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History of Land & School


The Legacy of Our Land: From Aboriginal Tribes to Miller's Dairy Farm to Suits Us Farm 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.

 

We don't know much about the human occupation of the land prior to its establishment as a farm site, other than it is part of a greater area of New York where the American Indians "The Six Nations" ( the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas, the Senecas, and later the Tuscaroras) would occasionally camp for hunting during the warmer months. Particularly the Lenape and the Iroquois are known to have drawn a boundary line across the county, to signify their distinct territories.

After some interest
 in this region with families moving to establish farming in the area, the Town of Bovina was incorporated in 1820, which may have contributed to attracting more families to the area to settle.

A
s far as is known, the original 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.

(flip through the images below for a visual history of the farm)

Around the 1920s-1930s, the Miller family sold the farm, and it is likely to have passed through a few owners before the Alexander "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 Farmhouse (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 while the summer camp was closed, SUNY Delhi students stayed in the camp rooms as dorms and hunting parties would occasionally use the communal spaces. Suits Us Farm also hosted over the years graduation parties, weddings, square dancing, and more. 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 Barn (also known as the Big Barn or 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 350 acres of land, of which 300+ 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.

 
A School Begins
December 13, 2020 - Danish-born couple Sophie Wallas Rasmussen & David Madié officially decide to start the process of opening a Montessori school in Delaware County, after preliminary research and a visit to Catskill Montessori School in Catskill, NY (Greene County).
Early February 2021 - Sophie & David visit the future school's property on 2121 County Highway 5 for the first time, to review its eligibility for a school site.
May 2021 - The School is officially approved for incorporation by NYSED (Commissioner's Consent).
August 2021 - The rental property owner closes on the property and the School immediately begins renovations for classrooms in the Main House (aka "The White House") and the Carriage House, in time for school start.
September 3, 2021 - The School hosts its Opening Ceremony and Silent Auction for families and the local public. Speakers at the event are: IDA Chairman of the Board James Thomson, Delaware Chamber of Commerce President Ray Pucci, Bovina Town Historian Ray LaFever, BCMS Advisory Board Member and Bovina Farmer Donna Dickson-Noonan (Glenanore Farm), along with Sophie and David.
September 8, 2021 - The School officially opens with 3 Montessori full-time guides, 1 property caretaker, and 35 students in three classrooms: Toddler half-day program (18-36m), Primary (3-6y) & Elementary (6-12y). The primary lead guide lives on campus full-time in what is known as the Chicken House.
Summer 2022 - Renovations ensue in the Carriage House for two more classrooms and a new teacher apartment. The First Summer School & Daycare Program is offered for 5 weeks on campus for the public, with 20-25 students enrolled at any given time.
September 7, 2022 - The School opens its second year with 8 full-time guides, 1 property caretaker, and one part-time Spanish guide, with 44 students in four classrooms: Toddler (18-36m), Primary (3-6y), Elementary (6-12y) & a small Middle School (12-15y). Two guide families live on campus full-time; in the Chicken House and on the 2nd floor of the Carriage House.

September 16, 2022 - The School obtains its Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) license, enabling the school to offer a full-day toddler daycare center program.
 
September 22, 2022 - The School is awarded the New Business Rising Star Award from the NY Delaware County Chamber of Commerce

May 20, 2023 - The School hosts the inaugural, family-friendly Pink Street Festival on the great lawn in collaboration with the non-profit organization KidSkill Fund, to promote kids programs and activities in the Delaware County region and beyond.

Summer 2023 - The Schools runs its second Summer School & Daycare Program, offering 4 weeks on campus for the public, with 30-35 students enrolled at any given time.

September 6, 2023 - The School opens with 7 full-time guides and a part-time assistant guide, 1 administrator/operations coordinator, our 1 property caretaker, and 45 students in four classrooms. One teacher family continues to live on campus in the Chicken House.

October 2, 2023 - The School opens a second Toddler (18-36m) classroom in the Carriage House, with one additional, full-time toddler lead guide, increasing the student number to 47 and classrooms to 5.

January 3, 2023 - The School adds an additional full-time toddler assistant guide, increasing the number of full-time faculty to 9.

 
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