History of Land & School
The Legacy of Our Land: From Miller's Dairy Farm to Suits Us Farm Summer Camp and Beyond
Bovina Center Montessori School is situated on a beautiful farm property that has a rich history. Many locals know about the farm, either because they worked on the farm or visited the farm during its lifespan, and it is easy to find a someone in Delaware County who is willing to share a funny story about it too.
As far as is known, the farm was established in the 1840s-1850s by the Miller family, who ran it as a dairy farm and kept it in their hands for generations.
Around the 1920s-1930s, the Miller family sold the farm, and it is likely to have passed through a few owners before the Alex and Elisabeth "Lisa" Rabeler family procured it in the 1940s. They continued dairy farming on the land until 1956 when they opened the farm for the first time as a summer camp.
At first, the camp was only for a few families staying in the Main House (aka the White House), but over time it evolved into a fully-fledged and well-known summer camp in the area called "Suits Us Farm."
Over the years, the Rabeler family converted many of the existing farm structures into accommodation and communal spaces, enabling them to host over 300 overnight guests in their peak hey-days. They also built the property's two ponds, the pool, the tennis court, the old playground (sourced from the old one-room schoolhouse further down the road), and the handball court (which is now a mirrored wall). Today a popular Facebook Group exists with people linked to the old Suits Us Farm, whereon they share old stories, photos, and other memorabilia from what many claim were the best days of their lives.
During the winter, SUNY Delhi students stayed in the camp rooms as dorms, while the summer camp was closed. The farm became a favorite spot for young people and many stories still circulate today, including how young men during the night would traverse the woods to try and secretly visit the college girls who lived in the big barn (now known as the Blue Barn).
The Rabeler family ran the camp until 2005 when they retired and they decided to sell the farm. It was procured by a retreat center called the Point Horizon Institute, which leased and later sold the farm in 2010 to a new girl's camp called "Camp Move It". The camp coordinators painted the buildings in some wild colors - recognizable for many in the area - with the camp itself only lasting for two summers before closing and putting the property up for sale again in 2011.
The property then sat on the market for years until it was bought at an auction in 2016 by a private owner and NYC real estate developer for a fraction of its original listed price. At this time, the farm was in disarray, with heavily overgrown fields, buildings that had been squatted in, roofs fallen in, several water leaks and black mold. The new owner renovated the Main House and some of the Carriage House (aka the Pink Carriage House or Pink Barn). He later sold the property in 2021 to the current rental property business, who leases the property to the School.
The original farm had over 400-450 acres of land, of which 350-400 acres were later sold to New York City and turned into public land, leaving only 50 acres remaining, when the current owners took over. The only neighbor to the school now, other than NYC public land, is the farm to the left when looking at the property from Route 5 (aka "Pink Street"). It was once a Miller family farm too (a brother to the other Miller), and has been privately owned for decades as a second home by the owners.
A fascinating remnant from the Miller era is the ice pond, which was used to cut out ice chunks for food and dairy cool storage The original wall structure that dammed the water in the brook - and which created the pond - still stands. You can see it by walking along the back brook past the animal shed and machine barn.