it has not been in use since acquired by the Facility, and has deteriorated to the point of being placed off limits. Another substantial farm building near the stone house, originally used to stall cows and hay, is currently in use as a classroom for the horse farm. Although the chapter appears to be closed for the Walstein Childs House in our time, the slow tempo of farm work continues around it.

(We thank the Wallkill Correctional Facility for a tour and helpful information on the current status of the Walstein Childs homestead.)

Source: Historical society of Shawangunk & Gardiner   Volume 5  Number 3