General Moreau, as well as our historic South Glens Falls house, and the families who lived there, left their mark on the property and the region.
General Jean Victor Moreau, born on February 14, 1763, was a distinguished soldier during the French Revolutionary War. After serving in the Nation Guard for two years, he opted to become a Colonel in the volunteer battalion. He fought well at Neerwinden and was rewarded with a promotion to General of the Brigade in 1793.
He soon took an interest in politics, becoming involved in an 1804 plot to kidnap and murder Napoleon, then later came to the U.S., where he traveled extensively. He had at least three homes... one in New York City, one in Bayonne, NJ, and a third in Morrisville, PA, where he came into possession of the estate of Robert Morris. Moreau lived there in obscurity for nearly ten years, but his home subsequently burned to the ground. At the request of the Tzar of Russia, Moreau returned to Europe and became a military adviser during the 1813 campaign in Germany. He died in battle against the foreign enemies of France.
While there is no historical record of why the town in upstate New York was named for Moreau, it is said that he made a brief visit here in 1804 and that the townspeople so admired the qualities of the “visiting Frenchman”, they honored him by giving his surname to the town.
The Parks-Bentley Place is a combination of early Federal and High Georgian Style. Although the East Wing is longer, there is a symmetrical look to the house. The side-lighted main door and the room layout suggests a typical early Federal Period home in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern States.
The High Georgian Style is reflected in the gabled roof, refined masonry, prominent main entrance, and the facias or trim around the roof. The original part of the house was erected in the 1766 as a one and a half story Colonial style home which is now the east end of the house. It would have contained a stable, wagon or carriage shed, sleeping loft, storage room, and the keeping room. The house overlooked a bluff on the Hudson River. However, the water is not visible today because the view is blocked by manufacturing operations which were established along the river banks.
Additions to the original house were made circa 1825 and the building at that time probably had wooden shutters. The shallow fireplaces indicate that they were likely meant to be used together with stoves. The rooms still have their original doors and the upstairs rooms have original mouldings. The roof joists and rafters in the attic appear to be hand-cut. The garage was originally a detached shed that was later connected to the house. A new shed was added around 1840 and was later converted into a small kitchen. A second shed was added around the same time and was later attached to the house. It is now the exhibit area north of the meeting room. Between 1850 and 1870, a small addition was put on which is now the entrance. Originally the property included 900 acres but is only about three acres today. Since the front of the house originally faced the river what is now considered the front would have been the rear of the structure.
It is interesting to note that the current “keeping room” or living area was the Parks family’s log cabin. Subsequent owners, the Benedict Family, who owned a brick foundry on the site, added the larger portion of the current house. The Bentley family purchased the home in 1866 and Cornelius Bentley’s descendants retained ownership until the death of Harriet Bentley in 1930. Subsequently, the house was sold to a local cement company who later donated it the Historical Society in 1986. The Society restored the house and it was added to the Historical Registry in 1994.
The Parks Family
The house was the home of Daniel Parks II, his wife Lydia, and their eight children. Daniels’ father settled on the south side of the Hudson River in 1766 on 900 acres of land he obtained after fighting in the French and Indian War. He and his son Daniel II built two houses and a sawmill between 1766 and 1773 when Daniel II brought his family here from the town of Halfmoon. Daniel and his wife Lydia were ardent supporters of the Revolution. Daniel II fought in the battle of Bemis Heights, and after the Battle of Saratoga, he returned to the area to rebuild his father’s properties that had been burned by the Tories.
In 1820, two Benedict brothers bought 100 acres of the property, but in 1825, Daniel Benedict bought out his brother Sheldon’s interest, becoming the sole owner. Daniel paid more for his brother’s half than the original purchase price. It was during this time that the major additions were made, creating the High Georgian Style home. Daniel Benedict, a brick maker by trade, was recognized for his architectural skills in Glens Falls. Bricks for the house were made right on the property. Daniel Benedict sold the property in 1855, and it passed through several owners until Cornelius Bentley purchased it in 1866.
The Bentley Family
Cornelius Bentley and his family had lived on East Sunnyside Road in Queensbury. In 1866, he bought the property on Ferry Boulevard. In order to raise fish, he maintained ponds on the property between the house and the river. His heritage came from knights and ladies in England, but he wanted his family to be industrious and responsible. His son John went on to become the Commissioner of Pensions under Presidents U.S. Grant and Rutherford B. Hayes. His daughter Jane married a Selleck and it was her daughter Nellie who was killed by lightning in the house’s keeping room.
Harriet Bentley was born May 29, 1848, the fifth child of Cornelius and Mary (Brayton) Bentley. Harriet grew up and continued her education at the Glens Falls Academy on Warren Street, a hearty walk from her home. She was very serious about painting and drawing, and she started giving lessons in a nearby studio. Much of her work was in watercolor, but she also did pencil sketches and oil paintings. She taught art for more than fifty years in her studios in Glens Falls and New York City. She was also a historian, author, cartographer, and inventor. One of her creations was a booklet titled “The Old Military Road”, based on a detailed history of the road from Fort Edward to Lake George in 1755 and Burgoyne’s route from Quebec to Saratoga in 1777. Her inventions included a coating for photographs enabling them to be painted over with oil colors and a preparation of liquid rubber used in repairing boots, tires, hot water bottles and other items. Samples of her work are currently on display in the Parks-Bentley House.