History

 

Moti and Ronit Peleg, the current owners of HeartsEase mansion, believe in destiny. It has been the motivating and inspiring force in their lives prior to their first meeting and even now in their relationship. They are philanthropists and consider themselves healers of the heart. They conduct couples workshops through their communication practice, Ego2Heart, in Israel, the U.S.A., and they are currently expanding their work to Europe. Here is the backstory on how they found and restored their home called HeartsEase.

In early 2010, we were searching for property in upstate New York where we could conduct our couples workshops, and came across an abandoned historic mansion on the Hudson River. Instantly, we fell in love with the property, and then discovered the destined heart connection to the history of this place that now ties us together.

 

The house was built in 1891 and was named HeartsEase. (The home contains many heart symbols; engraved in the fireplace tiles, the balusters along the stairway, and in the built-in benches of the inglenook in the living room). In the early 1920s, Hilda Worthington Smith, the daughter of the original owner Mr. Smith, fulfilled a lifelong dream of turning the home into the “Hudson Shore Labor School.” The school taught newly arriving female immigrants various trades, as well as English. Eleanor Roosevelt, a board member, was instrumental in empowering these woman to go out and make a new life of meaning in the new land of America.

Our goal is to make HeartsEase a place of healing for couples and individuals, a place to hold our Ego2Heart workshops and teach a heartfelt communication that will empower women, men and their relationships. It is very exciting to know that what we are doing is going to continue the work, vision and passion of special individuals who made a difference in people’s lives. Above all, our goal is to honor the past and continue sharing values that makes the world a better place. – Moti and Ronit Peleg

A History Of HeartsEase

Ronit & Moti Peleg


Written by Neil Larson, historic preservationist

HeartsEase, or the Hilda Worthington Smith House, in West Park, New York is historically significant for its association with Smith and her Hudson Shore Labor School, the successor from 1939 to 1951 of the Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, which began in 1921 with Smith as its first director. (From 1919 to 1921 she was first Acting Dean and then Dean of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, directing academic advising and health services as well as supervising classes for black service workers at the College.) Modeled after European worker schools, established to provide continuing education to the laboring class, and organized in consultation with the National Women’s Trade Union League (for which Smith later acted as Educational Director), the Bryn Mawr Summer School selected half its students from organized labor and half from unorganized labor. Since many of these women workers also were immigrants, roots of the school’s program also can be found in the American settlement house movement. By the time she moved her summer school from Bryn Mawr to West Park, workers' schools existed in many parts of the country and Smith served on the advisory committees of many of them. In 1927 she became the first director of the Affiliated Schools for Workers, later to be known as the American Labor Education Service.

After the WPA folded, Smith continued working as a consultant in Labor Education. It was during this time she transformed her family’s summer home in West Park into the Hudson Shore Labor School.

In 1933 Smith received an appointment to the Federal Emergency Relief Administration as a specialist in workers' education; it was the first of her many federal appointments. From 1934 to 1936 she directed a program of resident camps for unemployed women ("She-She-She Camps"). After 1937 Smith was Director of the Workers' Service Program for the Works Progress Administration, which placed unemployed teachers in government-supported organizations. After the WPA folded, Smith continued working as a consultant in Labor Education. It was during this time she transformed her family’s summer home in West Park into the Hudson Shore Labor School. In 1943 she was made Chief of the Project Services Section of the Federal Public Housing Authority as where she coordinated housing and tenant services for war workers. Smith resigned this post in 1945 to become Chairman of the National Committee for the Extension of Labor Education, a coalition of university and labor groups organized in support of the Labor Extension Bill, which promised to provide federal funds for workers’ education. Though this effort ended in 1951 without achieving its goal, many university extension programs were initiated by this campaign.

Smith retired from active employment in 1951and returned to her home in West Park; she closed the Hudson Shores Labor School the same year. From there she accepted consulting assignments

Hilda Worthington Smith

with the New York Adult Education Bureau and the Connecticut State Commission for Services to Elderly Persons, and took on a number of writing projects with federal agencies, such as the Public Housing Administration, the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration, the Women’s Bureau , the Public Health Service, and the Office of Economic Opportunity. She published an autobiography, Opening Vistas in Workers’ Education, in 1978. Hilda Worthington Smith died on 3 March 1984.

As an individual with a national reputation in American labor and women’s history, Hilda Worthington Smith’s West Park home, known as Heartsease, is nominated at a national level of significance. The house also is architecturally significant as a distinctive example of a Hudson River country house designed in the Arts & Crafts style, a rare instance in the region. The house originated as a summer residence built for Smith’s parents, John Jewell Smith and Mary Helen Hall, in 1891. John Jewell Smith (1834-1901) had made a fortune manufacturing patented steam boilers for domestic heating and was residing with his family in Manhattan when, in 1889, he bought a 1.6-acre parcel overlooking the Hudson River in West Park, New York. The house underwent a complete design overhaul in 1906, evidently under the direction of her mother Mary Helen Hall Smith (d. 1917), the same year Hilda graduated from the Veltin School in New York and enrolled in Bryn Mawr College. Although the plaster was lost from the interior walls of the house after years of neglect, sufficient exterior and interior features survive intact to distinguish the renovated house as one of the most fully-developed and distinctive representations of Arts & Crafts design in the Hudson Valley. Of particular merit are two principal rooms decorated with chestnut woodwork, lozenge-paned casement windows and ceramic tiles made at the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a premier source of Arts & Crafts decoration. An architect has yet to be identified for either stage of the house.

To learn more about Hilda Worthington Smith, CLICK HERE.

Historic photos below (in order):

  • Hilda Worthington Smith, standing on front porch
  • John Jewell Smith
  • Eleanor Roosevelt and Hilda W. Smith at Bryn Mawr, c. 1921
  • Book cover of poems written by Hilda W. Smith
  • Entrance to Hudson Shore Labor School from Highway 9W, c.1939
  • Hudson Shore Labor School sign
  • East porch extension, enclosed
  • North porch and well pump
  • Partial view of SE corner of house, pre-1906 (children in patriotic costumes)
  • Front of the house, winter
  • Front of the house, autumn
  • Rear elevation, v.1
  • Rear elevation, v.2

Photo Gallery

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Street Address

Ego•2•Heart / HeartsEase
9 Chambers Road
West Park, NY 12493

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