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Cowen Farm - Pond Eddy, NY

Historic or Prehistoric Place, Historic Site
Photograph by: David B. Soete

Cowen Farm, an intact historic Delaware and Hudson Canal-era farmhouse, barn, and outbuildings, is set within a landscape of mature trees, orchards, and lawns nestled along an intact portion of the canal. This site provides an opportunity to look into the 1800’s period of industrialization while also enjoying the natural beauty of the Delaware River, easily visible from the yard.

While today the site is managed by the National Park Service as part of Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, Cowen Farm was once a working farm and storefront. The lower level of the house was used as a small store that opened up along the canal towpath to sell goods to those working and traveling on the canal. The 1850 Agricultural Census shows that Joseph Cowen, who worked the farm from 1838 until his death in 1864, primarily grew potatoes, buckwheat, and hay. This provided a surplus for the storefront, sustenance for his family, and feed for a small amount of livestock. Fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries were also sold.

The farmstead is actually constructed upon a garden terrace formed from leftover soil that was moved during the construction of the canal. Most of the surrounding landscape along the Delaware River had previously featured steep cliffs with rocky outcrops and poor soil. However, the large piles of soft soil that came from canal construction were excellent for agricultural use. A canal lock, now filled in, sat north of the farmhouse, initially causing confusion about the purpose of the property when acquired by the National Park Service. For much of time, it was believed that the house belonged to a locktender. However, this was found to be an error after examining historical survey records.

The barn, built in c. 1850, is a wood-frame building located immediately adjacent to the towpath and was likely used for a small number of livestock and fowl. The mortise and tenon barn frame is unaltered, and the vertical board exterior is substantially intact.

Although it no longer holds water, the canal's stone retaining walls, earthen/gravel towpath, and bridge/causeway crossing still convey its nineteenth century design and use.

Cowen Farm is just one small remnant of an era of development in the Delaware River Valley. In the 1820s, attention to reliable transportation in the Upper Delaware valley shifted from roads to canals because of the extraction of anthracite coal in the hills of Northeastern Pennsylvania. This type of coal was found to burn cleaner and more efficiently than the bituminous coal that was commonly used, and was already being shipped to markets in Philadelphia and Baltimore via canals. There was, however, no modern transportation system to deliver the coal to New York. When Joseph Cowen acquired the property in 1838, the canal had been in operation for nearly ten years and had transformed the Delaware River Valley into a bustling economic powerhouse. Stores, hotels, and taverns sprung up, and supplies like flour, wheat, and stone were shipped throughout the canal to support quickly forming towns. Talk of rapid growth and abundance of unoccupied land encouraged enterprising young men like Cowen to settle along the canal.

After the Delaware and Hudson Canal closed in 1898, small local farms were unable to survive and new economies like tourism gradually took over in the region as residents from urban areas like New York City were encouraged to purchase land cheaply and vacation in the Delaware Valley. Cowen Farm left the Cowen family after the death of Joseph’s daughter and son-in-law in 1915 and was later sold as a vacation home. It was purchased by the National Park Service in 1995 for its historic integrity and ability for interpretation. Today, visitors who explore the grounds of Cowen Farm can imagine canal boats floating by, crops being tended to, and Cowen’s storefront bustling. The property, situated on an intact and undeveloped portion of the canal, offers an unmatched glimpse into 19th century American life on the Delaware River.

Accessibility Notes

This site is not developed to ADA Outdoor Accessibility standards.

Pet Friendly Notes

Dogs must be on a leash no longer than 6' in length and as always, please clean up after your pet.

Time Period Represented

1828-1898

Hours

Visitors welcome to visit the grounds. Structures are not staffed.

Seasons Open

Year-round

Pricing

None