The history is a bit hazy, and the river there just west of Scotia bears little resemblance to the “Mighty Mohawk” of the 17th century. Still, the natural beauty lingers on and remains spellbinding, making the River Stone Manor a particularly enchanting place to spend some time.
Co-owners Skip Sgarlata and Tom Monteparo thought the location had possibilities in 2000 when they purchased 15 acres of land surrounding what has often been referred to by some as the Viele House and by others the Glindmyer House. Open since 2003 as a banquet facility, the River Stone Manor includes the circa 1860 home on the site as well as a 350-seat ballroom built by Sgarlata and Monteparo after they bought the property. During the summer months, the River Stone also has a large tent for outdoor events within a stone’s throw of the north bank of the Mohawk River.
“We have three different pieces that make up our facility, and the house gets used for small parties, board meetings and things like that,” said Sgarlata, who resides on the second floor of the home. “We often have weddings and receptions here, and the ladies will use the house as their changing room. It’s a really nice old house.”
The white, 2 1⁄2-story structure is totally encircled by a substantial rock wall.
“I think it was actually built as a flood wall, but we haven’t had to worry about that since we’ve been here,” said Monteparo. “It used to be continuous and ran up the driveway through the woods to the main road.”
A different Mohawk
The house is about 50 yards from the Mohawk, whose course was altered greatly in 1918 when the New York State Barge Canal was built to replace the Erie Canal. Pictures by noted General Electric scientist Charles Steinmetz in the early 20th century clearly document that change.
“Steinmetz took a lot of photographs, and there is one picture looking back at the house that really shows you how the river changed,” said Monteparo. “It’s a lot wider now than it was. It literally looked like a creek back then.”
That’s why many people referred to that channel of the Mohawk River as Viele Creek, back before the river was deepened to increase its transportation options. The creek used to enter the Mohawk just north of where the manor is today, to form Viele Island. It was the Viele family that first farmed the land there back in the late 17th century.
Former Schenectady County historian Don Keefer thinks that at the time of the Schenectady Massacre in 1690, the Viele farm may have been the fourth home to pop up on the north side of the river heading west away from Schenectady.
“There were the Glens, the DeGraffs at the hook, then the Tolls and the Vieles,” said Keefer. “There’s been different owners since then, but those farms were all making broomcorn throughout the 19th century when Schenectady County was the biggest producer of broomcorn in the world.”
While an 1835 map at the Scotia History Center indicates that the Vieles were farming in that area and had an orchard, it’s unclear when exactly the family sold the land. The Glindmyers came into possession of the property sometime in the second half of the 19th century, and were neighbors of the Haselows, who also may have lived in the house for a while. Both families were German immigrants and farmers who had substantial farms that produced broomcorn.
In 1952, the Brown family was living in the house and sold it to the Coutants who in turn sold it to the Rossiter family. The Rossiters lived there until 1990.
“It had been vacant for about 10 years when we bought it,” said Sgarlata. “There was a lot of painting and remodeling that had to be done. There was a shag carpet, a stucco ceiling and some old paneling that we had to get rid of. We didn’t like the way it looked, so we restored it to the way it should have looked — the way it was 100 or 150 years ago.”
Back to 1700s?
While Sgarlata dates the house to 1863, Monteparo thinks there is plenty to indicate another home there a century or more earlier.
“I went through the house and gutted the basement and there’s definitely a footprint, an indication of another house being here even earlier than the 1800s,” said Monteparo. “The way the house looks today took its shape from the 1860s, but if you go down in the basement it looks like something out of the 1700s.”
According to Hartgen Archeological Associates in Rensselaer, there is evidence supporting the idea that several hundred years ago there was human activity on the property. Just a few yards east of the house and the banquet facility, where Sgarlata and Monteparo put their parking lot, diggers found various Native American artifacts, including post molds, fire pits and pottery.
“There’s plenty to suggest that there was some occupation on the land by Native Americans,” said Matt Kirk, who was project manager during the dig Hartgen performed for Sgarlata and Monteparo in 2000. “I didn’t see anything that would suggest a longhouse like some people have said, but the native Americans probably camped there and spent some time there; I would say probably between the years 1400 and 1600.”
The Viele connection
It was more than a half a century later when the Dutch showed up in that area of Glenville. The first reference to a Cornelis Viele has him in Beverwyck (Albany) in 1665, but in 1668 he comes to Schenectady and applies for a license as an innkeeper. In 1670, he bought land on the north bank of the Mohawk River west of Scotia from Alexander Lindsay Glen but apparently never moved there, preferring to remain in the village of Schenectady.
Around that time, he married a Mohawk woman named Suster who gave birth to four children. She died in 1683 and Cornelis sometime before the Schenectady Massacre in 1690. One of those children, Cornelis Jr., born in 1676, purchased land on the north side of the Mohawk from his Uncle Peter in 1710 near the current site of the River Stone Manor.
It was apparently Claas or Nicholas Viele, the son of Cornelis Jr., who farmed this property for much of the 18th century and for whom the land and the island next to it was named. The island has also been called Sassian’s after another early landowner in that area, and these days it is currently named Dalys Island.