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Re-discover Restored Rockland Courthouse Dutch Garden

by Helene Bon

Rockland County is full of simple treasures in unexpected places.  Now, one of them, perhaps forgotten to many, receives the spotlight and a new life.Follow the winding path along the bank of Demarest Kill, the stream behind the Rockland County Courthouse.  At the end of the path, by the footbridge, follow the sign and climb the wooden stairs to The Dutch Garden.  Enter one of Rockland’s most storybook spaces.

As the earliest Rockland settlers, the Dutch left an indelible mark on the County.  We see their legacy in family, street, and stream names; in structures, and in the outdoor spaces surrounding them. The Dutch Garden, built in 1934, is a WPA project designed and supervised by landscape architect Mary Mowbray-Clarke. Local craftsmen built the hardscape from donated Haverstraw bricks. The serpentine brick walls and paths were an intrinsic part of the design, as were several ‘€œtete-a-tetes’€ (brick seats with elaborate backs).

Neglect and many Rockland County winters weathered the Garden and left it in disrepair. Restoration expert and Co-chair of the Rockland County Art in Public Places Committee, Ken Linsner, describes the deterioration. “It was reminiscent of an abandoned graveyard,’€  he says.  ‘€œSince 1771 Rockland has been noted for its brick and brickwork,  starting with the Dutchman Jacob Van Dyke. It was sad to see such a rich history, celebrated in the Dutch Garden and built with the last of the true Haverstraw brick, fall into disrepair.  This seemingly connoted our accepted deterioration of such local landmarks and with it, the loss of our and our children’s heritage.’€

In 1999, the Garden was nominated to the New York State historic register and received a $50,000 Historic Preservation Grant for Phase 1 of its restoration. Phase 2 was accomplished with support from Friends of the Dutch Garden.

The reclamation of this heritage park is completed by the restoration of the remaining tete-
a-tete, through the Art in Public Places Program of Rockland County. Gary Dinnebeil, a Rockland resident and President of Yankee Construction Company, which completed the restoration, says the emphasis was on remaining true to the original. ‘€œWe started by analyzing old photos to determine how the tete-a-tete originally looked,’€ he says. ‘€œWe sandblasted the bricks so they would look hand-chipped, as they would have been when it was created. And we matched the mortar color to complete an authentic look.’€

The Art in Public Places Committee, which operates under Rockland’s Percent for Art Law, is comprised of community volunteers who are appointed by the Rockland County Legislature to enhance the quality of life in Rockland through public art by selecting, placing and restoring art works on Rockland County property and by educating citizens about the work.
AIPP has placed 38 new and restored artworks locally, including several at the new and old County Courthouses and Legislature.

There will be a dedication ceremony for the newly restored Dutch Garden tete-a-tete on Wednesday, September, 13 at 12 PM in the Dutch Garden.  The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

For more information contact Julianne Ramos, Administrator, AIPP at jramosrca@aol.com

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