Explore an abandoned mine and the remains of a once-booming cement industry in Rosendale, New York.
Rosendale, New York sits about eight miles south of Kingston, New York in a region known for its contribution to the cement industry in the nineteenth century. Neighboring New Paltz is a college town with a fun Main Street, Kingston is a beautiful old city, and both Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Preserve hold some beautiful ledges, caves and waterfalls. The general area is unique and beautiful, and so geologically different than the rolling Catskill Mountains nearby. The stranger, harsher landscape is the result of the limestone and dolostone deposits of the Rondout Formation. The region was prime for natural cement production, and the industry dominated these towns west of the Hudson until its decline in the early twentieth century. The deposits were first found during the construction of the Delaware and Hudson Canal in the early 1800s and quickly the mines were booming. But a century later, the market for natural cement dwindled, leaving many large caverns abandoned. The remains of the industry still can be found everywhere in the area.
Rondout Creek was once an important part of the Delaware and Hudson Canal System. The canal system helped Rosendale grow and boom during its cement era. The creek flows through Rosendale and then to Kingston, where it empties into the Hudson at the Rondout Lighthouse. The Rosendale Trestle has been open to the public since 2013 as a walkway 150 feet above Rondout Creek. Joppenbergh Mountain, at close to 500 feet tall, juts up from the bank of the creek, alongside the trestle. Joppenbergh was mined extensively for dolomite throughout the 1800s. The truss bridge was built in 1872 as a former railroad trestle, which was key in transporting Rosendale cement. It's a really beautiful trestle, and the trails leading to and under it are also worth walking. The Wallkill Valley Land Trust preserves the trestle today, along with many other Ulster County lands and properties of scenic, cultural and ecological importance.
Behind the parking area for the Rosendale Trestle, you’ll see the remains of Binnewater Kiln from that same era, and behind that, a trail to even more ruins. Cement silos rise above the trees, and as you approach, you’ll find one open to explore. Sounds echo inside, and deposits form stalactites on most of the remaining machine surfaces. These silos are most likely from the nineteen-fifties.
Just beyond the towering silos is an abandoned house, which may also be from the 50s. Its yard and entire interior are littered with empty file cabinets. The whole place is graffitied and well-trampled. There is one clue- a logo painted on the front door- of the Office of Civil Defense of the 1960s playing a role in this house’s existence in Rosendale. During the 60s era Cold War, civilians were urged to build fallout shelters in the case of a nuclear disaster, and the Office of Civil Defense was interested in the the use of mines as public fallout shelters. Rosendale may have been key in these studies.
Back on the trail past the abandoned house is Widow Jane Mine, which is also accessible around the corner from Binnewater Kiln, at the Century House Historical Society. Here you can park and enter the mines, depending on the season. The Century House preserves the region’s history in many ways and presents information about the cement industry, canal and railroad industries, regional geology, and more. This land was originally a family farm, until the discovery of the natural cement underground. It was mined through the 1970s. The abandoned cement mines are now used for many things- mushroom cultivation, trout farming, water supply, extensive corporate fallout shelters, and storage for important records. Because of its amazing acoustics, many musicians have recorded and performed here. The mines are thoroughly impressive.
Kingston, New York was also booming in the nineteenth century, as a transportation hub for the brick manufacturing and cement industries. The remains of these booming industries still exist along the banks of the Hudson at Kingston, along with beautiful Dutch architecture, including some of the oldest in New York state. Sleightsburg Park and the Kingston Point Rail Trail give excellent views of the river and the Rondout Lighthouse. To the north, neighboring Saugerties, New York and beyond- going all the way up to Catskill and Athens- you’ll find beautiful remains of the past history of the Hudson River and New York State as a whole.
Saugerties Lighthouse stands at the mouth of the Esopus Creek on the Hudson River and has an accessible park with boardwalks extending out to the nineteenth century light. You can book a room for the night. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 after locals saved it from being demolished. In 1985, the Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy became the owners of the property and maintain it today with rooms to stay for a night on the second floor, and tours on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer.