In the second part of our two-part series on Snedens Landing and South Mountain Road, we look at South Mountain Road and how it has evolved over recent generations. My firm currently has four properties listed for sale there, and it renewed my interest in the area’s historical provenance and its attraction for artists and creatives.
As we discussed in our last blog, for those looking to purchase real estate in this part of the Hudson Valley, many were torn between Snedens Landing and South Mountain Road. My observation is that the South Mountain “Roaders” tend to have an adventurous spirit and a passion for the rural landscape.
Life as a Roader
Like Snedens Landing, South Mountain Road has consistently attracted a distinctive artistic community of writers, actors and artists, from poet Maxwell Anderson- whose home we currently have listed- to composer Kurt Weill and his wife, singer/actress Lotte Lenya. Other members of this informal artists’ colony include director and producer John Houseman and painter Henry Varnum Poor. In the late 1970s Mick Jagger lived on South Mountain Road.
As background, South Mountain Road is a historic road on the northern border of New City. The name is not directional, however, as there is no North Mountain Road- it gets its name from being on the south of the mountain, which by the way, was the name of a Broadway show, written by South Mountain Road resident, Maxwell Anderson. The road itself winds against the mountainside and has historic roots back to the Revolutionary War. Homes are tucked away on the hillside in a country setting.
The road also has ties to the most important art show in American history- “The Armory Show” of 1913 in New York City- which introduced European Avant-garde art to America including Fauvism Cubism and Futurism. Prior to that, Americans were used to Realism, certainly nothing experimental. Two local Rockland residents were responsible for coordinating this show: artist Arthur B. Davies and South Mountain roader and sculptor John Frederick Mowbray-Clarke.
On a personal note, I had the pleasure of working with the Mowbray-Clarke family, representing them in the sale of their family homestead to Ramapo Township as green space.
In my Snedens Landing blog, I mentioned that I recently found an article from July 1952 for Park East magazine by Pamela Whittaker, where she details the lifestyles of Snedens Landing and South Mountain Road. It was interesting to see her note that those “qualities which stem from similarities in occupation and age make the South Mountain Road colony similar to that in Snedens. Otherwise the two are quite different and definitely separate, mildly but inactively interested in each other.”
It is also interesting to note that in 1952 she observed that South Mountain Road was capable of considerable expansion, being physically larger than Snedens Landing. It appears that South Mountain Road at the time grew as a sort of bohemian version of Snedens. “There was a more pronounced emphasis on the arts and crafts as such than ever obtained in Snedens, and much time was spent discussing things artistic and philosophical. Many Roaders combined their craft abilities with the rustic life and built their own homes and furniture, wove their own materials, and went in for chickens and gardens and canning.”
While you generally will not find that type of rustic existence anymore, the spirit of bohemian art is still alive and well on South Mountain Road, just as a love for art in all its forms and community is still cultivated in Snedens Landing. It leaves one to wonder how much both areas will change in another 60 years.