A Manhattan couple enjoy life in the country
By Mary Beth Galarneau
When most people purchase a new home, their life resumes for the most part, as it was, except maybe with more space. They spend time getting acquainted with new neighbors and perhaps learning new driving routes.
For Manhattanites Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, their lives did a 180-degree turn when they bought their new home, a 200-year old 5,000-square foot historic home in Sharon Springs, about 50 miles west of the Capital Region in the picturesque county of Schoharie. They are now the proud owners of over 120 goats, have a thriving online business selling goat’s milk soap and are organic gardeners, tending to 52 raised beds not far from their back porch. They also operate www.Beekman1802.com, a popular website of articles and blogs about their life on the farm and natural living that has been visited by thousands of people from all over the world.
Like many who live in Manhattan (or any bustling city, for that matter), the couple yearned for a weekend country home, a place to escape their fast-paced city lives. Kilmer-Purcell is an advertising executive and novelist and Ridge is a physician who most recently served as vice president for healthy living at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
Every autumn the couple would choose a new town in Upstate New York to go apple-picking. In 2006, they chose an orchard in Sharon Springs and checked into the nearby American Hotel. They passed the Beekman house while driving on Route 10 and pulled over to read the blue and yellow historic marker in the front yard, thinking it was a museum. Set a bit off the road amid rolling hills with a quintessential red barn on the property, it’s easy to see why they would mistake the pristine home for a museum. Back at the hotel, they inquired and found out it was a private residence and had been on the market for five years. Turns out the realtor also moonlighted as a server at the hotel’s restaurant, so they were able to take a tour of the home that very day.
History of the house
The house was built between 1802 and 1804 for $10,000 for William Beekman’s family in the Georgian Palladium style. Its original signature architectural elements are its large front palladian window on the second floor in the front of the house and the 14-feet wide center hallways. He and his wife Joanna had eight children, sadly, only two lived past the age of 20. Beekman was a “boy soldier” in the Revolutionary War and later became a successful businessman with a general store across the road from where he would eventually build his home. He was appointed the first judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Schoharie County in 1795 until 1833 and served as State Senator from 1799-1802. He and his wife lived well up into their 70s, not very common for those times; outliving all of their children, and are buried on the property in the family crypt.
The home has had two owners since the Beekman’s, the most recent being a Manhattan couple who bought the house for $300,000 in 1993, when it was in shambles. Years of neglect had taken its toll, not to mention local vandals. They restored the home to its original splendor, adding the porch, several chimneys and updated the kitchen.
Unfortunately, the husband passed away just three years after the renovation was complete and his wife put the house on the market in 2001; selling it in 2006 to Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell for an undisclosed amount.
Though they still maintain an apartment in the city, the men relish country living. This summer, along with heirloom seed specialist Landreth Seed, they hosted American’s Oldest Largest Garden Party, an online “party” during the growing season offering tips and advice from expert celebrity gardeners, contests and prizes.
To top that off, this month they are hosting a two-day event, a Garden Party at the Beekman Mansion followed by a Harvest Festival.
The Garden Party – Tour and learn the history behind their heirloom vegetable garden, learn to evaluate wines with a tasting of NY Rieslings and help choose the team of culinary students from SUNY Delhi who create the most interesting canape’s from their vegetable garden. $35. Proceeds support the culinary program at SUNY. 5:30pm-7:30pm
1st Annual All-Day Harvest Festival – Features special tastings of heirloom vegetables, NYS wines and beers, maple syrup, other regional delights and a farmer’s market from the local farmers. Village of Sharon Springs. Free! 9am-4pm.
That evening, take part in the Harvest Feast at 7pm at the American Hotel in Sharon Springs. $100 per person.
For more information visit www.beekman1802.com.