As history would have it…
Long before the artists arrived in search of quiet inspiration, Bell-ans was a bustling manufacturing facility renowned for popping out pills to remedy indigestion and other maladies.
THE EARLY DAYS
In the late 1800’s, John Lanphere Dodge, the son of a Civil War Union Army Surgeon, took his first job sweeping floors and stocking shelves at a New York City pharmacy. It wasn’t long until the young entrepreneur, fascinated with chemistry and pharmaceuticals, approached a chemist named Bell with the idea of creating a remedy for indigestion. Together they developed Bell-ans tablets—naming it after the chemist and the main ingredient, ‘pa-pay-ans,’ which means relief for indigestion.
Right Place. Right Time.
Like America at the time, Dodge was destined for greatness. At the end of the 19th century, the pioneering spirit of optimism and opportunity swept across America. Innovation and change were everywhere. There seemed to be an endless supply of new inventions. The steam engine. The telephone. The telegraph. The light bulb. Nothing was impossible. The legacy he gave birth to more than a century ago is still creating history today.
Bell-Ans. From Indigestion to Inspiration.
Success was adding up and the profits were rolling in. The utopia that had been just a dream was about to become a reality. In 1897, Dodge purchased 150 acres in Orangeburg and built Bell-ans Park. The rest, as they say, is history. Fast-forward 119 years. The original buildings still stand. Even the factory buildings that produced the remedies and the cottages that housed the workers.
From its beginning, Bell-ans was a mixture of exotic pharmaceuticals and eclectic people with imaginative ideas. Dodge’s vision was to live, work, and play in the best of all worlds. And for more than 70 years Bell-ans did just that. It prospered as a pharmaceutical manufacturer, which helped to support the utopia that Dodge had envisioned. One of his favorite pastimes, harness racing, inspired a racetrack and barns—even a hotel, that became a popular destination for travelers to the Orangeburg County Fair, held for many years at Bell-ans.
In the 1940’s, Joseph Griswold Dodge took over his father’s business. They worked together as a team and met with much success raising and racing trotting horses while John, the son, continued to operate the Bell-ans pharmaceutical company.
In 1965, Joseph Griswold Dodge, Jr. took over the business and continued to run it until the 70’s when restrictions on small pharmaceutical companies increased. Joseph Griswold Dodge, Jr. passed tragically in a race car accident, leaving his wife Catherine Dodge and son, James Dodge to manage the property and run the business. Today, her son James and his wife Phyllis are continuing the legacy of Bell-Ans as a vibrant part of Orangeburg and Rockland County, New York, welcoming artists, entrepreneurs and the community for creativity, work and gatherings.
The muse of the original buildings, now more than a century old, beckons artists, photographers, writers, and creative thinkers of all kinds. Together, they’re re-discovering the serenity and raw beauty that had inspired John Lanphere Dodge and his band of chemists.
Success Begets Success
James (Dodge’s great-great-grandson) and his wife Phyllis heard the siren call in 2010. Together, they reimagined the artist community. Refurbishing the main building and adding more studio space without subtracting from the historic charm and character of the original. They also added a new name: Bell-ans Center of Creative Arts.
A New Frontier
WHAT WAS IS NOW
Technology changes everything. It gives us new tools, challenges us to think in new directions, and pushes us to create in new mediums.
In many ways, though, the chemistry that connected the original inhabitants of Bell-ans is the same that connects us here today. It’s not the mixing of chemicals, but rather the coming together of community. Where ideas live and artists create. Creativity leaps and passion abounds. Breathe it in. We promise you’ll never be the same.