Like most people traveling what is now Route 202 through Somers, N.Y., over the past 165-plus years, Christine and Bob Beshar would not help but notice the stately granite-clad Greek Revival home when they passed by with their four children on a regular basis in the early 1980s. They were captivated by it, and Bob, in fact, began to refer to it as “my stone home.”
“We never saw anyone on the property,” Christine recalls, “so we figured it must belong to a foundation or something. Then one day, one of the children told Bob there was an article about ‘his house’ in the paper, and the couple who owned it for almost 20 years said they were considering selling it. Bob made an offer, but we didn’t hear anything for a year. Then we got a call asking if we were still interested …”
The elegant house was built of locally quarried granite in 1849 by Gerard Crane, a farmer, banker and early circus entrepreneur and descendant of a Revolutionary War colonel, and has had only eight owners in its long history. Beautifully designed (by J.R. Dickenson and W.R. Waters) and executed, filled with exquisite detail and updated for today’s living, the Stone House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
Aside from the conversion of the original music room to a modern kitchen — and the outdoor kitchen converted to a two-car garage — the configuration of the house has not been modified. Aside from disturbing the symmetry, modification would be difficult, Christine notes, as the interior walls are brick covered with plaster. Smaller spaces — a pantry off the kitchen and an upstairs ladies conversation room, for example — were made into bathrooms as modern conveniences became available. The original three-seat outhouse — also clad with granite — remains along the driveway and today holds garden tools.
The house is deceptive from the outside. It rises two and a half stories from the front lawn and has a granite staircase with wrought iron railings leading to the entrance portico featuring fluted Doric columns and a 500-pound carved mahogany door that is four inches thick (the edge is canted so the door can close). It was painted white when the the Beshars acquired the home — “and the interior was all battleship gray” — and was among the woodwork stripped and restored to its original beauty. That included the floors and the ornate central staircase handrail and balustrades.
Renovations, as often happens, “took three times as long and cost three times as much as expected.”
A house divided
Each of the three main floors is divided into four spacious rooms, each with a fireplace and most with marble mantels. “We got overly ambitious and opened them all up when we moved in,” Christine says with a laugh. “Today, we use only three.” The four-bedroom (each with windows on two sides), three-and-a-half-bath home totals 6,336 square feet. The two main living levels have 12-foot ceilings, and the adjoining parlor rooms on one side of the house can be separated by large pocket doors.
The wide plaster moldings and intricately carved friezes in these two rooms are spectacular — three levels of design draw the eyes upward, especially to the lower level of looping leaves centered by heads. “After studying them for years, I think they represent Shakespeare characters, and indications are they were added later,” says Christine.
Beneath the portico is a door leading into the four-room lower level, which in Crane’s day was a hub of activity for the home’s servants. One remnant of that time is a set of call bells, each of a different tone, which summoned a servant to one of the upstairs rooms. It is in the original kitchen — the brick cooking hearth and baking oven remain — which was modernized and subsequently used as a summer kitchen and den. Bob and Christine, both lawyers, used two of the rooms for his-and-her home offices.
There is a full, high-ceiled basement beneath the lower level, part of which once held the coal for cooking and heating and today houses the home’s mechanicals and an old safe, which a prior owner converted to a wine storage area. Above the safe is a marble slab engraved with Crane’s name and the 1849 date, as well as the names of the chief carpenter, stone mason, plasterers, and ornamental cornichers.
The large windows fill the thick-walled home with natural light … and the roofline design seen from the east and south sides facing the road differs from that on the west and north sides, which reveal short windows, indicating yet another living level, originally occupied by the servants. Six small rooms line the two windowed sides, the tops of the windows about waist-high. The balance of the floor is occupied by a large loft-style space with four hewn posts supporting the roof; an operable cupola helps keep things cool in the warm weather.
Situated on 30 acres, the property retains several outbuildings, including an enormous two-level barn with tile silo. “We think the barn predates the house, and Crane kept his animals — including a rhinoceros that once escaped — in there when they weren’t traveling,” Christine notes. “We replaced the skin and the roof, and it is a wonderful place for large parties — all four of our children had their weddings there.”
Christine has loved living in the Stone House and having a place for her children and spouses, grandchildren and friends to gather for more than three decades. She views the role she and Bob have played more as that of custodians, caretakers of the property, than of owners. With Bob’s passing a couple of years ago, she has decided it is time to relinquish her guardianship. For more information on the property, call Linda P. Gracie, 914-234-9099, or Anthony Cutugno,
914-234-0308, of Houlihan Lawrence or visit houlihanlawrence.com.
Slideshow photos courtesy of Tim Lee Photography