Edward Paul Serrell and J. Frederick Hahn, two young men from New York City doing business as the Specialty Products Company, purchased the land on which the mushroom caves were built in 1896 for $700. The caves were built in that same year.
It is not known how successful Mr. Serrell was in the mushroom business, but it is known that he and his wife, Ottilie, possessed one of the first automobiles in Montvale. It is also known that E.P. Serrell was very active in municipal government, having served the better part of 50 years as an elected and appointed public servant in the Borough of Montvale. Between 1902 and 1948, Mr. Serrell served at various times as Commissioner of Appeals, Borough Clerk, Tax Assessor, Council Member and Mayor (1922-25).
The caves are barrel vault brick structures built into the earth for the purpose of growing mushrooms. Although these structures are not indicative of a particular architectural period, they represent the ingenuity that is typically found in farm-structure architecture.
Farm-structure architecture usually results in a structure that fits a need and is adapted to a particular environment. For instance, a barn built in the south may vary from one built in the north because of the climate. A southern barn often has a lower pitched roof, because there is little concern over heavy snow loads sitting on the roof. A northern barn typically has a steeply pitched roof to shed snow, but lighter timbers are used.
In the case of the mushroom caves, the farmers needed to emulate the dark, damp environment that occurs naturally in actual caves. The barrel vault was selected as the type of structure, since by its very nature it supports the earth above. The workmanship exhibited in these mushroom caves would suggest that they were built by skilled craftsmen intent on creating structures that would pass the test of time.
Serrell's Mushroom Caves are significant in the agricultural history of Montvale in that they represent a unique example of farm-structure architecture. Also, the fact that one of the original owners of the mushroom caves, Edward Paul Serrell, was one of the longest-serving public servants in Montvale's history adds to the suggested landmark status of the mushroom caves.