- History of Tuxedo -

he earliest occupants of what is now the Town of Tuxedo were the Lenni-Lenape Indians, who named the largest lake in the town "Tucseto," meaning either "place of the bear" or "clear flowing water."

Eighteenth Century settlers were mainly employed at the nearby Sterling Iron Mine Works in neighboring Ringwood, New Jersey. Several served in the Revolutionary War, which brought the 1779 construction of Continental Road from Eagle Valley through the present-day Village of Tuxedo Park to what is now Route 17 near Warwick Brook Road. The first industry in Tuxedo was the Augusta Forge at the falls on the Ramapo, founded by Solomon Townsend in 1783.

In the early 19th Century, the Town of Southfield (now part of the Town of Tuxedo, was renamed Monroe in 1808. The area of Tuxedo still known as Southfields contained an active iron forge, its ruins visible today. The oldest structure in Tuxedo to be documented is the Adam Belcher house. Dating from 1790, it still stands in Southfields, today.

By 1812, the Augusta Forge went out of business and the 7,000-acre Augusta Tract owned by Townsend was sold to Peter Lorillard, who was in the tobacco business. He used the tract for lumbering, especially important for the wood-fired Erie Railroad, which was built in 1841.

In the southern part of Tuxedo, known as Eagle Valley, farming took place, as well as just south of Lake Mombasha in areas named Helmsburg and Bramertown after early settlers. In the northern part of town, in the area known as Arden, the Greenwood Furnace was established in 1810. During the Civil War, this forge produced the iron for the famous Parrott Gun (a mortar), which was built in Cold Spring by the Parrott Brothers, then owners of the Greenwood tract. The Parrotts built St. John's Episcopal Church in Arden in 1863. The cemetery along Route 17 in Arden was associated with St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, built there in 1867 and now gone. The Southfields Methodist Church was built in 1848. By the 1890s, the iron industry had faded away due to the discovery of surface beds of iron in Minnesota.

In 1886, the grandson of Peter Lorillard established Tuxedo Park on the family's land. Using land planner Ernest Bowditch of Boston and architect Bruce Price of New York, and with the help of 1,800 Italian and Slovakian laborers, in about eighteen months twenty miles of roads, a gate, a clubhouse, and three dams, were created launching a resort which attracted a number of the financial, industrial and social leaders of the day.

Over the first thirty years, more than 250 houses and stables were built in Tuxedo Park, as well as over 100 homes, retail stores, and service establishments in the so-called Hamlet. Three churches, all still standing (one is the Tuxedo Historical Society today), a train station, a library, and a post office were also built, as well as a school and a hospital.

The Town of Tuxedo was officially formed on March 4, 1890, from the southern land area of the Town of Monroe. By 1915, 3,636 people lived in Tuxedo, about 20% more than were reported in the 2000 Census.

During the 1920s a new hospital and a high school were built through the generosity of a few Tuxedo Park residents. But the Stock Market Crash of 1929 had a disproportionately negative effect on Tuxedo Park's affluence and a slow but severe decline in the community's fortunes set in, resulting in a population decline and the loss of such amenities as the hospital, the Masonic Temple (now the Town Hall), and many retail stores.

A major shift in landholding in Tuxedo came about after 1910 when Mrs. W. A. Harriman gave $1 million and 10,000 acres of her family's land to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. State purchase of farm and forest land from scores of owners, often by eminent domain, has resulted in the present Bear Mountain Harriman State Park, which occupies about 12,500 of Tuxedo's 30,700 acres. In 1956, the Harrimans sold their Sterling Mine and Railroad Company tract to City Investing Company (now Sterling Forest LLC), which, on its 8,000 acres in the Town of Tuxedo, began the developments of Maple Brook, Laurel Ridge, Clinton Woods and various offices and research centers.

In 1952, the area known as Tuxedo Park became an incorporated village. Today it comprises 2,050 acres, of which 355 acres is three lakes, and about 340 housing units in 320 structures. Other newer housing developments include the Southfields Apartments built in 1971 on the site of a former bed factory, the Mountain View Apartments near the Sloatsburg line, and the Woodlands in Eagle Valley. Non-residential facilities include International Paper's Research Center and the Tuxedo Ridge formerly Sterling Forest Ski Area.

We would like to thank Christian Sonne, Town Historian, for providing this summary.

For more information, visit the Tuxedo Historical Society either on their website or at 7 Hospital Road, or at 845.351.2296.