The Hamlet of Wassaic
In the early 1800s, the Gridley Iron Works was established by Noah Gridley and his two sons. Building on the success of the Iron Works, Noah Gridley was able to convince his good friend, Gail Borden, to establish his new condensed milk factory just down the street in 1861. The town barn was built in 1875 and became Luther’s Livestock Commission Market in 1948. Bowman’s Inn, now the Lantern Inn (1890), came next, followed by Maxon Mills in the 1950s. Along the way came Calsi’s General Store, Gridley Chapel, the firehouse, many different post offices, the Wassaic House Hotel, and a smattering of homes.
In the 1970s, the Upper Harlem rail line closed down. The mill employed a workforce through the 1980s, and the town enjoyed another boom supported by the Wassaic State School just down the road. However, just as the other boom and bust cycles came and went, the group home movement gave way to a new way of thinking regarding the Wassaic State School and it slowly shut down, relocating employees and killing the local economy. The Luther Barn switched from selling livestock to selling out farm implements as farming in Dutchess County became all but unsustainable. In 2005, with the mill about to be torn down, developers Tony Zunino and Richard Berry stepped in to restore it. And in 2008, artists Bowie Zunino, Eve Biddle, and Elan Bogarin used it to put on our first annual Summer Festival.
Today, Maxon Mills is a seven-floor, 8,000-square-foot art exhibition space, the Luther Barn is home to our summer residency studios, wood shop, print shop, and Maker Space, and the Luther Barn is a full-service bar and restaurant. Along the way, Wassaic has become a destination again, but the goal has always been to revitalize the town, not reshape it.