One of the most intriguing and historical hikes around is at Overlook Mountain in Woodstock, there is just something so mesmerising and enchanting about abandoned places. Overlook Mountain has long been a significant location in New York. In the boom years of New York City after the Civil War, more than 90 quarries in the Town of Woodstock (many around Mount Overlook) produced bluestone for sidewalks in Manhattan. By the end of the 19th century, the mountain and surrounding area became a tourist location for New Yorkers escaping the woes of city living, looking to breathe in the fresh mountain air up the Hudson. The current ruins Overlook Mountain House was actually the third hotel on the site. The first Overlook Mountain House was built in 1871 and accommodated 300 guests, before it was destroyed by fire in 1875. It was rebuilt in 1878 by the Kiersted Brothers of Saugerties. Overlook was used irregularly between 1887 and 1917, when Morris Newgold of Manhattan purchased the hotel. In 1921, it was the site of a secret organizational meeting of what was to become the Communist Labor Party of America. The second incarnation of the Overlook Mountain House was destroyed by fire in 1923. And Morris Newgold sought to rebuild with fireproof construction.
His architect used concrete to rebuild the hotel, which likely would have been covered with stucco. They also broke ground for a chapel, stables, and a standalone lodge for private housing for his family. Newgold’s shaky finances paired with the Great Depression made for slow progress, and portions of the resort were still “under construction” as late as 1939 (and the main hotel never being finished from what I could find). Morris Newgold died in 1940 and the property was either sold by his son or acquired via eminent domain by the New York State Conservation Department and made part of the Catskill Forest Preserve. You can now explore the old ruins of the Overlook Mountain House between views of the Catskill Mountains.
I have gotten a lot of requests recently to feature an old New England mill town, and I wanted to highlight a lesser-known one, so here is Millbury, Massachusetts! This gorgeous mill building was constructed between 1879-1919, impacted by over forty years of growth and design. The Lapham Woolen Mill is the largest and most intact 19th century industrial building in Millbury and sits in the middle of Bramanville, an industrial village in the town, off Singletary Brook, a branch of the Blackstone River. The Lapham Woolen Mill was built on the location of the former Burbank paper mills, which were in operation in Bramanville between 1775-1836. The Lapham Woolen Mill was started in the mid-1870s by Mowry A. Lapham, who oversaw the company’s growth after the Civil War, manufacturing clothing and other woolen goods. After Mowry’s death, the company’s pollution into the brook got the best of them and they disbanded, selling it. The mill was then purchased by Josiah and Edward Mayo, and their business partner Thomas Curtis. The group renamed the existing business the Mayo Woolen Company. The complex was occupied by Steelcraft Inc., a manufacturer of medical supplies, until recently. The building’s future was threatened until 2020, when a proposal to restore the old mill, and add new housing on the site was proposed. Fingers and toes are crossed to see this gorgeous building restored!
The first ready-to-use axes produced in the United States came from the Connecticut-based Collins Company, which was founded in the early 1800s. Prior to the firm’s establishment, consumers either purchased unground axes imported from Europe or looked to a local blacksmith who, along with his other activities, might also make axe heads. The Collins Company factory opened in 1826 by Samuel W. and David C. Collins, with the purchase of an old gristmill and a few acres of land along the Farmington River in Canton. As the company grew, the village of South Canton grew around it, and was later renamed Collinsville after the company (imagine if we had Starbuckstown or Walmartville!) In the 1840s, the company expanded and sold internationally with their machete; it sold more than 150 varieties of machetes in 35 countries, supplying 80% of the world’s machetes at that time. In the 1860s, the company built several dams along the Farmington River to produce hydroelectric power to run its factory. It saw steady growth during World Wars I and II. However, after the Flood of 1955 wiped out the railroad line, the company could not match the foreign competition. Portions of the business were sold to the Stanley Works in New Britain and to other firms. In 1966, the Collins Company closed after 140 years in business. Some of the old buildings along the river have since been demolished, others left vacant. Some have been repurposed into other uses, thankfully.
The last stop we will see at the stunning Seaside Sanatorium campus in Waterford, Connecticut is the former Superintendent’s Residence. Built in 1936, the home is elegantly sited at the waterfront, which would have provided amazing views for the man in charge of running Seaside, the Tuberculosis hospital for children here. Like the Maher Building, Nurse’s Residence, and Duplex Residence previously featured, this building was designed in the Tudor Revival style and is also credited as a work of architect Cass Gilbert. The Superintendent’s Residence is interesting as it has two completely different facades. The campus-facing facade features an L-shape with a garage wing and projecting entry pavilion in stone. Above, a diamond-pane window would allow natural light into what may be the stairhall. At the waterfront, a large open porch (since boarded up) and large windows at the first floor, would provide natural light and air into the building, along with amazing views of Long Island Sound. Additionally, a catslide roof extends from the rightmost bay and covers a recessed porch with basketweave brickwork above. I would for sure live here, could you?
Another of the handful of original structures extant on the Seaside Sanatorium campus in Waterford, Connecticut, is this gorgeous Tudor Revival style duplex constructed for medical staff housing. Like the Main Building and Nurse’s Residence, this duplex is credited as a design by the great Cass Gilbert. While the building was constructed after Gilbert’s death in 1934, the plans were likely all drawn up at the time the Maher (main) building was in 1933. The duplex residences feature a symmetrical facade with two main entranceways, located in slightly projecting pavilions, and are set within basket-arched openings, detailed with alternating brick and granite voussoirs. There are three-part windows above the doors which project from the wall plane and have cross-braced faux balustrades of wood below. Identical sun porches are recessed at either end of the house. The small associated garage to the immediate northeast has a simple design, but one that reflects the style of the houses. Like the other buildings on the campus, this structure is vacant and is slowly rotting away. So sad to see.
Next to the Maher Building at Seaside Sanatorium, the Nurse’s Residence building (1935) sits in the same sad state but retains a lot of its architectural character and charm. The Nurse’s Residence was built for… you guessed it, housing for the nurses who worked at the Seaside Sanatorium and treated the young children with Tuberculosis. Like the main building, this structure was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert in the Tudor Revival style. In designing the buildings, Gilbert met the requirements of the sanatorium to have a self-contained hospital for the children and a large separate dormitory for the nursing staff, but adapted an essentially domestic architectural style to de-institutionalize their appearance through the use of applied, decorative detail and an extraordinary wealth of materials. The Nurse’s Residence is constructed of brick and is capped with a polychrome slate roof which is lined by 15 dormers on each slope, alternating in size. The end gables, which are similar to those of the main building and in surprisingly decent condition given the circumstances, are covered with decorative tile and add a punch of architectural intrigue. Oh too see these buildings restored one day…
One of the most entrancing and clearly haunted places in Connecticut is the Seaside Sanatorium on the coast of Waterford, CT. It’s founding dates back to the early 1900s, when tuberculosis killed 252 of every 100,000 people living in the state, making it the leading killer in the state early in the century. When Connecticut Tuberculosis Commission members, including Chairman Dr. Stephen J. Maher, a New Haven physician, began hearing of success in Europe with exposure not only to ocean air, but to strong sunlight, they began pushing for a new location in Connecticut to treat children with tuberculosis. The first Seaside was established in Niantic in 1918, which was outgrown, and a newer, modern facility on the coast was needed. The State found a site on the coast of Waterford and hired world-renowned architect Cass Gilbert to design the complex in the Tudor Revival style, a departure from the Colonial or Classic Revival styles favored at the time for such projects. When the facility opened, children would spend as much time as possible exposed to the sun’s rays as part of their treatment here. They played sports, took lessons, ate, read, and played music outside year-round, either on the beach, the lawns, or the three levels of south-facing porches. By the early to mid-1950s, tuberculosis became curable with antibiotics that required limited bed rest and could be given in a regular hospital setting. After its use as a TB facility ceased, the state re-opened Seaside as a hospital for people with mental illness, which too closed in the 1990s. The massive campus has sat vacant since, rotting away as a State Park. Apparently the State has been looking for a developer to revitalize the campus as a hotel or other use, but sadly, nothing has materialized.
The Newington Railroad Depot was built in 1873 at the narrowest point at the Piscataqua River as part of the Portsmouth and Dover Railroad. The Portsmouth and Dover Railroad Company was chartered in 1866 in order to provide a link between the eastern and western divisions of the Boston and Maine Railroad and also included the means to cross Great Bay. The rail line was completed in 1874 and included this railroad depot which included a residence for the stationmaster while he collected tolls for pedestrians and carriages crossing the bridge nearby, and operated the swing section of the bridge to permit boat traffic to pass. By 1915, the one story wing was constructed which served as a 10’x20′ waiting room and ticket office. The offshoot rail line remained in service until the completion of the General Sullivan Bridge in 1934, due to the popularity of the automobile. The rail line was subsequently abandoned, and the nearby tracks were taken up in 1940. Elmer Brooks, the longtime stationkeeper was allowed to remain in the old depot, renting the building from the State of New Hampshire, who acquired the site in 1940. He lived here until his death in 1971. After which, the building has decayed. The State of New Hampshire should restore this valuable piece of history and has an amazing opportunity for a park in the surrounding area. Hopefully something is done to preserve the building!
Located adjacent to the Administration Building at the Tewksbury State Hospital, the Superintendent’s Residence, built in 1894, combines elements of the Craftsman and Colonial Revival styles wonderfully. The home is two-stories, and built of red brick laid in Flemish bond, capped with a slate hipped roof with exposed rafters. A massive uncovered porch wraps around the home and sits atop a rubblestone foundation. Like the adjacent Administration Building, the Superintendent’s Residence was also designed by Boston architect John A. Fox. From this residence, the massive almshouse and asylum would be run by the superintendent, who oversaw day to day activities and made sure everything was running smoothly. The house appears vacant now.
On the outskirts of North Adams, in the village of Blackinton, you will find this massive decaying mill complex slowly being overtaken by Mother Nature and time. The complex is the Blackinton Woolen Mill, which was founded by Sanford Blackinton, who started his woolen mill on the banks of the Hoosic River in 1821 (later building his mansion closer to town). The mill increased production yearly and produced cloth during the Civil War for the Union cause. After, the mill increased production and ran 24 hours a day with the only time the mill would close down would be for mill fires, machinery repairs, or low water supply. In 1869, 162 men, 105 women, and 35 children worked in the mill with the length of the working day being eleven hours! After Blackinton’s death, the mill was succeeded by William Pomeroy, his son-in-law, who had marketed the Blackinton product through his own woolen goods store in New York. In 1917, the present main mill building was built; it is three stories high, with large windows in recessed bays between vertical brick members, resembling pilasters, which rise from the ground to the flat roof. The tower and parapet on the end facing the street are decorated with ornate castellation giving the complex a high-style design. The mill was constructed behind the weave shed (1908) which is a long one-story structure fronting the main street, decreasing the mill’s presence. As is the history of industry in New England, the mill struggled after WWII with a national shift to a service economy away from production. The building has been vacant since the late 1980s and has been eyed for redevelopment into loft and artist studios since.