Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Overlook Mountain and Unexpected Mountain House Remains

On the rainy Saturday morning, Sister and I made our way down the the Catskills to climb Overlook Mountain. It was our fire tower of choice, as it was the shortest distance to cover of the three Catskill fire towers that we have yet to climb, and it was raining.

We started up the wide old carriage road, discouraged that it was not a trail under tree cover. The sky was open and raining down onto us; the rain was not heavy, but it was constant.

We were expecting to run into an old mountain house remains, perhaps a small foundation and a chimney. What we weren't expecting was the dilapidated monstrosity that we found. This was no observer's cabin!

According to my Views from on High book by John P. Freeman, this was a the remains of a hotel. This hotel was originally a temporary one, built by James Booth in 1833. It was given permanent status in 1871, but burned to the ground in 1874 on April Fool's Day when staff ignored a child who was trying to convince them that the smoke was darker than usual. It was rebuilt in 1878, only to burn down again in 1924. Efforts to reopen were abandoned in 1939, while in the midst of rebuilding it again.

According to the Castkill Center, the Overlook Mountain Hotel, in its prime, had the distinction of being the highest in the Catskills, at 2920 feet, and housed over 300 guests.

Rob Yasinsac provides a lot of information on the Overlook Mountain house. In his post he states that the first construction of the hotel in 1871 was done by Lewis B. Wagonen, a designer and builder from Kingston, NY. After burning down, the reconstruction of 1878 was done by the Kiersted Brothers of Saugerties. The work on the final structure was begun by Frank P. Amato. The concrete frame was quickly rebuilt, along with a chapel, underground water and ice facility, stables, and a power station, but the construction was never finished. The hotel was boarded up in 1940 and damaged by fire in 1941. A final blaze in 1961 took down much of the architecture and the roof-top tower.

The tower at the summit is restored and climbable. There are nice profile maps for the surrounding mountains along the sides of the roof of the cab, providing the climber with a guided tour of the visible area. Unfortunately, the clouds were so thick we couldn't see out the windows!

The tower is the newest of the remaining towers, built in 1927. It originally stood on Gallis Hill until it was moved to Overlook Mountain in 1950. It was eventually abandoned in 1989 and closed. Ten years later the tower was restored and opened again for climbing. In the cab a range finder and alidade are displayed.

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Live, Love, Laugh, Write! said...

Wow - that monastary is a pretty cool find! I'm so jealous of your hikes :) Wish I was healthy enough to do those still!

Unknown said...

About a decade ago I hiked Overlook MT.
I remember those ruins well.

Mickey said...

Number 1 on my list to hike and photograph. Recommend any other hikes to ruins that I can photograph?