Until recently, Pulpit Rock on its small nine-acre field had only tthree owners: the Demerest, Pelton and Pennings families. They took their stewardship seriously.
Under the protection of these three historic farming families, it remained completely intact and unspoiled and they gave residents and visitors full access to it.
When she sold the property, Johanna Pennings made sure to put in a deed restriction to permanently prevent Pulpit Rock from being removed or moved.
It was first known to be identified as “Pulpit Rock” on the 1859 map of Orange and Rockland County. It again appears on the 1863 Farm Map of Orange County. It is also noted with the name “Pulpit Rock” in Henry Pelton’s memoirs of Warwick as it was in 1805.
The early references with this name may suggest some knowledge by the first settlers of a spiritual importance that the rock held to the native inhabitants who preceded them.
It is not the rock alone that makes it a wonder of nature and a place to visit, but also its views and solitary nature. It was used for Easter morning sunrise services by Ezra Terry Sanford in the 1920s, for picnics and destination walks by day trippers that first came up on the railway in the 1860s.
A Victorian era photographer captured it on a stereoscopic image, which is now in the photo collection of the New York Public Library. In the early 20th century, other photographers captured images on souvenir postcards for sale to tourists who visited Pulpit Rock.
More recently, it has been on the covers of the Warwick Telephone Directory and the Chamber of Commerce. All of this is richly documented in the archives of the Warwick Historical Society.
Over the years, Pulpit Rock has become part of our shared environmental and cultural heritage.
Now the site is covered with Do Not Trespass signs and the owner patrols it daily with his two Rottweiler dogs. He has put up a camera and should you simply step near the land the police are called to chase you off. He paid only $200,000 for the site and swore at the signing that he was only going to build one house on it.
Now he is asking for a special use permit for a 120-bed hotel complex. The proposed buildings would wrap around Pulpit Rock and a swimming pool would be built at its base. The open views will be gone forever.
There is hardly a citizen in Warwick that would not prefer him to build the hotel in a different location.