Lost Towns of the Hudson Valley , offers a rare glimpse into this New York region’s history. The authors introduce the commonality among Hudson Valley’s lost towns in their introduction, namely that each served some vital role, which many times included providing for New York City. Unlike other towns of the time that evolved with the passing years, many of the lost towns had a very specific purpose and once this purpose was served the towns disappeared with little, if anything, remaining of them today.
Roseton, is one example of this. In the late 1800s, John C. Rose expanded his Rose Brick Company from Haverstraw to include land on the Hudson River north of Newburgh in Orange County. In the same area, the Juan Jacinto Jova family also used Hudson Valley clay to make bricks. As Rose and Jova brickyard workers populated the area with over 1,300 people, Roseton emerged. Two generations later, as the brick industry began to decline, Roseton lost much of its citizens and today little remains. Sand and clay from Roseton brickyards can be found in Central Park and Yankee Stadium; bricks from Rose and Jova companies make anyone interested in learning more about the complex commercial his-tory of the Hudson River and its communities will undoubtedly treasure up many of the buildings dotting the New York City skyline. Amazing photos of the brickyard are included as well as scenes of the Roseton school, church, and homes. Maps, census documents, and even Juan Jacinto Jova’s passport make up the chapter.
Another lost town, Rockland Lake, formed from the Knickerbocker Ice Company ice business on Rockland Lake and the crushed stone business at the nearby Hook Mountain quarry in the mid-1800s. In its heyday, numerous icehouses dotted Rockland Lake, and the city thrived with locals and tourists drawn to its shores. Townsfolk worked the ice business in the winter and the quarry in the summer. In the early 1920s, the town was lost as refrigeration ended the need for ice and the quarry closed for environmental concerns. The authors show pictures of the town, including the icehouses in action, the post office, lighthouse, hotel, school, and windmill, among others. Some buildings including the hotel and post office remained after the land was bought in the 1950s by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission through the efforts of John d. Rockefeller. Although Rockland Lake may be a lost town, Rockland Lake State Park continues to be a popular tourist attraction.
Unlike Rockland Lake, Camp Shanks may only be remembered through the efforts of those running the Camp shanks Museum and other historians and by any remaining World War II veterans who departed from or came back to the United States through this port. As World War II began, the U.S. army constructed the camp from land bought and leased from families in Orangeburg and surrounding area of Rockland County. The camp deployed and received over three million troops. Additionally, it served as a temporary holding camp for over 290,000 German and Italian prisoners of war as they arrived in the U.S. and were repatriated at the war’s end. Camp shanks, the thriving military base, quickly converted into shanks Village following World War II. Shanks Village housed soldiers who attended Columbia University on the GI Bill and their families. This ended in the 1950s and also signaled the end of Camp Shanks and Shanks Village. Like so many lost towns, few reminders remain.
Roseton, Rockland Lake, Camp Shanks, and Shanks Village all served a community of people who worked for a common industry or effort. Each of these communities became lost once the industry or population that it served was no longer in place. Other lost towns, however, became lost to serve another purpose. For example, flooding of the Ashokan Reservoir towns in the early 1900s allowed water to be supplied to New York City. The Ashokan Reservoir, the largest in the Catskill system, took eleven villages in its construction. Additionally, 2,600 graves and eleven miles of railroad were relocated in the building process. This chapter includes numerous pictures from the Ashokan Reservoir towns as well as a map of the reservoir and an auction flyer/brochure for a boarding house lost to the reservoir. Similar stories to this would continue to surface in the following years as towns throughout the U.S., including those in the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Valley Authority, were lost to reservoir/dam building.
stories such as these presented in Lost Towns of the Hudson Valley are a reminder that with change often comes loss—even the loss of entire communities. The authors do a good job of presenting each lost town’s story through a short narrative, lots of pictures, and great photo captions. The reader gets a sense of the town’s infrastructure through maps and corresponding photographs.
This light work sparks the interest of the reader, but does not include a large amount of detailed information and lacks a bibliography or footnotes. Photograph contributors are cited in the photo caption and many individuals providing information for this book are mentioned by name. If a reader is looking for more in-depth information about the lost towns of the Hudson Valley, he or she might want to use this book as a resource to locate individuals, historical societies, and museums that could provide greater detail. Additionally, numerous books have been written on individual subjects mentioned in the book, including the brick and ice industries, creation of reservoirs in the early to mid-1900s, and homeland World War II studies such as the examination of the housing of prisoners of war in the united states.
I enjoyed reading and reviewing Lost Towns of the Hudson Valley and found it to provide the right amount of information for someone interested in the subject, but not wanting to get bogged down with heavy scholarly details. For those from the Hudson Valley, enough geography is provided so that you can imagine and possibly even visit the site where the lost towns once existed.
—Amy L. Thompson, Ph.D.