Every now and then my camera and I take the road up to Tannersville to document the changes in the historic Cold Spring House, a once glorious and popular vacation resort that has been abandoned to go to ruin. If you read my post of September 25, 2014 you’ll see that the two photos at the bottom of that post show the right wing of the building as it looked at that time. On December 26 I drove up there with my son, Anton, who had never seen Cold Spring House before, and I was dismayed to see what had happened to it in that short time. Here are my latest photographs. That right wing has come crumbling down, and the iron staircase outside the building at the top floor, well, it now looks like the iconic “Stairway to Heaven.”
It’s easy to find if you turn south at the traffic light just as Route 23A enters the village of Tannersville from the west. Follow the road as it bends to the right and before long you’ll see it looming on your left — the poor abandoned remains of the once magnificent jewel of Tannersville resorts, Cold Spring House. Back in the heyday of Catskill resorts Cold Spring House could boast of being not only the second largest one in Tannersville but also the first one to welcome Jewish guests. Built in the 1890s, it ceased operation sometime just after the middle of the twentieth century.
I first photographed the Cold Spring House in August 2013 and have returned three or four times since, to document its appearance at different seasons. And, alas, to witness and document its decline. This past Saturday a delightful motorcycle-riding couple visiting from the Midwest spent a few moments examining the house and grounds, and then, probably assuming that anyone casually crouched at the side of the road over a tripod and DSLR camera must be an authority on things in the area, asked me if I could tell them anything about the history of this house. (It turned out that the nice gentleman had spent a few summers at the Latvian summer camp over toward Elka Park in his younger years.) I told them what I knew and suggested that they could learn more if they googled the name; I knew this would take them to Greene County historian David Dorpfeld’s fine article in the Register Star from two years ago.
Before they set off again (I gave them directions to Lexington in case they were interested in seeing two more ruined hotels) they asked whether I would be posting any of my pictures of Cold Spring House online. I gave them my card, which happens to have three small photos on the front. He pointed to the middle one and asked if that was the same place. Yes, it was. We marveled at the extent to which it has changed — deteriorated — since I took the picture, 13 short months ago. Whenever I tell people I’ve been to photograph it again they will sometimes ask me, “Is it still standing?” My usual reply is, “It was two days ago [or however long since I was there last] but I can’t guarantee whether that’s true now.” They understand.
Here are some photos from my shoot on Saturday. I wanted to capture the building amid the autumn-colored flora–red, yellow, and orange life springing up among the sad decay of the building. Perhaps you’re wondering whether a place like this harbors ghosts. I can only assure you that if it does, they are friendly, positive ghosts.
If you enjoy high-quality concerts of good music, Cold Spring is a great place to keep in mind. The Chapel Restoration, for example, presents a series of performances each year, and yesterday I attended the second concert in their Music Series 2014. It was given by the choir of St. Philip’s Church from nearby Garrison, and the program was sheer heaven for those who, like myself, enjoy the great tradition of sacred choral music. Directed by
their leader Durward Entrekin, the choir offered an amazing range of pieces from sixteenth-century motets by Palestrina and others to contemporary works by Morten Lauridsen and Pete Seeger. (Pete Seeger? Yes – a moving setting of his “To My Old Brown Earth,” definitely a not-a-dry-eye-left-in-my head sort of piece. And what could be more appropriate than performing Pete Seeger at a venue near his Hudson Valley home?) In between, we had Fauré’s always stunning Cantique de Jean Racine and the Kyrie from Haydn’s Nelson Mass with the excellent soprano soloist Julie Heckert.
These concerts take place in the historic chapel overlooking the Hudson that began life as the Chapel of Our Lady to serve the workers in the West Point Iron Foundry just south of Cold Spring. Many of these workers were Irish, and this chapel was built in the 1830s to serve their religious needs, probably the first Catholic Church in New York north of the city.
Ironically it was that same West Point Iron Foundry, when it went on to become a major producer of Civil War armaments (the famous Parrott gun was made here), that began causing damage to the chapel due to the frequent test firing. A series of further problems was set in motion that led to the chapel being abandoned in 1906. It was then ravaged by fire in 1927. This once impressive building was a ruin until 1971, when a small group of people, including actress Helen Hayes, banded together, bought it from the Archdiocese of New York, and undertook to restore it.
Today the chapel is used for cultural events and can be booked for weddings as well. If you’re in the Cold Spring area, it’s definitely worth taking a look and, on weekends, couldn’t be easier to get to – it’s just opposite Cold Spring’s Amtrak Station, where parking is free on weekends. Right next to the chapel is the Foundry Dock Park with commanding views of Constitution Marsh and, on the opposite side of the river, the U.S. Military Academy.
For more information on the chapel, visit the Chapel Restoration’s website.
For more photos and history of Cold Spring and many other sites in the beautiful Hudson Valley and Catskills, check out our book, Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour. Contact me to learn how to get a signed copy.
Here is another mini-collection of photos of Hudson Valley towns decked out for the holidays. This time it’s Cold Spring in Putnam County.
The reflection of the decorated shops across the street in the window of one of Cold Spring’s wonderful antique shops gives a “two-for-the-price-of-one” image.
This cheerful snowman greets passersby outside my favorite Cold Spring cafe.
One of Cold Spring’s premier restaurants boasts not only a river view, as its name indicates, but also a stunning view of Storm King Mountain, as you can see, on the other side of the Hudson.
Locavores in Putnam and Upper Westchester Counties (as well as some of us from across the Hudson River) are flocking to the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market’s new spring/summer outdoor home at the historic Boscobel Restoration. The market made its debut at Boscobel on May 12 after having spent the colder months at the indoor site in Philipstown and after the unavailability of the previous outdoor location made a move necessary.
Regular patrons of the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market will find their favorite vendors, selling fruit and veggies,cheese, honey and other bee products, bread and a tempting variety of other savory and sweet baked goods, local wines, and much more. Vendors come on a rotation basis, so that you may find that the offerings differ slightly from week to week. (For example, my favorite yogurt concession from Ronnybrook Farms wasn’t there when I visited today.)
Also on hand is a cheerful volunteer from Boscobel itself, to answer questions for those who have never visited this magnificent site. As an extra gesture of goodwill, Boscobel is offering free entry to its grounds on Saturdays (tours of the mansion will cost the usual fee), so that you can combine your shopping with a walk on the beautifully landscaped grounds or even a hike on the Frances Stevens Reese Woodland Trail. In fact, why not buy some bread and cheese, or a quiche or mini-pizza, or a freshly baked fruit pie at the market, and enjoy them at Boscobel’s picnic area?
The Cold Spring Farmers’ Market is open at Boscobel, just south of Cold Spring on the west side of Route 9D, from 8.30 am to 1.30 pm through November 17. Come and enjoy this beautiful, scenic site and, at the same time, support the local farmers by buying their healthful, fresh and tasty produce.