Halloween Blog Part 4 – An Italian Murder?

Well, that’s some serious detective work right there. The Coroner and the Chief of Police were of the opinion that this man was murdered, before his head, arm, and foot were chopped off and his remains tied with telegraph wire to part of a tree. And to top off the genius thought-process behind the investigation, the crime was blamed on Italians, simply because the body was found near a place that employed many who worked in the stone-crushing industry.

That’s a far cry from the truly ace detective work in last week’s story, where child-killer Albert Fish was nabbed because the initials of a worker’s organization appeared on stationery that he used. It is also reflective of the discrimination faced by new immigrant groups. Like other ethnic groups today who are not accepted because of their skin color, because they “look different,” or because “they don’t speak the language” (bigots beware – the United States of America does not have an Official Language), immigrant groups at the turn of the last century – many of which are now considered part of “mainstream society,” whatever that may be – were not greeted so warmly either. And Italians were among the most obvious of cultural groups to newly migrate to Poughkeepsie and to the Hudson Valley in general in the early 1900s. According to the first source that appears on web searches, “Between 1900 and 1915, 3 million Italians immigrated to America, which was the largest nationality of “new immigrants.”

Indeed, by 1900, most of the workforce at the Clinton Point quarry was composed of Italian laborers. Known also as “Stoneco,” Clinton Point, about eight miles south of Poughkeepsie has been mined continuously since the Barnegat Lime Company began operations in 1880. Other firms with names such as the New York Brokenstone Company, Upper Hudson Stone Company, and then New York Trap Rock followed. That last firm acquired the site in 1919. The buildings in use today, under the banner of Tilcon, date to New York Trap Rock’s 1929-30 complete reconstruction of the plant.

Building No. 4 – The sizing-screen house and eight storage silos. The structure is 780 feet long and stands adjacent to the Metro-North Hudson Line train tracks.

Tom Rinaldi and I were fortunate to tour the quarry and its buildings in June 2006. Our facilitator was Ned Foss whose great-grandfather Wilson P. Foss founded New York Trap Rock in 1897. Ned’s father Wilson P. Foss III was the last president of New York Trap Rock – he sold the company to Lone Star Industries in 1965. Lone Star sold this site to Tilcon in 1997. The management of Tilcon graciously hosted us that day, and set us up with an intern named Eric who took us through most all of the place. The photographs shown here are just a small sample of what we saw. It was really something – one of the most unique and interesting experiences that Tom and I have had. And then to top off the day, we went to Ned’s office at the Long Dock in Beacon where we watched rare, historic film footage of the quarries. That was a treat.

Building No. 2 – Secondary crushing and recrushing.

The Historical Society of the Nyacks included among their Fall 2013 Armchair Tours a presentation entitled “Trap Rock Quarries In Rockland – Digging Into Our Earliest History,” presented by Bert Dahm. Mr. Dahm explained that “trap rock” is geological term (as opposed to an industry term for how the product is processed/used). The rock is formed by igneous uplift, and when the rock is cut/falls away, it leaves behind traces on the wall that look like steps (stairs). The term “trap” is thought to derive from a European word for “steps.” In German the word is “treppe;” in Dutch it is “stappen.” Trap rock was frequently used in road construction. Today, Tilcon products are “used in a wide variety of construction applications as well as in the asphalt, concrete and block industries… Crushed stone for construction is sold by size, depending upon the application for which it is to be used. Tilcon quarries hold trap rock, granite gneiss and limestone.”

View of the sizing screen house and storage silos with Building No. 6 at center, from which shipments are loaded into freight-cars and trucks, and Building No. 2 for secondary crushing.

Vibrating screens for classifying sizes.

Belt conveyor from the primary crusher.

Our awesome day was not without a tinge of regret however. Walking through the factory we met a few of the workers and, in one building, we met an older but not too-old-appearing gentleman whose name escapes me over eight years later but the memory of the experience does not. He had a broom or other piece of equipment in hand and was probably taking it easy – we were told it was his last day on the job after about forty years at Clinton Point. He too was of Italian heritage and quite likely arrived here in the 1960s and found his first employment at the quarry, and stayed there all the way through. We were told he did not speak much English still. Tom and I, being far more at ease taking photographs of inanimate structures rather than people, both unspokenly realized the situation and wanted to snap a picture but we were too respectful to do so without asking and not quite comfortable to delay our tour to ask. We still regret not getting this man’s picture on his last day at the quarry – one of two eternal photography regrets that we have.

Inside the sizing-screen house. The belt conveyors supply the vibrating screens.

Crusher in operation.

No blasting today – the quarry was quiet.

“Design of Clinton Point Plant, New York Trap Rock Corp.” Dow, Melvin C.
Rock Products, February 1930. Pages 61-64.

“New York Trap Rock Corporation Increases Capacity With New Plant at Clinton Point.” Pit and Quarry, February 26, 1930. Pages 21-30.

“Growth of Stone Industry Typified by Modern Hudson River Plant.” Rock Products. December 20, 1930. Pages 25-44.

Thanks to Tom Rinaldi for locating and copying these articles.


I have one more Halloween-theme post in mind. Actually several, but a few of them will wait until next year. Part Five, the last edition for 2014, will be published though I can say that it is highly unlikely to be out by October 31. Look for it as a November encore! It will be cool and it won’t feature and horrific murder stories!

Posted in Dutchess County | Leave a comment

Halloween Blog Part 3 – Wisteria Cottage

The Daily Argus, Mount Vernon, NY. January 9, 1935.
(Image source: www.fultonhistory.com)

“Finding bodies is old tale to Greenburgh cops.” Maybe so, but I imagine that the story of Grace Budd and Irvington’s Wisteria Cottage must have been one of the most horrifying murder cases that ever occurred here in Sleepy Hollow country.

For those not in the know, Greenburgh officially is a Town in Westchester County, but historically the appellation has been used interchangeably with smaller villages within the town, and even with the name of the colonial Manor of Philipsburgh. In fact, at the very beginning of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Diedrich Knickerbocker, er, Washington Irving, stated: “In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town.”

To out-of-staters today, New York has a strange hierarchy of municipalities and layers of government. Within the county and outside of incorporated villages are “towns,” which contain mostly residential swaths of land, and recent suburban strip development, but not any actual traditional downtowns, which are found in the villages. Well, the villages are of course located within the geographic boundaries of the towns, but any services not administered/governed by the village are overseen by the town.

The towns also include undeveloped woodlands – the amount of which is shrinking rapidly. Greenburgh is a relatively woodsy place still, though its name is thought to derive from the Middle Dutch word grein (grain), not from an abundance of overly leafy trees. The area was heavily farmed in the 18th century when wheat was a major crop for the Philipse family, owners of the colonial manor. Today, hundreds of acres here and there have been preserved as parkland, and one of my favorite parks is Taxter Ridge. In all my years of hiking I’ve yet to find any human remains, seemingly a common occurrence for policemen in the early 20th century.

In the 1920s and 1930s, police reported finding in the woods the remains of Paolo Santa Fama, murdered in a blizzard by accomplices as he attempted to bail out of their plot to rob a chicken farm; Dorothy Peacox, strangled and burned by her husband; Elsa Marshall, attacked and shot not far from the home where she worked as a cook; an unidentified torso, ripped apart by dogs, found near the Yonkers city line; Annelo Nardiello, “victim of a gangster ‘ride'; Bertha Legget, found in the woods of the Shepard estate (Lyndhurst), likely in what is present-day Taxter Ridge Park, murdered by her husband, and many others.

Wisteria Cottage.

In December 1934, the remains of Grace Budd were found outside an abandoned house on Mountain Road, which connects Irvington with the Saw Mill River Parkway, in an area that we locals call East Irvington. She had been missing for six years. Grace Budd’s killer decided to write a letter to her mother, and that piece of stationery on which the letter was written provided the clue that led detectives to find the killer.

His name was Albert Fish and he abducted Grace in 1928. Fish went to the Budd household in Manhattan in response to an ad placed by Albert Budd, the father, which stated “Young man, 18, wishes position in the country.” Thinking that the Budd boy would be his next victim, Fish went down the Budd’s with an offer to hire the boy to work at his “upstate farm”. Fish returned to the Budd household the following week to take Edward to his farm. But first he asked the parents if he could take Grace to a children’s birthday party at his sister’s uptown apartment that afternoon, and to return that evening to meet Edward. Impressed by Fish (who gave the name Frank Howard) and trusting of him, the parents agreed. They never saw Grace again.

There was no sister and no birthday party. Fish brought Grace instead to the abandoned house, called Wisteria Cottage, a short distance from where he previously lived in a smaller dwelling. Grace was murdered that day. I’ll spare the horrible details here, but those who wish to read further can follow this link.

House on Mountain Road where Albert Fish lived.
The Herald Statesman, Yonkers, NY. December 15, 1934.
(Image source: Westchester County Historical Society.)

For six years, the disappearance of Grace was unsolved until Fish sent a letter to her mother, written on the stationery of a chauffeur’s association. The stationery was left behind in a rooming house by a man whose apartment was later rented by Fish. That stationery clue was all that was necessary for police to track down and capture Fish just a month later. Albert Fish, who confessed to other murders, was executed at Sing Sing Prison in 1936. His crimes may have served as the basis for infamous fictional serial killers such as Hannibal Lecter.

Wisteria Cottage has such a nice ring to it, evocative of another famous “cottage” in Irvington known for its famous May-time wisteria blooms. The house is one of those rare homes that has kept most of its historic appearance, albeit one that appears to clad in vinyl siding now. And it is for sale. Though it is fronted by an entrance/exit road to the Saw Mill Parkway, there are lots of woods and privacy around the house. Sounds like a great deal, but the buyer would have to live with the knowledge that serial killer Albert Fish committed one of his most heinous, most infamous, crimes within the walls of Wisteria Cottage.

Aerial view of the Wisteria Cottage property.

Thanks to Patrick Raftery of the Westchester County Historical Society for research assistance. Other historic images were taken from various, duplicate online sources. Who owns the original images, I do not know.

Posted in Westchester County | 10 Comments

Halloween Blog Part 2 – The Dam Fool

Haverstraw had its brickyards, Peekskill its stove works, south of Catskill were the Portland cement works – so many places along the Hudson were known for one particular industry. Though other trades – brick-making, textile manufacturing, and machine production – thrived in Beacon, that city was known for its hat factories. Although most industries ceased operations there in the 1960s and 1970s, a few of Beacon’s mills, including the Tioronda Hat Works and the Matteawan Company mill (originally a textile mill), stand vacant, while Horatio Swift’s Machine Shop was recently renovated as the Roundhouse restaurant and hotel.

Many lesser-known companies occupied these mills and other factory buildings along the Fishkill Creek. One firm was the Weiss Straw Hat Works. In 1925, the company fell behind on payroll and several employees took matters into their own hands. It was often the case, as we found while researching Hudson Valley Ruins, that workers at numerous factories went on strike to protest wage or labor matters. Most notably, the New York State Militia was ordered to Coeymans (south of Albany) to quell a riot at the Sutton & Sudderly Brickyard, where workers attempting to unionize fired shots at an interim work force. At the Weiss Straw Hat Works, employees went straight to the top of the company.

Isadore Weiss, company president, withdrew money from a Manhattan bank, near the company’s 11 Waverly Place office, each Friday. On Saturdays, he left his home at 315 West 102nd Street for the trip on the 7:50am train to Beacon to pay the factory workers.

On February 7, 1925, Isadore Weiss left home with $1,500 for payroll in his pockets. He never made it to Beacon. Less than five hours later, personal documents that he usually carried were delivered by mail to his family. Included was a note that stated: “We had been waiting for the payroll for the last three weeks. The dam fool put up a fight and we had to throw him in the river.” The New York Times described Weiss as described as “powerfully built, more than six feet in height, and in prime condition to put up a fight under fair odds.” It must have been a dam heck of a fight. (The Times also explored the possibility that Weiss may have left his family, but it was said that all was well in the Weiss household.)

I know I have referenced this story before, but illustrating this post are three abandoned Beacon mills, from photographs taken July 2014.

Posted in Dutchess County | 1 Comment

Halloween Blog Part 1 – The House of Weird Noises

In June 1923, the Chelsea Presbyterian Church organized a summer camp at Rockland Lake, a resort town in the summer and a place of commercial ice harvesting in the winter. Two families who arrived first set up camp near an abandoned house along the west side of the lake, in a secluded location away from the village of Rockland Lake. The campers stored food in the house and sought shelter there in bad weather; otherwise they kept to their outdoor camp.

Shortly after arrival, the campers heard “spooky” sounds that emanated from within the house – boards creaking, the sounds of someone going up and down stairs. A man in the camp ground went inside the “haunted house” to investigate with a flashlight. He did not find the source of the noises, but he was too scared to go upstairs to investigate further.

The next day, the noises returned, and again the lower floors of the house were searched, but again the the half-story attic was neglected. A supply of food was noticed missing, and a young boy of the group complained loudly that two dollars worth of food had “taken wings.”

That night, a loud noise was heard, and the next morning the group again investigated. This time, a check for two dollars was found, to pay for what had been taken. The check was signed by Alexander P. Archimore. The check was cashed at a Nyack bank which determined the check to be good. Later, a letter was received by the campers from a man who said he was the brother-in-law of Alexander Archimore, who has been missing. Archimore had previously been missing and was also located that first time by means of a cashed check. The campers responded that they did not know the man and discarded the letter, and they soon left the camp site.

Another group took over the camp site, which they soon vacated, not because of spooky noises but, due to stagnant odors thought to be caused by dead rats in the walls of the house. The original party returned to this site on August 19 and finally conducted a thorough search of the “house of queer sounds.” Looking through an opening in the second floor ceiling to the half-story attic, one of the campers, named Charles Murdock, climbed the opening and cast his flashlight, “which fell upon the face of (a) dead man.”

The campers called authorities to investigate further. A letter in the dead man’s pocket was addressed to Alexander P. Archimore, in the care of Mrs. Adams, 359 Prospect Place, Brooklyn, NY. The story roused considerable attention among “hundreds of persons” who helped to conclusively identify the man and locate his family.

The steps up to the half-story attic

He indeed was Alexander P. Archimore. For ten years Archimore was an electrical engineer, specializing in tower work, for the Western Union Telegraph Company. He left Western Union around 1920 to take a job with a company in New Hampshire. It was said that he worked so hard that he strained himself mentally. Archimore’s friends thought he had “become insane.” He submitted to testing at Bellevue Hospital in October 1921 and was determined to be “mentally unbalanced.” He was sent to Ward’s Island and pronounced cured in the summer of 1922. His wife then moved to Boston with their seven year old son, and Archimore moved in with his sister, Mrs. Adams, in Brooklyn.

After his breakdown, Archimore sought to live apart from the world, and he found refuge at Rockland Lake, where the Palisades Interstate Park Commission leased old houses, bungalows, and camp sites in the summer. In particular Archimore chose a stone house with chipped paint that presented a “rundown, grotesque appearance”, fronted by tall trees and a large lawn. Archimore was not known known by other campers so it was believed that he foraged for food at night, until the Chelsea Presbyterian Church group arrived and kept their provisions in his new house. Authorities believed Archimore decided to starve himself to death between July 4 and July 10, 1923.


The photographs here are not from the actual house in this account. The images present two different abandoned houses in Rockland County.

Because the articles are available for purchase on the New York Times, it is not appropriate to reprint the entire pieces here. They can be purchased at the following links.

Trace Weird Noises; Find Man Long Dead.” – August 19, 1923.

Identify Dead Man Found By Campers.” – August 23, 29123.

The Runaway Horse and the Shattered Hearse

On October 20, 1899, a “mysterious and terrific explosion occurred at the works of the Rockland Lake Trap Rock Company.” The explosion killed four men, including assistant foreman Hugh McCue, and three Hungarians whose names were not known at the time of the article. Four others were badly injured and were not expected to survive.

Their funerals were held three days later. En route to the cemetery, a team of horses carrying one of the hearses became frightened and ran away and overturned the hearse, which shattered to pieces. The driver was hurt. I suppose at some point that all the pieces were collected, and the man was finally laid to rest in peace.


This October I aim to post a series of entries in the spirit of this being the month of Halloween and this being the Hudson Valley, home of the Legends of Sleepy Hollow and the Catskills.

During the course of researching Hudson Valley Ruins, Tom Rinaldi and I found numerous interesting articles that did not directly tie into the topics we wrote of in our book, but nonetheless are illuminating vignettes of Hudson Valley industries, institutions, and culture. We saved those articles in hopes of finding another outlet. A few of them will inspire a handful of blog entries over the next month. Some entries will be more brief and not as thoroughly illustrated as this piece. Some entries will cover stories dark and disturbing. I think the last post is going to the best entry – I look forward to writing that one. Thanks for reading along.

Posted in Rockland County | Leave a comment

Northgate Gazebo Reconstruction

In the summer of 2014, Eagle Scout Chris Bohl of Garrison, NY, reconstructed a gazebo, sometimes referenced as a “summer house,” at the Northgate estate ruins. With the assistance of his parents, Sandi and Ed, his friends and fellow scouts, and from Thom Johnson, Chris completed the projected by the end of August. The gazebo stands atop a hill east of the mansion ruin.

The reconstruction was based on a photograph from the collection of Robin Huntington, great-granddaughter of Sigmund Stern. Stern developed the estate after 1904 and built the mansion in 1913. Other images in the collection show fences and railings along the roadway and throughout the property. These photographs also helped guide the aesthetics of the gazebo reconstruction.

Many thanks to Chris, Sandi, Ed, Thom and all others who helped revive this piece of Northgate history!

To view the full set of images, including historic photographs of the Northgate gazebos, visit my Northgate page.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

District No. 1 Public School renovations, Athens, NY

It has been a while since I spent considerable time on the west side of the upper Hudson Valley, so this past Saturday I visited some of my favorite little river landing villages in Greene County. I also intended to get to the rivertowns in Albany County, but it turns out that I will need another day, or two, for that endeavor.

August 16, 2014

In addition to checking up on some “old friends,” I wanted to leisurely stroll the villages and photograph all of the other great architecture that can be found there. Many of these villages were completely bypassed by suburban development and thus have not experienced urban renewal, at least not to the great degree of the rivertowns downriver, so many historic homes and fine commercial buildings remain intact in the small downtown districts.

The first place I stopped at was Athens, a village of about 4,000 people, located five miles north of Catskill and thirty miles south of Albany. After spending two or three hours walking around the village, and getting lunch at the Crossroads Brew Pub, I decided that Athens had shot its way up to near the top of my favorite river towns list, and is my new favorite of the upper-valley villages. Great buildings, a couple decent places to eat (I preferred the menu, with more vegetarian options, at Stewart House/Athens Hotel, but they don’t open ’til 4pm), not too much vehicular traffic, and a spacious waterfront park are some of the great qualities of Athens.

On my way out of town, one of my last stops was planned for the abandoned school building, the c. 1875 District Number 1 Public School, one of the approximately 80 ruins featured in Hudson Valley Ruins, the book. When Tom Rinaldi revisit one of our ruins, we might usually find new signage condemning the building, or plywood boards over previously broken-but-exposed windows. This day I found new windows and an open front door – not an entirely uncommon sight, but an experience we can count on one hand, I think.

August 16, 2014

I walked up the hill and poked inside, and found a man busy with renovation work. He seemed nonchalant about my presence but definitely interested in wrapping up his work late this Saturday afternoon. I asked a few questions but didn’t press for details, which I clearly need to be better about doing. But he said that he and his wife are moving ahead quickly on restoring and reusing this 19th-century public school building.

Of the times we find signs of progress at the ruins, there is often evidence that such work has stalled and likely won’t resume. Once before, probably around 2005 or 2006 or so (I am now at the point where I am forgetting details of HVR-related things that I thought happened just a couple years ago but were really almost ten years ago), it appeared that this building was undergoing renovations, and it was even marketed as such on a real estate website. But the schoolhouse remained empty and disused. To that end we have a decent-sized list of “I’ll believe it when I see it” restoration prospect locations.

But I get the feeling that this is very much the real-deal. At this first brief-glance it does not appear to be a 100% accurate historic preservation job, but a sympathetic renovation, and I look forward to seeing the completed work, whatever its final use may be, of this great old school building with a river view.

Before I show the rest of the images from this past weekend, here are some “ruin” images of the District Number 1 Public School.

January 29, 2002

March 25, 2006

September 6, 2003

September 6, 2003

And what it looks like today:

August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014

I hope this is “to be continued” with some positive results!

Posted in Greene County, Historic Preservation | 6 Comments

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.

Posted in Ulster County | 4 Comments

Bannerman Castle Night Photography

I recently had the opportunity to spend a night at Bannerman’s Castle for an overnight kayak & camp event. After the attendees settled into their tents I took some photographs of the ruins. There was no moon this night so I illuminated the buildings with flashlight and camera flash.

You too can take similar photographs. On Saturday August 23, friends of HVR Gabriel Biderman and Matt Hill will lead a night photography workshop at the ruins of Bannerman’s Castle. Space is limited, so if any room is still available, immediately head to Gabriel’s website Ruinism.com to reserve your spot.


This event supports the Bannerman Castle Trust.

Photographs June 21, 2014.

Posted in Dutchess County, Night Photography, Tours Lectures and Events | Leave a comment

Northgate Article in the Hudson River Valley Review

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.

Thank you!

Posted in Publications and Reviews, Putnam County, Tours Lectures and Events | 2 Comments

Hudson Valley Ruins Wedding Locations?

I received the following email in March:

Rob Yasinsac,

Good afternoon. I came upon Hudson Valley Ruins in my search for industrial architecture in the Hudson Valley area. My following inquiry may be odd, and you may not be able to help, but I feel it doesn’t hurt to ask.

I am curious if you know if any of the beautiful ruins locations might be suitable for a wedding. My fiancé and I are both architects and appreciate raw, industrial spaces. We have been looking for a site in New York to celebrate our wedding that suits our mutual passion for history and architecture. We have come upon a slight few renovated spaces (the Basilica Hudson and Roundhouse at Beacon Falls among them), but have decided to branch out our search to locations overlooked by others. The building/structure/location we are looking for does not need to have any sort of amenities, and I suspect it would not. We want an outdoor wedding, with such a location as more of a backdrop to our celebration. If the structure can be inhabited, all the better, but is not necessary. For example, I believe Bannerman Castle holds weddings, though the structure itself is in ruins. I understand that my request is a bit precarious, but I appreciate any input you may have, be they sites you have written about, or some you have heard about. Obviously this isn’t the kind of location I can search for on a wedding blog.

Thank you so much for your assistance. I look forward to speaking with you

Very Best,


Additionally, I have received numerous requests for information about visiting these sites for photo shoots, filming for movies, and other site-use rentals. Since many of the ruins are privately owned and may or may not be up to code for occupation, and since I am not in the business of being a location scout (not that many of the people asking for photo shoot locations ever offer to pay, or usually disappear when I ask for a fee), I do not pass on contact information about how to gain access to the ruins.

But the wedding idea was a fun concept, and I sent Rebecca a list of sites and left it up to her to find out the who and what and where to see about renting a site.

What follows here is an illustrated version of that list, and presented somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I actually have no idea if the owners of these sites would consider requests for location rentals and, in fact, I suspect that most of them would say no. So this is in no way an acclamation of sites open to the public/for private rentals. Consider it, rather, as my own personal list of places of that I think would make great settings for weddings, regardless of accessibility. Just a wish list.

As the inquirer stated, I didn’t factor in amenities and presumed there to be none. And really, a special day need not be about the amenities, but about the people gathered together and the unique setting for where you want to create one of your most-cherished memories. Everything else is tangential to an infinitely smaller degree.

I did factor in logistics to some extent, and considered how convenient or not it might be to actually get to the site. For example, I did not include the Overlook Mountain House ruins, given the ~45 minute hike uphill in normal clothes and shoes. And not all locations recommended were chosen for interior access, but to serve as backdrop.

I also figured that anyone wishing to have a wedding at a truly off-the-beaten path location would probably have just their immediate family and closest friends in attendance, so imagine these sites with small audiences, although some of them could include larger crowds.

I kept the list reasonably short in order to keep it from being a copy of my main webpage (from which you can make your own wish list anyway). And in the brief, off-the-cuff selection process, most of my choices were industrial sites (because they lend themselves so well for events and functions) as well as some houses/estates, and also some old church ruins.

Without further ado, here is my List of Places I Think It Would Be Really Awesome to Have a Wedding At (aka Sites You Won’t Find on Wedding Blogs).


Bannerman’s Island Arsenal, Pollepel Island

Commonly known as Bannerman’s Castle, the Arsenal has served as a backdrop for at least one or two weddings on Pollepel Island, as the 6+ acre rock is officially known. The Bannerman Castle Trust advertises for weddings on its website. Pictured above is actually the summer residence of Frank and Helen Bannerman, not the castle/arsenal.

Brandreth Pill Factory, Ossining

This building was, and still is, a shoe-in for adaptive reuse/historic preservation, but its owners are demolishing it by neglect. This past winter, a part of the roof caved in.
When I look at this photo, all I can imagine are people using this space and having a grand-old time.

Garner Print Works, Garnerville (West Haverstraw)

The Garner Print Works is one of the best preserved collections of industrial buildings in the Hudson Valley, along with the Alexander Smith Carpet Mills in Yonkers and the Harmony Mills in Cohoes, and to a lesser extent the Garner Dye Works in Wappingers Falls. Including the Harmony Mills, the Garnerville and Wappingers sites were part of the Garner brothers’ textile empire. Incredibly these locations still exist, mostly intact. The Garnerville site now is the home of the Garnerville Arts & Industrial Center. Could you imagine exchanging vows above a stream of rushing water in-between historic brick factory walls? I think it would be pretty cool.

Hutton Company Brick Works, Kingston

I shake my head every time I read the articles about the proposed redevelopment of the Hutton brickyard and about the exclusion of the kiln sheds in future plans for the site. I think they lend themselves well to a number of activities. Maybe some weddings?

R & W Scott Ice Company Power House, Nutten Hook (Stuyvesant)

The grounds are a little overgrown, so without some cleaning up this might be suited best for an off-season event. It’s certainly one of the most peaceful locations along the river, and you could imagine the powerhouse ruin as your “chapel.”

Mount Lebanon Shaker Barn, New Lebanon

Reminiscent of the Overlook Mountain House ruin, the Mount Lebanon Shaker Barn looks like the kind of place where a crowd of people could have a fun night. Last I visited, over five years ago, the building was not accessible as stabilization work was occurring, and I don’t know that site tours even go in the building now, but just dreaming of the possibility of this ruin as an event space.

New York Central Railroad Station, Stuyvesant

A Hudson Valley Ruins book-tour lecture was the first, or one of the very first, events held in the restored Stuyvesant station. It can hold a small crowd for a nice ceremony! And maybe a train rolling by will blow its whistle for you.

Summit Mill, Philmont

The mill building itself is pretty cool, but there is a partial ruin on the site, the roofless walled-in enclosure of a former building (of which I do not have a photograph) that is now an outdoor patio of sorts, that would make for an ideal spot for cocktail hour, next to the Ockawamick Creek.

JFK Marina Park, Yonkers (Yonkers Power Station)

With a pavilion and park already in place, the Yonkers Power Station could be the backdrop of your wedding.


Halcyon Hall, Bennett School for Girls, Millbrook

Built in 1893 as a hotel, Halcyon Hall (shown above in infrared light) probably has hosted its share of weddings already. The expansive lawn below it would make a great setting for a party, with the epic, world-famous (it’s on numerous top-25 ruins lists) ruins of Halcyon Hall above. Time is running out however, as the building has been sold to a local group that plans to demolish Halcyon Hall.

Arryl House, Clermont

Positively among the most ancient ruins in the Hudson Valley, Arryl House was built in 1792 by Chancellor Robert Livingston, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. It burned in 1909 and the Livingston family preserved its idyllic ruins, located today on the grounds of Clermont State Historic Site.

Dr. Oliver Bronson House, Hudson

The once long-abandoned Bronson House, the forerunner of “Hudson River Bracketed” architecture, is now in the good hands of Historic Hudson who have been overseeing its preservation and restoration. The interior might too fragile for a large event right now, but the grounds have held events already, including another Hudson Valley Ruins book-tour lecture.

Halsey Teahouse, Irvington

Once a playhouse on the estate grounds of a Hudson River castle, this charming stone structure overlooks a pond. I totally see a few columns of chairs and an aisle here, and envision an altar in the “tower”, or behind the photographers view overlooking the pond. Which would you choose?

Maple Grove, Poughkeepsie

This beautiful Hudson River villa was undergoing preservation efforts when I visited it in 2004 and presented a pre-book lecture in 2005. From its website, Maple Grove seems to be looking great now. It really isn’t a “ruin” anymore, but it’s certainly one of the great lesser-known Hudson Valley locations. Book readings and other events are held here.

Northgate, Cold Spring

My friends and I have been cleaning up the Northgate estate ruins by removing years of overgrowth and brambles. Some aspects of the former condition may have been quite photogenic, but now visitors can easily wander in and around the ruin of the mansion, built in 1913 for Sigmund Stern, a New York City diamond merchant. We even cleared off the west patio so you can imagine guests seated on either side as you take your vows under what used to be a great arched stained-glass window.


A blog about weddings should have some churches, right? The Hudson Valley has more than its share of abandoned religious spaces. Here are a few.

Shookville Methodist Chapel, Red Hook

The “roofless and floorless plastered brick walls” of this church, cited by Wint Aldrich in the Foreword to Hudson Valley Ruins, could be an amazing setting for a couple looking for an unusual wedding. If I lived nearby I would organize some cleanup efforts to remove the new-growth trees that obscure the view of this gem of a ruin.

Convent of St. Mary, Chapel, Peekskill

There is an actual church on the grounds of the Convent of St. Mary, but I prefer the small chapel and its richly decorated walls, painted in bright blue and gold. The rest of the convent building was gutted by its present owner, a developer, who has stalled reuse plans since there isn’t a market for so many thousands of new housing units anymore. I bet the owner could make some money renting this out for small events.

Immaculate Conception Church, Irvington

This ruin isn’t around anymore but I am posting it here as a tribute. It was built in 1853 for the Presbyterian Church, and 20 years later it was taken over by the Catholic congregation. It was burned about 1972 and left standing as a ruin, kind of like a medieval European church ruin, in the middle of town, for a quarter-century. It was torn down in 1996 because, the pastor said, “kids were getting in there.” Well, maybe they thought it was a cool place, and it’s too bad the adults “in charge” didn’t have the imagination to preserve and reuse such a beautiful space. The old Immaculate Conception Church would be Number One on my Wedding Ruins list, if it was still standing.

Thanks again for reading, and remember, this was just for your entertainment only, and not an endorsement that these locations are open to site-use proposals!

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