New York. In the 1820s, the general opinion was that the United States of America couldn’t compete with distant Europe in regards to beautiful vistas and picturesque resorts. But those tourists who visited the Catskill Mountains, located in northeastern New York, had to disagree.
As the nineteenth century wore on, the Catskills started to draw the attention of the world as a picturesque mountain region that combined clean air with gorgeous views. As such, entrepreneurs began to look at what this area could offer.
Overlook Mountain is the southernmost peak of the Catskill Escarpment. The mountain dominates the landscape, towering over the nearby town of Woodstock at a height of 3,140 feet above the city.
The rise in popularity of this area can be partly attributed to artists such as Thomas Cole and writers like Washington Irving.
They were looking for legends and landscapes that they could use to help build a national identity for America, and they incorporated the Catskills into their work.
It soon became as fashionable to visit this part of America as it was to have a vacation in Europe.
In 1871, some new owners reopened the hotel for business and called it the Overlook Mountain House. They expanded the building until the hotel had a capacity of 300 people. However, in 1875 there was a fire that forced the owners to close the hotel completely.
The Overlook didn’t remain abandoned for long since two local brothers bought the hotel and rebuilt it in 1878. However, they were already facing strong competition from other Catskill resorts. The hotel continued to do business until 1917 when it was sold on to Morrison Newgold.
Unfortunately, another fire in 1923 caused such severe damage that the new owner had to completely rebuild it.
Morris Newgold hired architect Frank Amato who created a new design for the hotel. Given its history, Newgold decided to use less flammable materials. Concrete was used not only for the construction of the hotel but also for the chapel and stables which were added at the same time.
However, the Overlook’s high altitude and a lack of rail transport meant that guests struggled to reach the hotel. This lack of profit only added to Newgold’s already poor financial situation. In the end, he chose to sell the site and the unfinished hotel to the state of New York in 1940.
True to its history, a year later a fire broke out and the structure was partially destroyed.
Once again, in the 1960s, this place suffered a fire. While the concrete structure and metal window frames withstood the flames, some of the architectural details and the roof were destroyed.
In addition to the hotel, this location also has ruins of a lodge building in which the family of the last owner lived.shed.
In 1995, Woodstock artist Sarah Greer Mecklem decided to decorate the ruins with a series of images that are copies of old Overlook brochures. Photographs and various newspaper articles discussing the heyday and decay are mounted on the ruined walls of the hotel.
Today, a quarter of a century later, only a small section of her work remains. But what isn’t there for visitors has been of benefit to the surrounding area because Mecklem is quoted as saying that she added fertilizer to the adhesive. As a result, when her art ultimately falls to the ground, it will add nutrients wherever it landed.
The ruins of Overlook Mountain House are one of the few surviving historic resorts in the former Catskills resort area. Ironically, even the famous Catskill Mountain, New York, has been torn down but the Overlook’s concrete structure has kept it going.
All the stunning photographs below belong to photographer Denise Keith.
Keith has a huge collection of her own photos from different locations on her Flickr account. A big thank you to her for giving us permission to use them.
You can find another article about Game Farm Zoo in Catskill with her photos via this link. Enjoy!
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