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Skeletal Remains: Overlook Mountain House's History

Elijah is an Amazon best-selling author, blogger, previous columnist for an award-winning blog, past creative editor, socialite & traveler.

All Photos Taken By Me

All Photos Taken By Me


In the early 1800's the Catskills became a resort hub offering tourists a getaway to explore nature, and enjoy relaxation all while amongst the scenic mountains. The most famous hotel of the time was the Catskill Mountain House, built in 1823 and opened in 1824 by a group of wealthy merchants. It became a topic of interest for numerous painters (including the famous Thomas Cole). In its prime, it was visited by three U.S. presidents; Grant, Arthur, and Roosevelt.

In 1833, having been inspired by the Catskill Mountain House, James Booth, tried to create a copycat version but ultimately was unsuccessful. It also proved too much to compete with the Catskill Mountain House which was more established and well-travelled.

In 1871, Robert Livingston Pell (1818-1880) held ownership of the Overlook Mountain House which was designed by architect Lewis B. Wagonen. It could hold up to three-hundred guests- an impressive amount!

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The Beginning of the End: Plagued by Fire & Financial Woe

Post Civil War America was complicated and difficult for all Americans, regardless of their location (former Confederacy or Union states). The period of 1865-1877 was referred to by historians as the, "Reconstruction Era", and so it was no surprise that many people had financial hardships. In 1875, the Overlook Mountain House burnt down but was bought an rebuilt by the Kiersted family that same year.

In 1923 burned down once again but was picked up as a potential business project by Morris Newgold. Frank P. Amato, an architect, was hired by Newgold to create a new design and rebuild it, but this never happened as the Great Depression occurred which caused financial havoc in virtually every American's lives. Another financial obstacle was the fact that there was no railway that went to the hotel, nor was it easy for visitors to drive there, so the out-of-the way location only hindered profit.

In 1940, with the Great Depression having come to an end, New York State purchased the land where the Overlook Mountain House ruins resided and it was boarded up for good. However, only twenty years after the land purchase, the Overlook Mountain House burned down for the third time in its history.


Ties to Communism?!

Oddly enough, in 1921 secret meetings took place at the Overlook Mountain House; it was an unofficial headquarters of the Communist Labor Party (a predecessor of the Communist Party USA) in lieu of the emergence of Marxist popularity, and the revolutions that swept the now defunct Imperial Russia. The party was formed in 1919, and was dissolved that same year that secret meetings took place in 1921. It was succeeded by The United Communist Party of America which had a membership of five-thousand.


The Overlook Mountain House Today

The Overlook Mountain House is only a skeletal outline today, and it sits at the last leg of the Overlook Mountain trail: a 2.5 mile hike (one way) that leads to a fire tower at the top of the mountain. If you love hiking, this is a perfect hike for any hikers! It's very moderate and only took a couple of hours.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Elijah DeVivo

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