Rock Cliff House rising - BlueStone Press
June 21, 2018
High Falls

Rock Cliff House rising

New ownership and big plans for beloved High Falls building

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Listen closely and you just might hear the distant din of an entire village cheering coming from the hamlet of High Falls. It’s official: The Rock Cliff House is under new ownership, and the proud new owner has a big vision for what currently appears to be the shrieking shack from the Harry Potter series. It was love at first sight for Jacqueline Marie Williams, who took ownership on Dec. 8, before she had even walked in the door for the first time, when she told her broker, Maxine Rosola of Halter Associates Realty, “This place is mine!”

The road to the Rock Cliff has been an indirect one for Williams, whose varied passions and diverse skill sets have culminated in this newest project. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Williams credits her “exemplary parents, who laid the groundwork for my guiding principles in life that made me what I have become.” Upon graduating from high school, Williams moved to the U.S. and began her professional career as the executive assistant to a city commissioner in New York City. Williams followed her boss when he took the position of vice president at a major New York City developer’s organization. Once the team completed their first major project in just six months, despite the city assuring them it would take several years, Williams found that she needed more challenge and returned to college to pursue her bachelor’s degree in elementary/early childhood education, followed by a master’s degree in special education. After the birth of her first daughter, Williams returned to school yet again to earn a doctoral degree in gifted and talented education, after which she joined the faculty at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s School of Education as an adjunct professor, a position she has held for the past 10 years.

Williams thrives on juggling multiple challenges at once, and, while married to a doctor, she launched his private practice, eventually expanding it into a thriving three-office practice. While most would be satisfied to sit back on those laurels for a decade or two, Williams went on to open an urgent care clinic, all while teaching and raising her three (now grown) children. With the extra 10 seconds per day she had on hand, she then turned to renovating real estate, many of which properties she completed with the help of carpenters, handymen, plumbers and electricians.

And amidst all of this an artistic practice bloomed in Williams.

“After the birth of my first daughter I designed and handcrafted a 100-percent heirloom baptismal gown using the finest silk ribbons, silk fabrics and Swarovski crystals,” said Williams. “My creation also included smocking, a method of fabric ornamentation requiring tremendous dexterity that was popular in the 19th century. I was unable to find a teacher of smocking, so by carefully observing antique clothing and reading magazines devoted to the art of smocking and heirloom children’s clothing, I taught myself how to smock, embroidery, and to sew using a French seam. As I made baptismal dresses for all three of my daughters, a thought crossed my mind that I should design their wedding gowns when they decide to get married.”

Many years later, once the eldest of four children began to leave for college, Williams began designing wedding dresses and pursuing manufacturers. By the time her youngest was headed to college, Williams began to show her dresses at the major wholesale bridal markets in the country with the hope of attracting retailers to carry her line.

Originally, Williams was looking to buy real estate in Westchester County, specifically in Pound Ridge. However, as she looked around and didn’t find exactly what she was looking for, her thoughts turned north. Enter power broker and consummate local Rosola, who took the call from Williams and began helping her find the perfect property.

“My philosophy is to do my utmost best to fulfill the dreams of my client, no matter how unique those dreams might be,” said Rosola. “I begin working with my clients by paying close attention to what their wishes are by being an astute listener to what they express as their needs and wants are in a property. My mantra is to combine my knowledge with being patient, hard-working and not rush my clients.”

After seeing another property that almost fit the bill but lacked adequate parking, Rosola thought of the Rock Cliff House – a property that was as deeply beloved as it was neglected. On a Friday night, Rosola emailed Williams the listing.

“That Friday will always live within me,” William gushed, “because I literally drooled when I looked at the location, a historical building, the specs and, most significantly, that it was a shell filled with charm and character. The many potentials kept my mind racing as I slept with the printed specs beside me every night until Monday morning. I saw my multiple passions in life literally falling into my lap, that they would soon to be all in one place – my thirst for construction, my bridal gowns, a place for my children to come home to when they so desire, living in an organic and fresh environment, and simply just being a part of a sophisticated and warm community filled with the arts. A community that I could become a part of, get involved and ‘give back’ to.” Rosola added, “I have never seen a client filled with such excitement, even before seeing the inside of a structure. I knew then it was a perfect fit for her.”

Listing broker Lynn Archer of Mary Collins Real Estate said, “The Rock Cliff house was built in the late 1800s as a boarding house to provide accommodations for visitors to the area. The buyer has an enthusiastic vision to bring the Rock Cliff House back to life. We look forward to welcoming her and helping her as a fellow business owner to succeed.”

Given her past list of accomplishments it comes as no surprise that Williams has an ambitious timeline and big vision for the property. Planning to start construction on the Rock Cliff House in spring 2018, Williams anticipates being open for business as an inn/bed-and-breakfast with a retail bridal gown store, with the possibility of becoming a destination wedding location down the line. This is Williams’ first foray into the world of hospitality, and while she does not have professional training in the field, she said that she believes that being polite and caring about the needs of others is second nature to her.  

“I always think about how the next person will feel by my actions and how I would like to be treated. Morals, values, ethics and integrity keep me grounded,” she said. Williams assures that her business philosophy will be the compass of the Rock Cliff House. “The word ‘finest’ will define our day-to-day operation,” she said. “It will be the hallmark of the Rock Cliff House. As I continue to meet people in the community they express fond memories of the Rock Cliff House. It is now my responsibility to bring back the Rock Cliff House to a state that will exceed my patrons’ expectation in an updated, classy and urbane manner.”

Williams, who currently splits her time between Brooklyn and Florida, will be taking up residency in the Rock Cliff House and is looking forward to getting involved in the community. “I envisage charity functions at the Rock Cliff House to benefit the Foster Care Society, among others. I also plan to become a mentor and then, given my professional training, my knowledge of the research and best practices, teaching and my experience with raising my beautiful children, to take a closer look at the program as I volunteer,” she said. “I will be remiss if I did not mention being involved with the public school system. I staunchly believe that the relationship between local organizations, schools and businesses must be symbiotic. It is the heartbeat of what helps to make a community thrive.”

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