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Former Belden House Inhabitants Share Memories

Bob Betnadini on Pasha outside the Belden House in Carmel, circa 1980s.

By Ann FanizziChairwoman

Friends of Belden House

The recruiting drive to elicit personal reminiscences of Belden House initiated by The Friends of Beholden House recently resulted in a text message and telephone call to me by Linda Birrell, the last inhabitant of this historic building.

She was shown the article in the Putnam County Times from Krissy Castalono, who also had recollections of Belden House and who had similarly messaged me.

Birrell’s father, John, a former West Point graduate and Department of Environmental Protection section engineer; her mother, Betty Jane; and sisters Rebecca, Susan, and Linda (a 1977 Carmel High School graduate, married name of Meunier) with one child, Stephanie, now living on a horse farm in North Carolina, related how the family inhabited the house from approximately 1973 until her father’s retirement in 1989-90. 

She recalled the grandeur of Belden with its marble fireplaces in every room, but also its chill in the winter and problematic plumbing with one bathroom, which the DEP refused to either replace or repair and which her father vainly attempted to remedy.

During our conversation, I mentioned my possession of photographs and proceeded to describe them – a child on a horse, a gathering in the dining room – and posited that perhaps these were photographs of her family.

I sent Birrell the photographs and she was able to identify the child on the horse as Bob Betnadini on Pasha, to whom she had given riding instructions.

The other picture she identified as taking place on Christmas Day, approximately 1983, with herself smoking a cigarette, her niece Kelly, and a worker from Old Salem Farm in North Salem.

She was overjoyed that we had these photographs.

These recollections will be augmented later as part of a collaborative project with Carmel High School teacher and Revolutionary War re-enactor Robert Buccheri, and George Fisher Middle School teacher Keith Reilly, and student interviewers.

I would be remiss in not acknowledging the contribution of Fred Swanson, a former DEP employee who provided initial information about the family and identified Birrell and her family as truly one of the last inhabitants of Belden House.

Lastly, I make a plea to County Executive Kevin Byrne and Supervisor Town Supervisor Mike Cazzari to actively engage in negotiations with DEP to preserve the house and thereby honor its inhabitants and workers whose living memories will be a source of future benefit for generations to come.

Ann Fanizzi is chairwoman of Friends of Belden House, a grassroots organization seeking to save the historic structure at the intersection of Belden Road and Route 6 in Carmel.

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