A Vestige of Overlook

The Overlook Mountain House is one of the Hudson Valley’s most well-known and most-visited ruins, and was one of the first ruins outside of Westchester County that I trekked to. As with many other ruins whose interiors have vanished and have left behind only masonry walls, the structure’s original appearance is left to the imagination. Several readers have sent me photographs of the Overlook Mountain House, from the mid-late 1900s, so its “completed” appearance is not a mystery (not on the level of the Northgate ruins), but even those post-abandonment images do not tell the full story of the last incarnation of the Overlook. (I might post all of those images to the website in a future entry.) However, a visitor to Overlook Mountain may get a preview of the Overlook hotel, and a picture of what might have been, right in downtown Woodstock, at the Colony Cafe, formerly the Colony Hotel.


Colony Hotel. August 3, 2014.

The current Overlook Mountain House ruin is actually the third incarnation of an Overlook hotel. The second version burned on October 31, 1923, two months after the United Mine Workers published a report that exposed the Overlook Mountain House as the site where two political groups formed the Communist Party of America in 1921. Perhaps a Red Scare led to the wooden hotel’s demise, but the days of large resorts from a previous century were clearly on the wane. The Hotel Kaaterskill, the largest of all the Catskill resort hotels, also burned, less than a year later, in 1924.

At Woodstock, the Overlook’s owner, Morris Newgold, a New York City hotelier, was eager to quickly rebuild. The third version of the Overlook Mountain House was constructed with reinforced concrete, beginning in the 1920s. Its exterior was largely if not entirely complete, but the interior was never finished and the hotel was reported abandoned by the 1940s.

According to a news article that was pasted to the interior wall of the Overlook ruins, an architect named Frank P. Amato designed the new structure (The name at the upper left of the page is Style. That might be the name of the magazine, or it might refer to a section of a magazine or newspaper?). As Newgold was resurrecting the mountaintop retreat, he set up a secondary establishment in the village of Woodstock, the Colony Hotel. The Colony Cafe’s website states that Newgold built this smaller hotel as “staging area and a stopover point for guests coming up the [Hudson] river by boat or train. Guests would spend the night and eat in its fine restaurant before making the arduous trip up the mountain.” The Colony Cafe website also states that Gerald Betz of nearby Kingston was the architect for the Colony Hotel.


Colony Hotel. August 3, 2014.


Colony Hotel. August 3, 2014.


Colony Hotel. August 3, 2014.

Begun in 1927 and open to guests in 1929, the Colony Hotel was built of brick, left exposed on the sidewalls, and stuccoed white on its west (front) facade. The exterior design may well show how the Overlook Mountain House was intended to appear. The Colony particularly bears a strong resemblance to a smaller ruin atop Overlook Mountain, the “1928 house.” Window treatments on both buildings are identical – rectangular metal sash consisting of two columns of five panes, each, topped by a semi-circular transom window. That such strong resemblance exists between the two buildings invites the possibility of a discrepancy regarding a separate architect for each building.


“1928 House.” January 12, 2000.


“1928 House.” January 12, 2000.

Morris Newgold’s son Gabriel is said to have managed the Colony Hotel throughout the 1930s while the senior pursued construction of the Overlook. Morris Newgold died in 1940 and about that time the Overlook Mountain House and associated land were taken by the New York State Conservation Department and made part of the Catskill Forest Preserve. Newgold’s grandson Bill ran the Colony Hotel from 1945 through 1960 or so, but as event space for arts and antiques fairs. It became known as the Colony Arts Center. The Colony’s website goes on to state that the building sat empty almost entirely through the next forty years.


Colony Hotel. August 3, 2014.

In June 2000 the current owners acquired the building, which is now known as the Colony Cafe. It hosts parties and events, as well as musical performances. As often as I attend shows, I have regretfully yet to see a performance at the Colony. My man Rhett Mill has played here several times, though those have been shows that I only found out about after the fact. I have been to a few shows at the Bearsville Theater, a short distance from downtown Woodstock, but I look forward to the next time one of my favorite performers is booked at the Colony, and then I can imagine a night at the Overlook.


Colony Hotel. August 3, 2014.


Colony Hotel. August 3, 2014.


“1928 House.” October 5, 2009.

The story of the Overlook Mountain House is told in detail in Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape.

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4 Responses to A Vestige of Overlook

  1. Rebecca Elise says:

    Thanks Rob. I enjoyed this post.

  2. Richard Cunningham says:

    Very informative. Great photos as always.

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