A visit to Cementon and Saugerties

A few weeks back , Tom Rinaldi and I made a trip up to Ulster and Greene counties. We stopped for lunch in Saugerties before embarking up to Cementon in search of a ruined school we had only become aware of through aerial photos.

The Alsen School, north side.

The area familiarly known as Cementon was and is again primarily a village named Smith’s Landing, north of which were built three Portland cement factories. Near one of the factories, built by the German firm Alsen’sche Portland Cement Fabriken, was a small hamlet known as Alsen, situated between the factory and the Hudson River. Almost no trace of the hamlet of Alsen remains today. The school was built in 1907 and closed in 1953. In its last year, one student attended the school. A couple of photos appear in Alsen, New York, A Cement Plant, A Railroad Station, A School, A Post Office, A Community, edited and self-published by Joseph Pavlak. The school ruin would have merited attention in our book too, if only we knew of it before October 2005.

Chalk tray for blackboard. How will smart boards age in ruined schools of the future?

The school had two classrooms and a large central hall. This is the western classroom.

Alsen school, east side.

The school is now a ruin and the factory is abandoned. Further north, another German firm, Holcim, “mothballed” their cement plant in June 2011. Theoretically they could resume operations at a moment’s notice, but it seems this era of big industry in “Cementon” is at an end.

Following five images: Alsen’s American Portland Cement Works.

Smith’s Landing today is a quiet community. Crowds gather for dinner on Saturday nights at the Sportsman Club, and fine old homes still stand along the water. A few other relics of bygone industries survive here as well. We spotted two more mushroom farm buildings in the village, on a hill above a couple of houses.

I think Tom actually took this shot with my camera.

Cementon Sportsman Club and lone smokestack.

Cementon Common School.
A sign below the historical marker protests the proposed hydrofracking industry. The hydrofracking process could seriously pollute the environment, ruining communities forever in return for a few quick bucks (money that will go into corporate pockets, not local pockets). High risk, small reward. Let’s not find out the hard way.

My kind of house on the Hudson.

Mushroom farm building.

Other mushroom farm building.

We returned to Saugerties for celebratory drinks at the Exchange Hotel bar, and admired the Orpheum Theater (where I’ve still yet to see a film) and other great buildings in town. Saugerties, like Beacon on the east shore of the Hudson, is seeing something of a legitimate revival these days. Instead of developers coming into town and promising a glorious future of several thousand condominiums on the waterfront (ahem, Haverstraw, Yonkers, Tarrytown, Kingston, anyone?), hoping they will lead to other, more relevant projects magically appearing out of thin air, growth here is starting small with projects that neatly fit the existing character, infrastructure and needs of the community.

Exchange Hotel bar, Saugerties.

Exchange Hotel bar men’s room.
Nice mirror, but not the coolest bathroom I’ve been in this week.

Orpheum Theater, Saugerties.

Under the marquee.

I used to visit Saugerties and eat at Miss Lucy’s Kitchen in another lifetime…

A small hotel is being built in downtown Saugerties on the site of a long-gone mill. This project has aroused ire in some quarters, with critics pointing to reduced access to the Esopus Creek, shady political connections and misuse of public funding, and ugly architecture. I don’t know enough of the matter to comment on the first two claims, but visually I was pleasantly surprised as I had been expecting the worst. The northerly building that is mostly complete looks quite handsome on the exterior, looking quite a bit like a mill building. The “boutique” room rates planned for the hotel are probably out of my reach (though I did splurge for a night at the Saugerties Lighthouse B&B in 2003, that was a treat), but I feel this place will work as there aren’t many fine hoteliers along this stretch of the river and a good number of folks with money to spend do come to Saugerties.

One of the new buildings under construction at the Partition Street Hotel. Looks quite handsome to me.

Maybe some people don’t like change and don’t like new trends and fashions coming to town, but there are still lots of cool old buildings in Saugerties like this one where old timers can sit on the stoop and watch the world go by.

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30 Responses to A visit to Cementon and Saugerties

  1. Tom says:

    Great day out! I’m still pulling brambles off my shoe laces…

  2. nailhed says:

    like Alsen, the Northern Portland Cement Plant in Marlborough, MI and associated bustling city that surrounded it until 1920-ish have reverted to a northern hardwood forest, despite the fact that it was once the largest such plant in all Michigan. today it is known to locals as “The Marlborough Ruins” and is one of the better known ruins in the state (that has not been curated in any way).

    • HV-Rob says:

      I looked up that site, and your page was the first viable link, haha. Seems pretty awesome! Cool that you are getting to all of Michigan’s ruins, most of haven’t seen anything outside of that one city…

  3. Mark Backhaus says:

    I grew up in Saugerties, and are familiar with some of what you saw. I saw that school in Alsen on an old topo map a few years ago, and often thought of going out to look for it. Family friends used to work at the Alsen plant, and used to clean their cars with vinegar to get the cement dust off the paint. That plant was obsolete when it closed about 30 years ago. Stay out of the nearby limestone quarries. I’ve heard they are still patrolled by security. Apparently, a firm stores explosives in there.

  4. Mark Backhaus says:

    Another thought: Across from the entrance road for the southern plant (the former Alpha plant behind Cementon village), there is a large abandoned brick house on the hill over the opposite side of the railroad tracks. Perhaps it was a mill manager or owner’s home?

  5. Chuck Boyce says:

    The large brick house you were asking about I believe was the Granich home,
    not the mill manager’s home.
    There were 2 large wooden homes west of the Alpha plant, that were owned by
    Alpha. One of the homes was occupied by the mill manager, and the other by
    Gordon Hommel, Greene County Highway Superintendent for many years. These
    homes were, as I recall about 100 yards west of the Alpha plant, on a hill which
    overlooked a clay bank.

    • HV-Rob says:

      Thanks for the information Chuck. Much appreciated. There also appears to be an abandoned house in between the Alsen/Lehigh plant and the Holcim works.I wonder what the story is there, it may have predated the cement factories.

      • Chuck Boyce says:

        Hello Rob,

        Just saw your response and question while reviewing the photos.
        Per my uncle, Joe Pavlak, the home you are referring to is most
        likely the Williams homestead, if it has a stone wall, and the
        remains of a barn.

        There were several homes on the west side of the 9W from the
        Lehigh plant to the ICI facility, the northern most of the 3.

    • Mike Alfano says:

      That is a perfect description of the house where my Uncle Jack (Clarence Thorn) and Aunt Cornelia (Beers) lived in the 1950s. He was superintendent at the cement plant. One of my cousins broke his leg going down that bank on a bicycle.

  6. Gretchen Behl says:

    Does anyone remember the Alsen House on 9W, I believe just past the underpass (northern one). It was a big old roadhouse and was torn down many years ago after a fire there. That place must have had a history!

  7. Clifford Beede says:

    Thank you for publishing these photos and for your commentary. I was always fascinated by the brick schoolhouse near Embough Road. For many years the abandoned schoolhouse, the remains of many outbuildings, and an old farm house and barn were within a few hundred yards of one another. The schoolhouse was torn down a few years back when its roof collapsed (everything else had been previously demolished by the owner of the cement plant in the 1980’s as the quarry was very nearby). I had thought that THIS was the Alsen school until seeing your post; obviously I was mistaken!

    • HV-Rob says:

      Sorry for the late reply, just saw your comment now. I didn’t know about the ruins on Embought Road – thanks for sharing your memories. Glad we could provide some info that was of interest to you!

  8. fred martens says:

    Just happened to be searching for old alsen station photos and came across this site and pictures. My father and i lived there and he ran the alsen hotel from 1948 till he sold it in 1970 It was built in 1901 and was a state of the art building at that time. I have old photos of the hotel circa 1951. My father in the 1950’s when the school was still open voted there Have seen most of the places in the photos when the plants were still operating.

  9. Thomas McGonigle says:

    In 1972-3 used to drink with my father in The White Rabbit bar on 9W in Cementon … They had deer squirrel meat for sale … We lived on 9w gout out north of Saugerties

    • Dave Lewis says:

      We also lived on Rt 9W north of Saugerties in Eavesport. The house is across from what was the Friendly Inn and is still standing. My mom still lives there.

  10. NYArtist says:

    I wish you had stopped by my place just outside of Saugerties. Very unusual architecture. szukidavis@aol.com/

  11. william h. marquardt says:

    the alsen house was on the left before the stop light before the railroad bridge on 9w .according to bill Blanchard who worked at the Lehigh alsen plant there was a bowling alley upstairs . I hauled cement out of all 3 cement plants and still haul out of the Lehigh cementon plant. when I make the left turn off 9w south to the Lehigh plant on the right side about a quarter mile in there is a set of steps that looked like there was a house there. it is gone now.also there is an abandoned cement plant in Hudson,ny on rt9 where the Hudson river bulk terminal is . I walked over to check it out and all that is left are the cement silos . I think Lafarge wanted to build a new plant but the townspeople shot it down.i have a few more stories to tell later. I love the area even though I live in Connecticut.

  12. fred martens says:

    No bowling alley in alsen hotel. At on time it was the bar
    Hotel,post office and general store. This was all before my family purchased it in 1948. The po boxes were still in the bldg. I remember drivers from matlack and mitchell transport coming in. Rail road tracks were behind hotel even with the second floor, trains traveling past scared the heck out of more than one person staying at the hotel . would like to get a copy of joes book. I knew him well.

  13. John Levchuk says:

    My grandfather John McMenamy was principal/teacher at the Cementon School from around 1920 until the mid 1940s. My friend Joe Pavlak was among his students.

  14. luci bekampis (Erceg) says:


  15. Bridget smith says:

    Probably 40 or more years ago we would visit our fathers 2 aunts Eva and Ella Dunn. I remember there big house. We loved playing hide and seal. I remember the view of the Hudson River was beautiful

    • Debbie Walsh says:

      Hello Bridget,

      My father was John Dunn. Eva and Ella Dunn would have been his aunts, also. My grandfather was Paul Dunn who married Ann O’Rourke. They lived in Hope Valley, RI. I remember my late mother talking about visiting “the aunts” and how much she enjoyed.

  16. Rich jewett says:

    I read some ware that in Cementon there was a huge military surplus area right on the Hudson River .Tanks, half tracks , trucks and more where loaded off the river.
    Anyone have knowledge of this place?

  17. Karen Krueger Tarjan says:

    My father was a plant manager at Alpha in the early 60’s and I believe we lived in one of the two wooden houses on the hill described by Chuck Boyce. I went to a small schoolhouse nearby. I remember walking on railroad tracks and through a small field to get there. It might have been the one pictured (with the fracking sign).

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