The latest issue of the Hudson River Valley Review includes a new essay about the Northgate estate in Cold Spring. The 11-page article, which I co-authored with Thom Johnson and which borrows from a chapter in Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape, written by myself and Tom Rinaldi, shares new research about the development of the estate along with previously-unpublished historic photographs.
The property and its ruins are known to hikers who pass through on their way to or from Breakneck Ridge. Since it was named one of America’s best hikes by an eminent outdoors guide (trails.com?) around 2005, the hike has exploded in popularity. The ruins are also known to historians who have called it the “Cornish estate” after Edward and Selina Cornish, who owned the property from 1917 to 1938, and for their descendants who owned it until 1963.
Much less, if anything at all, was publicly known about the establishment of the estate and the family who built it. We have now told the story of Sigmund and Dove Stern who purchased old farms in the Breakneck Valley and built the mansion in 1913. We have also related their connection to the nearby Surprise Lake Camp which was developed about the same time as the Stern estate.
The article includes photographs and information from the collections of Robin Huntington and Connie Bloom, descendants of Sigmund Stern, that show the estate as it was undergoing development. Later images from the Cornish family period of ownership appear courtesy of Victoria and Stephen Rasche, of the Cornish family. The essay is as thoroughly-informative as we can be at the moment, but undoubtedly more information will become available over time. We look forward to learning more about Northgate and to sharing future knowledge.
An inspiration for our essay was a 1997 Peekskill Herald article written by Father Fred Alvarez entitled “A Mystery Hike to the Cornish Estate.” Thom Johnson, my high school photography teacher, gave me a copy of the article shortly after it was written as encouragement for me to visit a ruin I had not yet been to. Father Alvarez wrote about the ruins and where to find them, but lamented to lack of information about the buildings and the people who lived there. Father Alvarez, of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement at Graymoor in Garrison, passed away in 2012 and unfortunately did not get to partake in discovering the truth behind the mysteries of the Northgate estate.
But we are continuing to tell the story of this estate and we are continuing in our efforts to undo decades of vines and brambles that have grown around the mansion and have turned lawn into a forest and have blocked the once-spectacular views of Storm King and Breakneck, the North Gate of the Hudson Highlands.
On May 3, 2014, a cleanup effort was held as part of New York State Parks’ “I Love My Parks Day.” About a dozen volunteers, mostly from a New York City Meetup.com group, participated. The group and the results of their work (removing brambles from a large portion of the lawn west of the house ruin) are shown below. Drop me an email if you’d like to be part of future cleanup efforts!
The Spring 2014 issue of the Hudson River Valley Review, with the article “The Northgate Ruins in Cold Spring,” is available for purchase from the Hudson River Valley Institute.