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.”
This was nearly three weeks ago, and the Catskills have had some pretty severe weather again, including very high winds. So, these photos that I took in December may no longer tell the current story.
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.